I'm surprised by a lot of things out here in the desert.

When most people back East think of Oregon, they picture a lot of rain. Green things. Growing things.

Not here. This is Eastern Oregon, right on the old Oregon Trail. My home is now on the Snake River, the Big Bend crossing. Across the highway from my Aunt's property is a monument to the dozens of men and women who died fording the river here.

I live in a town of 156 people, most of whom are farmers and descendants of pioneers. People here are leathery and kind, and no one asks questions. I like that.

I was surprised by the dryness. Coming from the humid coast of South Carolina, I took rain and water for granted. My skin looks about ten years younger than my true age, but I expect that to change radically. When I get up in the morning and wash my face, I have to moisturize twice. My skin sucks up the lotion the way the ground out here drinks water - greedy, unquenchable. The fine lines around my eyes deepen more every day.

I was also surprised by the sky. Dazzled, even. I am used to big water - I spent years on the Atlantic Ocean in my spare time, boating and fishing and drifting - but big water never made me feel small. The sky where I am from is manageable, well-behaved, an inoffensive pastel periwinkle. The sky out here is enormous, ringed by sterile white clouds and pinned down in the far distance by snow-capped mountains, though people here call them hills. The sky is the color of a sociopath's eyes, a clear and piercing blue that hurts to look at for more than a few seconds.

At night the stars are relentless. They don't shine as much as they glare. Every single one seems determined to make a name for itself, trying to outdo all the others like an insecure chorus girl. It's odd to have such an enormous, insistent sky and no one to share it with, no one to make love to beneath it, no one to split the burden of the awe with.

The sky reminds me of how insignificant I am. I like that too.

I spent October, November, and most of December in Hilo, Hawaii. I fell asleep every night to the percussive rain on the tin roof. I left Hawaii in a psychotic state, and when I first got here I thought I'd been sent to hell.

By the time I was stabilized on the proper medications, the desert had taken hold of me.

I've grown to love the vast silences, the feel of being truly alone at the end of the world. It's less of a lie than my marriage, where I'd been alone for years but was able to pretend I had a companion. Here, the loneliness is unadorned and stark. It's honest.

This county is the largest and least populated place in the continental US. I am sure there are places in Alaska that are more remote, but this is as far away from other people as you can be while in the US proper. That's something else I like.

I didn't like the spiders at first. They are everywhere. I see them out of the corner of my eyes at all hours of the day and night. Last week I woke up to one perced on my pillow, watching me like a lover. They're marvelously stubborn things, though, and I've started to name some of them. Seymour lives in my bathroom light fixture, Maud likes to come out from behind my computer when I type. They have a resilience I admire, and they are much more interesting to watch than cockroaches in Charleston were.

I think I am beginning to understand why prophets and madmen are born in deserts. It's impossible to live for long under impassive skies without surrendering to something - God, or madness, or both. Maybe God is madness.

I think I can live here. The silence is unending and the chatter in my head has succumbed to it. My thoughts come more slowly, like the respiration of a holy man in a deep trance. My head has never been so clear.

I've begun to write again.

I've been thinking a lot about Sam, about us, about how draining it was to love him. Loving someone with Asperger's Syndrome is an exercise in frustration. It's trying to fill a thirsty, dry lakebed with thimblefuls of liquid. Love beads off of him like droplets of water on a freshly waxed car. Frantic semaphores to the blind.

Rambling is an extravagance I've allowed myself lately. My thoughts go unedited, unspooling like ribbon, like time. No one is here to catch them, so they fall useless and sterile to the unwatered earth.

Loneliness is clean. It's empty and clean. I never thought I'd have so much of it.

No, I don't know it.
Sing it for me, Hal.

My song for you.

Her Nightlight

She writes me love poems,
She sings me folk songs,
She hates my mother.

She drives her car fast,
She wears a red dress,
Hemmed kneecap stratosphere.

If I had practiced some kung-fu,
That guy'd be wearing numchuku,
And I'd be with her,
Lying in her nightlight light.

She makes entendres,
She speaks in sanscrit,
She does her yoga.

Spurious boyfriends,
Make me jealous,
It's all on purpose.

She wants to hear my "until death"
While Fred Astaire takes one more breath,
And shows me dancing by the nightlight
On her wall.

I wish I had another way to waste my time.
But could you if you knew a girl with one tan line?
Who says someday soon you'll make her come for real,
Please try all night,
In that small light,
I'm scared to be how she must feel.

