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The Boy in the Desert

It was July when I told you about the Top of the World.
In the arid cow town of my childhood, there was one out-of-place hill
and we teens would force our sputtering motors to the top
on more adventurous nights. From there we could see the city,
its lights so bright that from the Top of the World,
our hands and faces gave subtle, milky glows
and we were illuminated.

It was July, and despite the resilient heat you proposed that we find our own
Top of the World, and claim it for ourselves. Your mouth curved,
and soon I was outfitted in a tank top and tennis shoes as you slid
into basketball shorts. We slathered ourselves in sunscreen, exchanged
a vinegary kiss and made our way out the door.

We sometimes walked until we were lost
in our own town, invigorated by the assurance of adventure
and each other. But this summer afternoon we endeavored upon
the dry, crackling sidewalk that sloped upward through the outskirts
of modern suburbia. The neighborhoods felt empty in the heat,
and we continued until houses grew sparser, and the sky closer.

We were drowning in sun, only we didn’t know it yet,
and your lips were salty with sweat, drenched
amid a desert. We paused atop a sand dune
in the midst of a golf course, and you enveloped me
in your arms. Hills stretched downward for miles, grass tinged
with brown, golf tees lying abandoned in the sub-Saharan heat.

We had found the one place where dry grass met sky
and the world stretched vast into the hazy distance. We stood,
the tallest beings for miles, and were silent together in the still
afternoon air. The white-blue sky and crumbling grass were subtle
and understated as the suggestion of your partial embrace.

We were close to home, our palms sweaty, when your hand slipped
from my grasp. You took the opportunity to point to the trees,
a sure indicator that home was near, and you noted with the tip of
a sandy finger how the colors seemed to shift, the raw green of the maple
turned to the red of the cherry trees turned to the bare branches of the elm.
It was like seasons, you said, only faster and less permanent.

I would see the trees change substantially in the coming months,
watching the leaves fall alone. Somehow, I had found my way back
without you. I moved a year later. Summer returned, and I swam
in sunlight once more, but I still paused on occasion to think,
if just for a moment, on the boy I left in the desert.

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