All the people I know here in this desert are strangers, a little bit
stranger than I’d ever been, no more than a stranger, they are not a part of
my life here.
I have no memories of my life before this desert. I am not one who does
memories. I’m not a very good one. I have never been one to do memories. I
remember nothing from before.
I am here because of three men.
First, because of the man who came to me while I was working on my little
house, whom I later found out was the first of the three. I was an apprentice
to an adobe master in a little valley not too far from here, and he had a
little girl who was a little smaller than I am now, who had dark hair, so
dark it was almost black and his eyes were the color of my father’s, my
mother, the daughter he carried by force, the last man in my family.
It was my first time working in this desert, and I was learning the hard
work of adobe, learning to handle the adobe that was not moldable like clay,
that was never as easy to remove as mud and dirt, the stuff that was sometimes
even more difficult to remove than dirt, a kind of tough black mud that had
cobwebs in it that held you so tightly you could hardly pull them out with
the fingers of your bare hands, and a thin, delicate sheet of the same material
that was used above ground on top of the floor of the house, my little house,
where I slept in the dark, away from my parents.
From him I learned one very important thing, that life would come at me and
pull me down. From my father, I learned to have faith in people, faith in
others, faith that good will come from it, faith that I can survive, faith
that I can survive this desert, that I will not have to die from my own
fear and fear, from hunger, thirst, and dirt, that I will have to endure this
desert for the rest of my life, and that through it all, I will survive, come
out alive, come out to a better future where I can be the one who makes the
From my mother, I learned to hate my father. I learned to hate both of my
parents, because I learned about them both, the way I learned about everyone
else I ever knew, the way I would learn about them all throughout my life,
how people would fall apart. I learned about my father, that he was not a
good man, and about my mother, that she was not a good mother either, that
they were both sick, and that death would come.
They died and I never did find out why, because I was afraid of what would
come out of a father and a mother falling apart, afraid to break their
solution to a sickness, afraid that I would have to learn about my own
sickness, afraid that I would have to live with my own sickness and not know
why my parents were sick or why they would fall apart.
I was afraid.
I was not a man afraid of anything.
But he, my father, the master adobe man, said one time, “I have no
children of my own, and you will be the one to fill my life with the
childish joys I never had.” He said that to me before I became an apprentice.
So I went to work for him, learning his trade and learning to build homes,
and learning to build his adobe on a site next to mine, a little farther out
from town, a little bigger than mine, but a little smaller than my father’s,
and I took this little house from him, a small, simple home, a home with a
small kitchen and a small bedroom with a small bathroom, no running water,
just a well that supplied water for the small house, and I went to work in
the adobe, learning what I needed to know to be able to work with this adobe,
learning to learn the adobe that was not moldable like clay, learning to learn
the adobe of a master who was not just a master adobe maker, who was the best
of all the adobe makers that I’d ever known, learning to learn how to work
with a man who had lived by the same code of life, who had learned from his
ancestors, who had learned from one another, who had taught and learned from
his own life, his own father, his own mother, his own brother, his own sister,
his own children, his own family, his own life.
I would learn to learn from him, to find the same value in his life, the
same value of the work and the knowledge, the same knowledge that he shared
with me. I learned from him, in return for his life, in return for taking
me from my father, who would never share the same life as my father, never
share the same life as me, never share his knowledge, his life, his life and
his knowledge, never share it with me, never pass it on.
I learned from my father, to let people go, to let his life and his
knowledge go as though they were all gone and gone, gone. I learned from him,
from my father, to remember his life, his knowledge forever, forever, and to
live it alone, to live it alone like my father never did, like my father never
would, like my father never could.
My first time working in this desert, and learning the hard work of adobe,
I learned to work harder than a man can possibly work in a thousand lifetimes,
each lifecycle of mine stretched to every possible ending, forever,
foreverforever, always before, and for this I learned to be brave and to
learn about the bravery of life, the bravery of people never falling apart,
the bravery of people who never had to feel fear of their own life because of
the other, because of the other, because the other never suffered because of