I expect the countless eyes and cameras that have adored this place to have dulled it. But I see all colors in the desert; and they’re not tainted, as far as I can tell. I try to learn the terms and reasons for why it became the way it is. I don’t forget one name—desert varnish: the volcanic gleam over rusty red cliffs, as if spread by palette knife—and I repeat it in my head every time I pass it.
One February morning, in between blizzards, I was leaning against a pillar on a subway platform, off the express train and waiting for the local, reading as usual, when a large drop of water landed on the book in my hands. The dirty bubble-swell of water—probably melted snow that had seeped from the pavement above into the underground in-between space where I stood—lingered in place yellowly for a moment before blooming into the bottom of page 88. If I let it keep seeping into the book, the paper would dry all wrinkly. If I wiped it off—with my hand? my jacket?—I’d only be spreading the wetness around. Irritation, the kind particular to very minor subway commute dramas, spread through me. The train arrived.
A Sip of Elsewhere: On Reading Into and Out of Place