The Desert at Night

June 27, 2007, 10:15 am; posted by
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Have you ever heard a pack of coyotes howl and snarl so loudly that you could swear the next bark would be at your window? Or the soft pattering of something digging in a corner or burrowing in the closet?

I’ve become familiar with these and other noises the last few nights, now that I’m living with my grandmother in rural New Mexico. We’re mere yards from the national forest, so isolated that, as Grandma put it this afternoon, “If something should happen to us, who would hear us scream?”

Therefore I have decided that I hate the desert at night. In the daytime it’s fine — the temperature is high enough that all the dangerous things disappear and the sun bright enough that the beauty is impossible to miss. (Little known fact — you can actually touch the sun in some parts of New Mexico because it really is that close. You heard it here at Bweinh!)

But as evening simmers into night, that vast blue sky that so awes me during the day becomes my enemy, Eliot’s “patient etherized upon a table,” sprawling and lifeless. Looking outside makes me feel blind. The darkness can be felt in the hairs on the back of my neck as they tingle and rise. It is a darkness that nurtures paranoia, and the certainty that something with sharp teeth and quick venom lurks just beyond the window pane is what makes my grandmother cover every window in the house after twilight surrenders the sky.

The worst thing, though, is the noise. When the coyotes bark and yip in packs, I know a rabbit will soon be devoured. When I hear something like the desperate scream of a woman, I know it’s a cougar on the prowl. And when I hear that clicking on the roof, like an alien in the movies preparing to dispose of its prey, I know something is skittering around on the roof, and any minute now it will come crashing through the window to eat me. I don’t care how hot it is — I’m a firm believer in that age-old superstition that my thick down comforter will protect me from the monsters outside, and so I will bear the stuffy heat and burrow deeper until the sun rises again.


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