sands, once calm, rises in the midst of the turbulence, a cloud of dust that forms in the middle of the road and separates the desert into two large extensions of space, as wide as the eye can see. A translucent curtain that follows the movement of the car that’s speeding through the place. Through the open window, on the driver’s side, the thunders of rock music escape.
- “Stay with me, stay with me”.
Is the chorus of the song that accompanies Alfonso’s journey and the reasons why he travels through the lonely desert are the same ones that imprint speed to his movement. Situations, decisions, reasons that have led him to dispense with memories as much as possible, in the manner of modern streams of thoughts that try to separate the person from timelines different from the present continuous.
- “Stay with me, stay with me”.
The song ends and another one of less intensity begins. The stifling heat of midday merges with the heaviness of the new tune, too melancholic, too “trip back in time” to endure. Alfonso’s gaze escapes to the desert, to the dunes, all different from each other. There, he meets a curious figure that catches his attention, a small fox that stands in the sand and watches the passing of the car. Alfonso crosses glances with the animal and, in doing so, something awakens inside him, a diffuse idea, but one that will never leave him again.
- How is it possible that such a small being can survive in an environment as dangerous as a desert?
The question leads him to bow to the fox as he passes by its side, before losing sight of it completely. Looking ahead, Alfonso is propelled forward with a new attitude, the lines on the road now appear as arrows indicating a different path, his hands cling to the wheel and hope fills his heart. And then, something else happens, the road reveals yet another curious figure. It’s a young woman carrying a backpack almost as big as herself. A backpacker who has ventured into the desert, perhaps from as far away as the city. The revelation leads him to experience a series of sensations that he had decided to escape from, when leaving the city. He wonders about the woman’s motives, about the purpose of her journey, he also wonders about the protocol to be followed in cases like these. Is it legal to continue advancing without assisting her? A quick review of the situation leads him to conclude that the woman will probably have to walk a long way before finding someone else who can help her, having travelled for more than four hours without having seen anyone else. But Alfonso doesn’t make any decisions, since she is the one who raises her hand and thumb, an international sign for help. Alfonso fixes his gaze on the raised finger and immediately feels tied to an unspoken contract between two people, the rational response leads him to ask.
- How long have I been transformed into such a robot?
There is no answer. In the midst of the tribulation, Alfonso stops the car, practically automatically, by the side of the road. She approaches smiling, advancing at a slight trot until she reaches the co-pilot’s window and introduces herself, her name, Amelia. Alfonso introduces himself and the two look at each other for the first time. In her eyes, he finds traces of that same melancholy that has led him to travel alone through the desert, although he doesn’t dare say anything about it. He invites her into the car, however, Amelia asks to put the backpack in the trunk. An obvious one, Alfonso thinks to himself and gets out of the vehicle to help. Between the two of them, they manage to find the right way to put the backpack inside the trunk, smiling once more, in that awkward way that people who barely know each other usually behave. The car goes on the road once more and Alfonso asks Amelia why is she walking alone in the desert. Amelia laughs at the situation, calling it “an uncomfortable situation. She then explains her reasons with a series of evasions and generalizations that don’t provide much information. Alfonso prefers not to delve into the subject, surely it’s something difficult to talk about. Now it’s her turn to ask the same question and his turn to respond with the same generalizations and evasions. Even so, it has been about thirty minutes since they both met and neither of them knows anything about the other yet, except that they act in the same way when meeting new people. An uncomfortable silence separates them a little more and it’s then that Amelia makes the decision to make a confession, to exorcise the demons that are already taking over the minds of both of them. She says that she was part of a group of people with whom she has parted ways after an argument. She then says not being sure what has led her to travel with these people in the first place. Perhaps she has let herself be carried away, she reflects, by the intentions of others and, after waking up to reality, she has not been able to come to terms with her companions. A failure of her, she criticizes, for the lack of conviction in the democratic way and in the end this has been what has left her wandering alone in the desert.
- Reality? – Alfonso asks.
- Yes, reality is that all of this is just a dream. – She answers and goes off laughing.
Alfonso remains silent; he really can’t process her last sentence.
- It was a joke. – Amelia breaks the spell.
Alfonso remains thinking for a few seconds, did he really think that everything could be a dream? Shame leads him to move the focus of attention elsewhere.
- What kind of argument leads a group of people to abandon another person in the middle of the desert?
Amelia quickly reaffirms the point, it was her decision. An impulse without thinking through, he assumes, glad on the fact that he is not an impulsive person. He assumes that this character trait puts him above her, for isn’t it he who is helping her and not the other way around? Amelia feels the fluctuation of power and decides to level things out, to recover that mystique that surrounded her when Alfonso knew nothing about her. She decides to reformulate the initial question, having answered her part previously, she assumes that Alfonso will have the moral obligation to return the gesture. It’s a question that Alfonso cannot avoid in any way
- What is a young man doing traveling alone on the road?
