How Your Hearts Ache
It must have been a dream. I was in a very dry, very quiet place. Is this the Atacama Desert in Chile? I am not sure. The days are broiling and the sun is blinding. During the day the sky is perfectly blue and cloudless. The nights are freezing and there are millions of stars. As soon as the sun sets, the temperature plummets. There is little vegetation. None of it is green. There are many snakes and scorpions. I am sunburned on the top of my head, and my body is freezing despite the fire. Despite a blanket. I do not understand how we have fuel for a fire. Is it wood? Is it dung? I don’t know. My companions, who appear to be Aymara people, joke about how ill suited I am for this place, their home. Wrong color. Wrong shape. Wrong age. Hands too soft. Feet not hard enough. Very unusual person for here. They are sympathetic to my discomfort. Their kidding is all good natured, a sign of their affection, a part of our being here together. As we sit, they sing songs. The songs are all about rain, even though it has probably never rained in this spot. Ever. Why, I ask them, are all their songs about rain? An old man sitting next to me smiles at the question. “We sing about what we don’t have.” Why, I wonder, are almost all of the songs in the place of my birth about love? The old man sees the sadness appear on my face. “You don’t sing about rain where you come from,” he says. “You must have rain.” He looks up at the stars. “No. Do you sing instead about how your hearts ache?” I nod. He touches me on the shoulder.