“The Church says: the body is a sin. Science says: the body is a machine. Advertising says: The body is a business.
The Body says: I am a fiesta.”
~ Eduardo Galeano
Sudhiro was old; wrinkled leather skin, carved-out face seeping into bone. His thick long hair hung gnarled down his back, and his eyes were the soft grey of the bottom of the sea. He lived a few miles from the reservation by the Chuyamungue pass.
Sudsy, as he was called, appeared in coffee houses and restaurant dives whenever he was in town. Sitting at Longevity Cafe drinking tea he would appear peripherally, blowing over bookshelves like desert clouds or walking across the cafe in slow methodical rocking steps like a walking stick on a branch. He was older and stranger than the gringos in town, and he had that feather and smoke look to him. He'd laugh, and sip his tea, eyes smiling in deep cracks across his cheeks and bones. He had a commune in Italy he lived at part-time, a group composed of mostly dangerously beautiful young women his son's age he always ended up in tumultuous and short-lived relationships with. He wrote a book once a few years ago; about watching his father die, the longest dream sequence of his life, an acid trip to the white sands with his students from the University of New Mexico, and six years of quiet by the Ganges river in a cave. It never sold many copies, but he doodled on the unpurchased novels he still had at his hideaway home in the canyon cliffs of Abiquiu. He made notes about the patterns wind make in sand and how spiders can imitate them on temperate days when it is not too hot or too dry for the living to brave the light on their backs.
He almost died on a vision quest one summer. Out in Abiquiu in June, when the sun sucked the saliva from the sand and everything beneath it; when the rains couldn't begin to gather because each drop suffocated on its way up to the sky. In June he walked out into the desert. The sky was swollen with that fertile emptiness it gets when it's ready for questions. It was asking him outside again. He had been slung out on his hammock, sipping mate and watching the horses quietly weaving through sage brush, smelling the earth for directions to buffalo grass and running water. The creek must have dried up, must have suffocated also, because the ground was sinking, the land's veins collapsing in the absence of ground water's invisible rivers.
He was looking toward the other side of the valley when he saw a new horse, a tall ravaged animal, chunks missing from his chest. He must have run into barbed wire, must not have seen the metal twisting through space. It had been so violent outside, the haze and the ghostly sweeps of light must have confused it. A gelding, domestic, tail trimmed and clean, shaved whiskers--ridiculous. He was accoustomed to his wild ones, the fierce little fuckers, who dragged brambles and sticks behind them, pieces of the valley were taken up with the wind when they ran; their eyes white, breath and bodies steaming, they seemed to evaporate with the water sometimes, vanishing into mirage. This little sucker, he thought, this little sucker won't make it too long.
That night at dinner his neighbor Mimo called to tell him a white buffalo had been born near the Pojoaque reservation. A good omen, a sign that the tribe had been blessed with the return of power. Mimo thought he should know, thought he was a decent old crow, believed that though his blood was not native of this land, he had the blood of someone possessing in him.
Later that night, Sudhiro dreamt of a spider weaving constellations. Behind the web wild horses ran across the stars, painting the milky way with their tails. On one side of the night sky a buffalo, the color of milk, soft, transparent; on the other the chest-less horse heart beating and pumping, palpitating through the muscles mostly carved away. The two creatures walked towards one another, began to bleed into one another even from a distance; they began to scatter into grains of sand and glass, they began to coalesce. Their colors changed from the cream of the baby buffalo and the red brown of the gelding, into a deep indigo blue. The fusing pieces began to crack and shatter, splintering into shards, and out of the shards accumulated two cranes standing in the river, laughing.
The next morning upon waking, he walked into the desert. He walked to the tallest peak, into the canyon walls, deep into the red of stone. There he lay down by a shrubby tree out in the sun to sit for four days and nights, to ask a question. The heat of June tore into him. It carved into his sockets and drained the moisture from his blood. It took the water from his breath, the fluid from his spine. The sun was angry that year, must have been upset by the death of Pojoaque's chief, who they lost to a car crash with two young men and their drinking. The sun must have been angry, because Sudsy--though sleeping--began to burn. On the evening of his final day he could not walk back to his house. He discovered his inability to climb back off the cliff he had perched himself on.
The coyotes were out again, scattering their voices in the night, singing their stories in the oncoming dark. The cooling stone and the coyote medicine helped him peel himself up off the rocks, and his four days and nights in the desert were done. He retreated back to his adobe dome in the hills where he waited. He came back only half alive, and drank water from indoors, laid out on his hammock.
I am but a world, some flesh and bones to keep it in.