I am returning to New York, and though I rejoice to be in your company once again, you who have welcomed me so sweetly and easily, I wish, simultaneously, to order this plane turned around so that I can stay just a little longer with my new lover, my poppet, my Gobi desert.
This letter will be brief, serving only to give the character of the trip, and when we are reunited, my friends, I will have stories to tell that will flesh out this skeleton.
I traveled with two wonderful people: Sydney Sparks, my friend and newly-hired personal assistant, ever composed and staid, yet passionate about the nearly immeasurable, the inexorable flowing of the Earth itself upon itself, and the slow blush of the climate--on the one hand. On the other hand, we had with us Fabienne Lavant, a woman of staggeringly regal indignation matched only by her peerless presence and radiant beauty. Quite the trio!
I spent the trip in a constant state of astonishment and wonder, following Ms. Spark’s footsteps and fingers as if she were a desert-induced vision guiding me to wisdom and water, with Fabienne stumbling after us like a princess who’d escaped the bonds of some brutish Mongol slaver and was quickly losing her patience with the intractability of the desert.
A curious fact: Because Fabienne refused to speak in English, thus never addressing Ms. Sparks; and because, moreover, Ms. Sparks addressed me primarily, I being receptive to her conversation and explanation, it was as if neither woman was aware of the other’s presence--as if they were figments of my imagination, angel and devil, ego and id, and their words were me talking to myself, Fabienne the part of me that appreciates comfort and the finer things in life and protests at every chafe and ache, and Ms. Sparks the part of me that seeks the far reaches of spiritual wilderness, propelled by concerns celestial and terrestrial rather than those of the body. I would hear from behind me, “Quel bordel, Thierry! J’en ai marre de tous ce sable et ce frois glacial!” (“What a bloody mess, Thierry! I’ve had it with all this sand and this freezing cold!”), and in front of me I would hear, “My undergraduate thesis was on climate change in the Gobi and its impact on large-scale geology. The deeper we go, the, like, closer we are to what my research was about,” and I would want to laugh, because of the drama that was being enacted by these voices in my head!
Sometimes we climbed rocks, sometimes we held the lines as Ms. Sparks climbed. Sometimes Fabienne refused to climb until it was pointed out that Ms. Sparks had the water, and then it was fascinating to see how thirst can literally pull a poor soul over massive obstacles and through trembling misery. How proud I was of our dethroned queen Fabienne every time she caught her breath after some effort that left her dewed with cold sweat!
Sometimes we stopped to peer and poke at exposed rocks, and during these moments I tried to be the most perfect student, begging Ms. Sparks to lecture me about what we beheld; She would indulge my curiosity, giving context to the minerals in her inimitable style of speech, which can only be described as majestically American, as I mapped the crystals with my hands, smelled their age, and tasted their complexity. All the while Fabienne posed somewhere under her wide-brimmed hat, never too tired to be striking.
Ms. Spark’s happiness increased as we progressed, until she was brimming with joy and threatened to smile (knowing someone with such mastery over her own body and spirit is to learn to read emotions from the subtlest of cues), and finally we came to a ravine which she held dear in her heart. I, being a man who also holds a certain blasted patch of African bush close to heart, appreciate how attached one can be to particular features of the Earth’s crust. Whoever cannot think of one natural spot on the planet that makes his heart patter and pound, or his breath seize like a falling ribbon caught in a hand, is incomplete.
At one point, our guide--though I use the term loosely, since I considered Ms. Sparks to be our true guide--refused to take us deeper into the desert, where we wished to go. Ms. Sparks was insistent, though when it seemed she would be overruled, I had some words with the gentleman. Happily, he was persuaded, and--
But how could I forget the rock-cooked goat? Ms. Sparks showed me how to use hot rocks to cook goat. It was a dinner I will not soon forget! Even Fabienne was mollified by this feast, though I’m sad to report that Ms. Sparks seemed to be experiencing some discomfort vis-a-vis digesting meat. A shame! May her transition back to vegetarianism by swift and effortless.
There is so much more to say!
I will leave this letter abridged, and end by writing that I wished never to have to cleanse myself of the wonderful dust and the glittering sand; that, were it not for the bitter cold, I could have slipped into that mysterious ravine for the rest of my days, creeping between the lithosphere and the hard blue firmament forever!
But there are duties to attend to. And, more importantly, I miss my sweetheart, and I hope to reunite with her very soon, to trade the scent of sand for the scent of cherry blossom and sleek black hair.