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  • We were out on the dunes in the desert, duelling dunes, Death Valley, husband and wife, duelling cameras. Hey, let's shoot a picture of each other at the same time, I said.

    All right, D. said.

    I said, "You go stand there, on that dune. Climb up there."

    D. said, "That one is a good for you. Go--good, you go--no, stop. Good. Stay there."

    "Don't start," I said.

    "Who's starting?" he said. "I'm not starting, you're starting. You're the one who starts."

    "Please don't start. Let's just do it."

    "Stop talking," D. said.

    "I'm not talking," I said. "Who's talking? It was my idea. Fine. Forget it."

    Two egos, two Virgos, two bosses, two directors, each of us trying to produce the other. If everyone is a photographer, who is the subject?

    "Look at me, now," I said.

    "I'm looking. Look my way. Here."

    "I'm taking the picture," I said.

    "Aren't I?" D. said. "I won't, you know."

    "Look at me," I said. "You don't have to. You and your smart ideas. Let's go home and forget it."

    At that moment, home was a tidy viable three millions acres of sand, give or take a mil.

    "Get ready," he said.

    "Me ready? Me? Please. Me? You. I'm ready."

    "You're not ready. Get ready. Put your camera up. Stop looking at me. Look at me."

    "I'll be ready when I'm ready. I'm ready. Don't tell me what to do. You're not ready. When you're ready, I'll be ready."

    Was this a hike in the desert, or getting dressed for a dinner date?

    We had come out to the sand sea in the dark. We had walked in alone, two souls, four feet, over the disappeared footprints of the last travellers, up and down the tiny dunes and the hardcore mesquite with their dried winter berries, past the packrat middens with their original hoards down handy holes, past the footprints of the reptilean and the long ago formerly riparian world, in through the sere, the arid, the dry, in through the place where no water runs to the sea and the mind tells the eye the secret misinformation that the salt is water, in to the higher dunes and the things said to exist only in postcards, in through the dark before the halos, dragging halo effects, wishing for the sunrise to be ours alone, to collect the morning sun, as if we were kidnappers.

    We had waited for the sunrise, watching it come up in a mountain notch, in the East. We had walked towards the trio of postcard dunes, but we were still outside the postcard frame. So, yeah. "Let's take a picture of each other at the exact same time," I had suggested. "I like it," D. had said.

    So there we were: Two bluffers, two grammar correctors, two editors wrangling each other on duelling seams of sand. The sand moved silently across itself. The barchan dunes slipslid their declivity angles. "You go there, forward, good," I said. D. said, "Shift over a tad." Each to the other like a comma, a semi-colon, a preposition which could be tidied, each of us a love chiropractor, trying to make those spinal adjustments on the other.

    It never settles down in love. It's moving. Two human dunes up on the sand.

    April in the desert. It had to be spring, baby, it had to be you. Twenty years in.

    "Go back a bit more," I said. He stayed put.

    "Go forward some," he said. I stood pat.

    The sand intervened silently, like a righteous arbitrating bridge. The sand dunes moved across each other, as they do, inching infinitesimally, doing nature's microscopic connecting.

    "Okay. Got it," D. said.

    "All right. Gotcha," I said.

    Ode to him. Ode to her. Odes to opposites. Ode to the sand, ode to the desert, ode to the lens. Aim, you two consternating odes with legs.

    "I'm good."


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