Breaking Up In Joshua Tree Helped Me Understand My Own Twisted Heart

“Desert is simply that: An ecstatic critique of culture, an ecstatic form of disappearance. — Jean Baudrillard, America

The desert will show you your true self. That’s why people go there, I think, to slough off dead skin — literally and metaphorically. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he had become my dead skin, and I couldn’t peel it back without some searing heat and bitter truth. So I took him to the desert.

“Forcing it” is my specialty, I can make a key meant for nothing jam a lock shut, I can pretend my way in and out of the most hellish situations, and I can certainly convince my heart that scraps are enough to get by on, and more importantly, the best I deserve. But this is about the desert.

One of the best parts of the desert is going to the desert. I imagine it’s not quite the same if you live there; there’s the journey, away from ample water and civilization, into the long, lazy stretches of nothingness — that’s half the experience.

For the trip, I’d acquired the use of a gorgeous little convertible, a bright cherry red convertible. It felt so good to hide inside the luxury of this speedy, flashy car. I could’ve happily driven it for the rest of my life, I think. Heading out into the middle of nowhere felt safer with Wi-Fi inside the car, and, maybe I thought the car would cover up whatever insecurities I felt in myself. On the way there, it almost felt like it did. On the way back, I was happy to have a car that felt foreign and small, to speed away in.

All the accessories, and driving with the top down made me feel special — which is exactly what a convertible is supposed to do. But we fought about whether to have the top up or down, what music to listen to, what lane to be in, how fast I should drive; the car was another reminder of how often we disagreed about how the basics of how life should come together, and how often I chose to put aside my own feelings to elevate his.

At one point, I realized I liked having the car on the trip more than having him. That was a warning sign.

If the desert won’t bleed it out, nothing will. For me, the desert obliged, easily sweating out my five-month obsession over him, with a couple of tequilas and his careless tongue. Commitment is something that most people falling in and out of hookups fight over, but no one made my hopes for it feels as cheap as he did. Sex is not love; loving gestures are not love; pretending like they are because you’re lonely is not love.