We walked along the arroyo. Ahead of us was the mountain. Behind and below us, stretched across a wide valley, the city. The sun was overhead and there were no shadows.
My friend stopped and picked up a large, flat rock. Turning to me he said, “Here. I got you an iPhone.”
“I don’t know how to use those things.”
“It’s okay. You can’t afford it.”
I laughed and then so did he. Gravel crunched rhythmically beneath each of our footsteps as we continued on our slow walk. Every single thing as far as I could see—every rock, every small tree and bush, every discarded thing—was lit, crisp. The air itself seemed bright, illuminated somewhere deep within. It felt good to be in it.
He shook his head. “You can’t call somebody who cares with these things anyway.” He discarded the rock and it landed with a sharp clink among the other rocks. Then quieter, “The tech support is terrible.”
Again we laughed. “Let’s sit here in the sun a while. You mind?”
We sat down in the old dry creekbed. The rocks shifted just so below me, absorbing me in their settled dense pack, and I felt like I too was a rock, a rock that was supposed to be sitting right there among all of the other rocks.
“It is beautiful out here,” I said.
My friend nodded his head. He sucked in a breath then, looked up at the sky. I could see that his eyes had moistened. He shook his head. He was quiet. I waited. Finally he said, “You know that feeling where you wish you could breathe deeper. Like, breathe in the whole world all at once. Breathe in through your mouth and ears and eyes and every part of your skin. You need it so much.”
“But you don’t have enough room for it inside.”
“Or the mechanism, even though it’s like right around the corner from where you are in your mind, you don’t engage it, and it is very much like you cannot engage it, even though you could. You just cannot. You don’t. It feels almost perilous. And then this confrontation with the need for release just kind of becomes something else.”
“And the moment passes for another long time.”
A breeze down from the mountain lifted the desert plants and the ends of our hair. I smiled.
“What are you doing all that time?” he said.
“I don’t know.”