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  • Writer's pictureMara Cao

xi. dry bones

I wake up from a nap. I am in a bed and I must have passed out. It is past 6pm and I am hungry, so I order a pizza. I feel like I am about to disappear as the hunger hits me hard. My body feels tired, compressed and aching. It is so strange to be back in the city, to be in a house, with light switches and walls and running water. Flushing toilets and showers, holy. To lie in a bed, holy. To watch television and eat hot pizza, holy. I feel like I have just woken up from a dream. But it was no dream that I was living in a tent in the middle of the desert, with limited electricity generated by solar panels and water from the well underground. There are definitely no flushing toilets in the desert. I didn't bathe those days, even though my skin was sticky with sweat, caked with dust. Everything gets covered in dust. There is no escaping the dust. During the day, the sun is merciless and the air is so dry it cracks your skin. The hanging chilies in the kitchen tent were mummified. My tent started to tear because of the heat and dryness. The nights are freezing. Near my tent were the bones of some large animals. We piled the skulls on top of each other. Strewn around are sections of various vertebral columns, parts of jaws with missing teeth, some limb bones. The bones are cracked and bleach white, become white dust when we touch them. One of the migrant men tells me one of the skulls belonged to a horse. He can tell from the teeth. Makes sense since there are horse ranches nearby. I wondered how these animals even ended up dead in our camp, how long they’ve been dead. This must be what the unfound bodies of men and woman and children crossing the desert look like once the flesh has been burned off by the sun and dried out by the hot winds.

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