Friday, August 20, 2010

Big Bend 2 of 6

Day 2

I awoke as the sun was coming up, walked another mile, dumped my pack off my shoulders, and sat. There was really no reason to waste energy. The next town, Marathon, was unwalkable in the heat and I could see the next couple of miles held no shade. Here’s what my situation was like:


Trucks full of men rushed by for hours but no one stopped. Bunch of chicken livers. I gauged my water and noted that I would be out soon with no way to refill so with a painful and begrudging realization that I might have to abandon Big Bend, I started back the few miles to Fort Stockton. My plan formulated around getting a cheap motel room, laying out my map and rethinking my strategy. The walk back was dangerously exhausting. There was absolutely no shade. No breeze. No clouds in the sky. Just sun and its shimmer on every horizon. I’d find an occasional mesquite tree and burrow under its thorny branches for even webbed shadows away from the sun. The heat was so intense I even risked sharing the dried vegetation beneath each tree with snakes and ants so big you could see their mandibles without bending your knees.


There was no escaping thirst nor the dust that streaked my body and backpack and dried my throat and sinuses and after a while, my breaks stopped being restful. By the time I made it back to Fort Stockton, I was out of water, lethargic, stumbling, and I had a headache. The constant gnats and orbiting flies were not even bothering me anymore. Never underestimate the desert, people. I found a rundown place and checked in, guzzled water, cranked the window air conditioner on high, stripped to my underwear and took a delirious nap. When I first awoke, I experienced what I can only describe as heat-induced amnesia. I opened my sun-drunk eyes and the room was spinning and out of focus and completely unfamiliar. I couldn’t remember where I was or how I got there. No big deal. Everyone has awoke naked in a strange place at some time in their lives . . . right? Right. What was new for me was the total loss of identity. For at least 10 eternal seconds, I was without reason, a pure animal. I had no culture, no language, no morals to rage against or uphold. I had no recollection of who I was or what history had brought me there. It was like being born. Suddenly, I was and in this startling existence I was . . . confused. I couldn't even understand that I didn't understand. A moment longer and I might have burst into infant tears but gradually every signifier I’ve ever compiled to create the thing that is Carlos came back to me, and in its blanketing security I crashed back into sleep. When I awoke for good, the light from my drawn curtains told me it was late afternoon.

More water.

I showered, taking notice of the dark tan I’d received through my tee shirt, washed my clothes with a bar of soap, and sat with monk-like tranquility, contemplating the desert baptism I had endured. I felt worn but relaxed, more so than I can remember in a long time. Extremes. I love them. Truly. They are the basis for my most profound experiences, both joyous and tragic. It was then that I affirmed to myself that if I never made it to Big Bend, I would still celebrate my strange cleansing in the sun.

8 comments:

JennAventures said...

Everyone has awoke naked in a strange place at some time in there lives . . . right? Right

I am glad you survived. Once again, I'm glad that I know this was written in retorspect.

Silly Swedish Skier Says So said...

I gave myself heat stroke/exhaustion/something once running 18 miles and running out of water somewhere around 6. It was in the mid to upper 90s in MO. It felt strangely good to fall into the delirium of napping and waking. I love this post and description. Wonderful writing.

Julie Buz. said...

To follow up on Jenna's comment, I never awoke naked in a strange place at some time in my life... blast, that's another thing to put on my bucket list.

Brilliant post - I'm glad we have you to live things like this and tell us about them in such an intriguing way. (This reminds me - I'm going to drift a little here if that's okay - of something I read somewhere the gist of which was that if you're good at your language, your life experiences are more intense, simply because you're better at formulating them. I think you're brilliant at formulating your experiences.) (I hope that makes sense?)

Moreover, this post actually cracked me up a few times. I LOVE the photo of the road.

Dreamfarm Girl said...

Wait, you went to W TX in this heat? Glad to know you survived. I can imagine it would give you an out of body experience in no time flat. never underestimate the desert is right. hell, i never even underestimate my back yard in august.
ps I love the Gage Hotel in Marathon...did you go there?

Heather said...

Oh my goodness, you nearly killed yourself on that one. I rode my bike for three hours and had to be helped back home and slept for four hours just to recoop. Delirium had already set in, I woke up on the livingroom floor!

Your so lucky you made it into that town!

M. D. Butler said...

I see from the picture you've still got the "hat".

C. Andres Alderete said...

It's actually a different hat, JJ, but the boots are the same. This was their last hike.

f8hasit said...

This is like a scene in a movie....
Or a fabulous novel.
Good stuff.

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