- I prefer to travel alone, I like solitude.
Lies, Alfonso is burdened with loneliness, but he has become accustomed to it, driven by distrust of other people, which forbids him to do things like travel with a group of strangers through the desert and then dare to leave them stranded, citing his own conviction of being right, imposing, perhaps, innocent tyranny before falling into just oppression. Could he have defended himself to them in the same way? An almost imperceptible movement of his right eye leads him to become obsessed with Amelia’s Machiavellian smile. Amelia feels at ease, she has achieved her goal. It is Alfonso who has problems now, an almost uncontrollable desire not to have picked her up, to turn back time and be alone again, seize him. Paradoxical, and he realizes, to desire loneliness, to obtain it and then to hate it. Isn’t that the story of his life? Tribulations that lead him to press the accelerator pedal more strongly and to take a deep breath next to the window opening, movements that Amelia perceives positively as irritation. She prefers to keep silent and look out the window to get lost in the strange shapes that the sand draws in the wind.
- They are like emotions – she thinks. Drawings of a reality that does not usually last.
And then it happens, the car body starts to vibrate strongly and an agonizing screech announces the last breath of the engine. The red warning light comes on seconds before the disaster. The car slides lifelessly for a few more meters and ends up stopped at the side of the road. Can thoughts change the course of time? Amelia wonders and wishes she hadn’t thought the last thing she thought. The dial tone resonates intermittently, Alfonso assumes first that he will not be answered, in his mind exploring the worst possible situations he will have to face if the call does not come through. Amelia waits in silence, her firm belief is that this is not the time to further disrupt the cosmic energies that have decided to abandon both of them in the middle of the desert. The device seems to work, the call connects and Alfonso explains the present situation to the person on the other end of the line. A solution, there’s a gas station a few miles ahead, difficult to know how many, the person confesses, because of the lack of distinctive signs between the dunes, the lack of geographical reference points and the inexperience, both Alfonso and Amelia’s, to position themselves on the planet without the help of external agents such as a compass or good orientation. The next call seems more hopeful, Alfonso manages to communicate with the gas station, he repeats the misfortune once again, although this time the story is less dramatic. In any case, the message achieves the desired effect, the woman on the other end of the line indicates that they can approach the car. However, depending on the position they are in, the operation could take a few hours. Alfonso accepts the proposal and appreciates the concern of all involved, without hiding the disappointment of a city person, used to agile solutions and short waiting times. Amelia senses the bad news by looking at Alfonso’s facial expressions; she prefers not to ask about it. She concentrates on his dry lips and on the memory of the bottle of water she has kept in her backpack a few minutes before meeting him in the middle of the desert. She gets out of the vehicle and takes a deep breath, the fresh air leads her to accept what she has not wanted to ask about, the rescue will take time. Having tried the bottle, she returns to the interior of the car. A big sip of water is enough to bring back a smile and to infect Alfonso with it. Amelia offers him the bottle and they both laugh at the current situation, they feel freed from an invisible burden that they now understand has been largely caused by the reluctance of both to say anything. Alfonso admits that this whole trip through the desert could have been a mistake, that he is not an impulsive person, but that he really needed a break from everyday life. Amelia nods sympathetically as she receives the bottle of water back.
- Isn’t that why people go on vacation?
She asks and Alfonso nods, both smiling again and exhaling deeply. The conversation flows uninterruptedly for a long time, during which time a fly begins to move around inside the car, almost unnoticed by any of them. The fly ends up resting on the edge of the bottle for so long that, when Amelia becomes aware of its presence, she cannot avoid, almost reflexively, moving it with her hand, hitting it so hard that she ends up knocking it down. A nervous laughter leads her to hide the guilt she feels for having ended a life, something that catches Alfonso’s attention. Amelia wipes the bottle and takes another sip of water, this time she doesn’t manage to calm down.
- Live in such a way that your actions pay the debt.
Alfonso remembers the quote from some movie he has seen, Amelia picks up the body of the fly and keeps it on a piece of paper. Both remain silent out of respect for the deceased and then let it rest, burying it in the desert sands. Amelia asks Alfonso to say a few words
- Fly, we didn’t know you and I want you to know that none of us wanted you to die. It’s just that life is so fragile. As someone once said, life is a blink and death is an eternity. I think you are in a better place.
The wind picks up a thin layer of sand and gains some intensity, Alfonso and Amelia decide to go back inside the car. A short time later, Amelia feels the first signs of fatigue, first a faint yawn, then a long one. The heaviness of the sunset settles on her eyelids that fall without control, Amelia says goodbye for the moment and settles down on the seat, using a sweatshirt as a pillow she manages to find a comfortable position and closes her eyes, soon after she falls asleep.