from 2009, edited 6/28/2020

When I was young and should have been watching “You Can’t Do That on Television” while at grandma’s, I’d instead watch “The Sound of Music.” We didn’t have a VCR at home, so watching a movie on this contraption was exciting. As far as I knew, grandma only owned one VHS tape and I didn’t mind watching it over and over and over.  At her funeral, we played The Sound of Music soundtrack and as we were huddled in the frosty rain around the lowering of her casket, one of her daughters suggests we sing. We Mlnariks, the Von Traps. How’s that one go? Where the kids line up and bid farewell at the end of a dignified dinner party? The littlest one yuans and gets carried away by her sister, Maria? Despite having watched that movie hundreds of times, we couldn’t remember the words either, but we sang it never-the-less.

Maria fascinates me. Both the eldest sister of the Von Traps and this woman who poses besides me. They’re both singers.

It’s Easter. I’ve only been on the road one week, after leaving my career, home, cats, and friends. No cop escort. No strangling. No bruises. No broken guitar. Not yet. I’m living somewhere between my previous life and what’s to come, adjusting to my new life on tour, driving from city to town to country side, talking to strangers.

Would you mind if I take your photo?

The girls pose politely and pull chairs up to my table. We’ll be best friends for an hour, or maybe two, depending on how long these drinks do their magic. I’ll look back at their photos a year from now, inhale the crisp air, and remember the sun setting behind the twitching neon of the Hotel Congress. Maria matches the landscape. Magnifies the landscape.

In two days I’ll discover the saguaro, with its flowers that only bloom once. Maria blooms tonight. Her sillohette a promise that beauty transcends fashion. She doesn’t sing for us, though her soul’s song is a sweet one, embracing me, a stranger, comforting me in my dying. Her song is one of the country, one of the desert.

Woman feels safe alone with nature, for nature hasn’t harmed woman, hasn’t shamed woman, hasn’t forced itself on woman… In the desert, it’s easy to feel alone, see for vast miles, and know she is alone.

Maria’s soul’s song evoking the desert brings me back to life in every timeline. 

Now, a year later and twelve years later, Maria’s story is a fabrication: a foray into the magical time suspended between moon rise and sunset; a distant fragrance that instigates memory when memory won’t come; that sensation that you’ve been here before, that this moment is not unique. But I’m jumping ahead of myself again. My thoughts are so easily scrambled these days, it’s easy to forget how timelines intertwine.

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