I’d just gotten discharged and to celebrate we’d driven down from Portland only a couple of days before, me and Mai, and had already seen the reservation or what remained of it anyway. It was at the end of August not such a good time to visit New Mexico then but we were excited to see one another after me being overseas for so long and it had been a shitty ‘Mayvember’ what with all the rain and her dad dying and me being away and all. So we just said fuck it, packed our shit, bought some sun cream and headed south. The whole American
Indian thing is Mai’s thing. Ever since childhood I guess she’s wanted to see this place. Frankly having just come home from my second tour I wasn’t looking forward to the heat down there but the economy sucked and I had nothing to do but wait until the beginning of the school year so I could finish up my B.A. in English and then get in the breadline down at the Veteran’s center so…. Truth be told the first day we didn’t run into many ‘real’ Indians and those that we did see didn’t look so lethargic and rejected or as indignant and perturbed as I’d
expected. We did come across a plaque that Mai was interested in. It detailed the death of Navajo chief named ‘Narbona’. Apparently after getting gunned down by the white man he’d been buried in one of these crevices that looked like a tear in the earth here by his sons along with two of his finest horses. So he wouldn’t have to ‘walk in the afterlife’. Shit after watching people get their arms blown off and blow themselves up in car bomb attacks I didn’t hold out much hope of an afterlife. Seemed like a waste of two good horses you ask me.
The second day the sun really cranked up the wattage and Mai, with her delicate NW complexion not to mention her culturally induced, mortal fear of having dark skin, came down with heat stroke. So after drawing the curtains of our shitty cheap motel room, turning the AC on full blast and showing her how to work the remote, I went out on my own to get a look around.
It was a scorcher, but after Fallujah I couldn’t complain. I wanted to get up on a vantage point where I take a good picture of the whole landscape for Mai (I knew she’d like that) when I came across an interesting looking cave and decided to poke around. It smelled pretty rank but I was too busy watching my feet for scorpions or rattlers to let that bother me too much. I pressed on, into the inner recesses of the cave when I accidentally kicked something. I bent over to pick it up and a single shaft of light fell across it illuminating first the left side of the skull, then the right cheekbone, and, as I turned it in my hand, I began to hear my innermost thoughts turn on themselves in a smooth cadence, their tone shrill, and yet, mournful. I understood, intrinsically, that if I stuck it with an implement of precisely the right weight it would reverberate and fill the cave and whatever was spoken of during that interval would come true. I cataloged through various wishes and desires: marrying Mai; completing a marathon; finishing school; not going back to that shithole. But it whispered promises from within me to me, things bigger and richer than I’d ever thought possible. I crouched for a moment on the ground, feeling the power in my legs, hearing the distant gallop of horses burn in the back of my brain and I stood and cast about the cave’s corners seeking out just the right tool to ring out fortunes glad eye on me.