She talks on shortwave,
She launches rockets,
She dyes her hair red.

She bites my earlobes,
Shares her chewed gum,
She loved "Solaris."

I'm gonna rent a Ryder truck,
And drive to Sitka with my stuff,
Camp at her tree line tanning in
That little light.

We are an event-driven society. We are not zen. We are not now. We are all waiting for our chance. When the ship comes in. When the aliens land. When she looks at me that way again. Again.

A little while ago I sat across a table from a friend explaining to her how the book Hofsteader book Godel, Escher, Bach: The Eternal Golden Braid proved to me that God must exist, mathematically. Godel's theorem to me - Every self-consistent system must contain elements which assure its cataclysmic end.

"This sentence is false," is something like it. In words.

"I don't know why I feel this way," is another.

And you can't divide anything by zero, not because you can't, but because if you do, math stops working. So we've gone into mathematical denial about it. Made it illegal.

The sound of one-hand clapping is simultaneously inside our world, and then not. You can say it, but if you think about it, it floats away like a feather you try to catch too fast.

Time belongs to us, but doesn't. We never have enough. It always takes too long.

There is a place in our universe where right now, you not only don't know what's happening, but your "now" does not exist there, and it never will.

It was sunny that day. We sat by the window. Outside people boarded boats, and some landed carrying coolers of soft-drinks and almost dead fish. Old men helped their grandchildren ashore. The city across the Sound seemed like a dream written and buried by a genius no one would ever read.

There was a malt waffle in front of me, half-eaten. She pushed grilled potatoes and eggs around a plate fired iridescent red.

This was one of those moments of real life you see in a movie and know never happens.

She said, "The Mind's Eye Godel, Escher, Bach. He makes me read them. Why does my father read books like that?"

I said, "I don't know why he does it. But I do it because sometimes I have ideas that feel like I'm not smart enough to have thought. So I try to figure out where they come from."

I told her that as if it was an idea that mattered. As if I could speak a future where we understood each other the way lovers do when they gasp at a feeling. As if anything I wasted time uttering mattered more than the sun and the boats and the clouds that would eventually come.

"How do you think it will end?"

"The world?" I said, pushing my coffee cup toward where I knew a waitress would have to be, eventually.

"Not the whole world," she said, and it was one of those times I knew what she meant by the way she used her fingers to smooth the wrinkles on the linen restaurant-issue napkin. When it gets a little too quiet, and the universe is an audience anticipating your famous last words.

"Then, like most things," I said, "With a whole shitload of crying."

When she looked at me I could see through her eyes back to the moment of her conception. And I realized that when you conceive a moment, the briefer you go, the shorter the time, the more of everything has to be squeezed into it to make it real. Eons are huge dilute things. Everything comes from supernovae.

"What are you thinking?" I said, when I managed another piece of malt waffle that was so close to art it had been framed in the ninth dimension.

She said, "Once, I read something you wrote, and all I could think was, 'I want to be loved like that.' Is that too much to ask?"

"No," I said. "But that's one."

The human mind is a system of ionic software and biological hardware that must include elements which assure its annihilation.

Love is that.

A quickie:

Last night, I got tremendously sick from playing solo games of ten cup beer pong. I ended up decorating the hallway my friends live on with my lunch.

A shy girl in an improv group walks up to me as I'm kneeling in front of her bathroom, wiping dry chunks of pineapple pizza I ate yesterday out of the carpet with wadded up balls of paper towel.

"This is really ironic," she says, "because like three weeks ago, I had a really intense sex dream about you. Oh, well."

She smiles, and walks away.

Oof. I thought you weren't supposed to kick a man when he's down.

Years and years ago,

or maybe only two,

he said “You’ll know it when it happens,

you will know”

and I do.

la la la I’m a snail scraping ‘long dry ground.

la la la I’m a vacant Luth’ranlost and found”.

Several weeks ago,

or maybe yesterday,

she said “You’re made of paranoia

and it drives

us away.”

la la la I’m a hobo peering in through glass.

la la la I’m an exponential vessel for the past.

Ten minutes ago,

or seconds from this breath,

you’ll say “Regret is such a bitch

when you’re close

to death.”

la la la I’m a hungry ghost who’s asking for a meal.

la la la take my hand and buy my flowers, they’re a steal.

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