A towering lighthouse in the desert.
We got lost on the drive there. Drove past the unmarked dirt road, hidden in a ninety-degree angle off the main highway. When we figured it out and turned around, we lost nearly forty minutes of daylight. The windows were up, bracing us against the heat, and the artificial cool air streaming from the vents made the skin of my lips become tight and crack.
The black tower, non-reflective, absorbing light, keeping its warmth in its core for cold nights.
We found the decaying boat first, crashed into the side of a mountain, off the side of the road. Lost at sea, brought in by a tidal wave no doubt, left astride a teetering rock, wedged in the stone wall of the shallow cliff in the middle of the desert. He said we should explore it, maybe climb inside its rusted out hull. I told him, maybe it wasn’t safe. We climbed in anyway.
A beacon of light calling out to the lost ones. Bring them in. Bring them to safety.
The crew had long abandoned ship, not even footsteps or cigarette butts in the surrounding sand as record. The air was thick with heat and sunlight. We found a broken porthole on the inside of the boat, with a dark space that extended past the width of the entire wall into another side, another dimension. Reach your hand inside. No. Okay. It feels cold inside.
This is the way, through the darkness.
We pull out a journal, a captain’s log, a tattered green paper covered book with crumbling yellow lined pages, spiral-bound, a cheap drugstore notebook stuffed into a plastic bag. Open it. No, you open it. Okay. What does it say? Notes, letters, gibberish, scribbles, lists, many names of people who were here. Should we write our names on the list? What will happen? I don’t know. No. Okay. Write our names in the notebook. I was here. You were here. Now the world will know we were here, in this boat, at this moment in the desert, under the weight of the midday sun, in the spring time. The next time someone reaches their hand into this abyss, this dark sea in the boat, they will find the notebook and know. I was here. You were here. Our names are added to the list, to the captain’s log, to the crumbling page with black ink.
Watch your head. Walk slowly. It’s not too far now.
Careful not to cut yourself on the rust. You could get tetanus. You could get lockjaw. Did you have your shots? No. Okay. The boat was coated in green patina, oxidized metals scorched by the relentless sun. It had been an unforgivably long time since the boat had been in water. Its lips were parched and cracking like ours, made weak by the desert sun, crashing down on us like waves, beating us against the side of the mountain like the grounded boat. Stripped of purpose, stripped of all meaning, left as a reminder on the rocks of unseen oceans. A reminder of absence.
The light is blinding, infinite. Waiting for you.
We sat in the boat, the boat merged with the rocky shore without a shore. The seats of dry rot planks did not give way to our weight, and we were able to survey the area as new captains. This foreign, Martian land of red rocks and dry earth, surrounded by wild flora like blue sagebrush and black rooted desert bamboo and tiny milky translucent white flowers like fingernails danced in the wind on gray twig stalks. We looked far out into the horizon for a ghost route of safe passage to sail through. A route to the sea that won’t disappear when you approach. Past heat and expiration, past the darkness and the cold. All I ever wanted was to find you here.