The Girl in the Desert
By April Monteith
Burning Man, 2010. Dust and domes and fire and LEDs, drugs and drink, food and art, not very much sleep. Beautiful girls running around in practically nothing, inciting a kind of scarred-over lustless jealousy. Fifty thousand people all dressed to kill, every outfit as ridiculous as any other, milling around a giant nonsense city where everything concrete turns into metaphor.
Here we are in the middle of a literal desert, and in the middle of our emotional desert. Here was God, the הוהי of
Exodus 3:14, revealed to me in his burning splendor, a sacred word of terrible obscenity, the holiest of holies, the trendiest of trendies, a word whispered in the ear from one high priest to another for millennia, divorced of all social construction of meaning other than one enigmatic passageAyah Asher Ayah. I will be what I will be. What will be, will be. I am what I am. Being what being. “What’s happenin?” Moses wondered, who will I say sent me? How will I justify myself? And God told him, whatever, man. It’s time to happen.
And there she was, right when I needed her, standing apart from her friends in the middle of the desert, crouched fiddling with a propane valve buried in the playa. Wearing pants and a work jacket. Tall, curveless, with a boy’s face, a glorious halo of bright pink hair, and oozing more femininity than I knew could come out of a person with every step and posture.
Why did I need her? Did she have her own burning bush, or did she just know exactly what she was her whole life? Did she find her destiny and wrestle with it until it submitted and gave her its blessing? I can’t help but rue it, and wonder if the person I was- the brash, intellectually belligerent genderqueer boy in daisy dukes and babydolls the summer I was sixteen –could have seized their own destiny too, instead of waiting for a revelation and a mission.
Well, I am what I am.
Thirty seconds. Enough time to catch a name, to drink in her presence, and realize that’s what I’m supposed to be. Enough to realize, I’ve spent my whole life trying not to be me. Enough to know, it’s time to happen.
I started hormones last Thursday.
Published on page 40 of the Winter 2012 issue of Leviathan.