I was sitting on the toilet. He was perched on the left side of the doorframe situated directly across from my open thighs. His lean, muscular legs were flatteringly silhouetted against the flat white backdrop. He was enormous—at least two inches from head to erect tail—but that's standard for his species. I wondered where he might go next. Last night, he engaged me in pillow talk. His sister was my sous chef that evening, and his younger, hyperactive brother would soon be my white noise machine once I finished my business, lulling me to sleep with the surprisingly audible thudding of his midnight hopscotch game. It must have been his parents' whose coitus I so rudely interrupted the night before for a photograph. Or perhaps it was him, now alone because I scared away his partner. That would explain why he had joined me in bed.
I stayed on the toilet watching that lone locust wave his feelers about, just watching a grasshopper that appeared to be on steroids, myself a massive beast captured in a dull hypnosis. The door was closed. In the right margin of my vision I noticed another figure against the freshly painted door. He was moving, fluidly with even pacing, gliding perfectly down a 90 degree pitch, as if a hovercraft making its calculated, smooth vertical descent to the ground. He then proceeded to crawl under the door into my sleeping space. Okay, I thought to myself. My insect friend bounded from the doorframe. I didn't see where he landed.
I went back to the kitchen to soak my finger in creosote tea, the finger that has 3 or 4 cactus spines lodged beneath the surface, a minor wound of annoyance. The fire ants are huddling around the two crumbs I left on the stove, and scatter rhythmically into swirling shapes when my shadow passes over. They just swarm in figure-8s, not really going anywhere. I shut off the lights and ignited an airborne disaster, a collision involving at least 100 moths or other winged critters. They flapped around madly for about 2 seconds before silence emerged. They had made their way to my bedside lamp, beating me there. I smelled bad. Or was it the creosote decoction wafting from the kitchen? No. It was me.
A rattlesnake had been guarding my dirty laundry. I'm so grateful because I was worried some naked person would decide to walk 0.8 miles from the nearest not-dirt road, through the chaparral and around the bristly chollas, to borrow my saline-crusted clothes that lay in a pile next to the outdoor sink where I intended to wash them. I decided it was okay to occupy my own stench for a day.
The swamp cooler is wheezing and I'm shivering in my sunburnt drapery. The temperature will top out at 106 today. The sun has been blistering for weeks, and I imagine it will continue to do so everyday for the rest of my desert life. A friend from LA, whom I met during one of her periodic escapes to my steamy, stormy hometown of St. Louis, warned me. "The sun is oppressive." I didn't get it. But now, as I sit inside, shades drawn mid-day, counting the minutes until golden hour when I can walk—not run between destinations wrapped up like I came from the Sahara—to the nearest rock and bask in the gentle glow of a perishing sun, just like my friend the rattlesnake. As that relentless orb slinks behind the mountains, I do nothing. I sense everything in a contradictory state of hyper-observant relaxation. I can detect the temperature dropping by single degrees, and admire the dimming of the sky's palate from psychedelic to soft sofa. The wind makes my hair stand on end, the speckled night sky gives me goosebumps. I go inside to put on a couple layers.
This is a place of extremes. I feel at home, even among the least of them.