:: Article

The buried Tea

By Dian Parker.

The clack of metal spokes over stone-spewed sand. A foolish notion to bicycle in the desert at sunset, which I do every night, for many months now. The stillness of falling sun. The thick silence broken by a lone hyena. The rubber tires heaving through particles of grit.

A sky of spilled stains— orange of Mars, dragon’s blood, bishop’s purple—night slips in.

The flat horizon is sucking down the light, swiftly now, along with the parched heat, cooling, turning cold as the white sun is replaced by a white moon and the once dazzling cobalt sky reduced to black. Day drops into night. Conscious into subconscious. The desert devouring both.

To desert is to abandon. Forsaken. This Negev Desert—Israel perpetually at war.

The smell of dust mixed with grease, wheels caked in red sand. The bicycle wheels cease to turn; effort has ceased. Stillness engulfs and spills out hyraxes from rock, rousting a family. A horned viper. Was that a hoopoe bird? That is the skittering of a scorpion. Waiting for my eyes to adjust, ears ringing from the pulsing pressure of anticipation that holds hostage a coyote. I see his eyes neon in the distance. Do not move. Stay as still as the black surround until it is impossible to wait any longer for come-what-may-stalking. No cactus here. No irregularity in the landscape to break up vision, to navigate, to contrast flat sand, black sky, when now everything wakes after the sleep of day, underground hidden from the heat, all rested up for dinner, for the elongated night of crossing and preying and consuming.

A shy bobcat might be hiding in the shadow of a hoodoo. I’ve heard Gila monsters eat iguanas. And just now; was that a midget-faded rattlesnake?

The desert sits straight back strung by heat and the agate moon that doesn’t belong in the sticky sky above this ancient floor so far away from anything that is at all familiar.

Movement is necessary now. Move. Get on and ride away from so many eyes watching, in wait, cooling. Cooling and ready. Prehistoric creatures wake at night’s beginning and buff thorns with their tails, slithering between rocks encased for centuries in dust.

Image by Matthew J Parker

Insects eat sage and rabbit bush. Snakes and lizards eat insects and other snakes and lizards. Bobcats eat rats and mice. Rats and mice eat snake and lizard eggs. Wolves and coyotes eat jackrabbits, rats and mice.  Hawks and owls eat any small animals they can catch; vultures eat the dead. And the desert eats away rock into stones into sand. Just like me, everything has its longing.

I get on the bike. There is an oasis of trees over a hill, hopefully nearby, at least I think so if I can think. Pump the pedals through stones and sand. Through crushed eons. Because on that hill in that grove is rest. A buried pot for making chai, a glass, sugar. Ahmed took me once, made me tea. We drank to Allah and the stars. They will come but for now it is only the blackened shards of rock that sting. And the wind. There will be no stars now. And perhaps no Bedouin’s tea. But in the distance. There. That might be a tree. Or it might be a rusted tank. Out here in the debris of war. But it might be a tree, one of more. A tiny oasis. Hill of soft sand. Cover. Push the bike. Never mind the eyes. They have not come closer.

A cold wind empties as the burnt crust trembles.

The air is hushed; shimmering, caught in a vortex of pressurised silence. It engulfs, buries identity, form, emits illusions. A mirage is the settling heat at dusk and the suffocating heat at noon. Merely that. No reason to fear. It is only my breathing that I hear, none other. Only a thrumming of a beating heart in my throat. Get off and push.

I’ve found the trees, the hill of sand, and the buried chai service. Under the branches there are no stars if there were any. I’d forgotten to look up. The wind has stopped. My breathing slows. Morning will come soon enough. Or not.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dian Parker is a freelance writer, published in a number of literary journals and magazines. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Dian worked professionally in theatre as a director and teacher for many years. She has traveled extensively, living in the Middle East, including Syria before its heartbreaking devastation. She is currently working on a collection of nonfiction stories. dianparker9@gmail.com

 

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, May 30th, 2018.