Desert Sun

When we got to Las Vegas, my mom wanted to tan. I felt like a fool, reclining poolside in hats and sarongs and SPF 45, putting as much distance between me and the devil sky as I could.

The image of my mother in her thirties is her on a brown beach towel, draped across an aluminum-framed plastic-laced lawn chair. I, barely five, would chastise her that skin cancer would kill her early, and she’d read in the sun.

The desert sun is not like the saccharine sun of the northeast, to be treasured in its rarity. It is not the daffodil Disney sun of the South. It is a desiccating dust like white gold, that infiltrates every crevice, even inside drawers within the house, irradiating, ultraviolet. It gets inside the mind, swirling like a desert snow globe. It leeches all water, it wrings out trees and earth and skin. It hides in the bottoms of earthenware pots, unused since last season, keeping house with silverfish, familiar and faint like last night’s dream.

When we got to Las Vegas, my mom wanted to tan. I felt like a fool, for even in my first day in the desert, I sensed the utter redundancy of tanning in this place, like reading Sartre in space, like oxygen on a plane.