A Bonfire in the Desert
In this post:
Scorpions, snakes, fire, desert glory, sand, and secretive creatures. Also, I might have had MERS in 2018.
A long time ago, somebody I knew told me that she only liked to go to places where she could be comfortable. We were talking about camping on the beach, something that I had done only once in my life, but that I was hoping to do again ever since. That one time, I was many years younger and I was not bothered by spending one or two nights sleeping on the floor and listening to small critters on their mysterious nocturnal pursuits. There was music, junk food, and comradeship; it was an innocent time. Nostalgia. Winding the clock forward a couple of decades, it is now that I finally understand the meaning of comfort; now I am that person that prefers to be on comfy places…
Last week, my awesome husband and I, and a few friends went to spend the afternoon at the beach in Qatar. There was no junk food—or not a lot of it—the advantage of being with professional adults was that now we could afford good food which we cooked in an open bonfire. The temperature on the desert was perfect. There was live music, we spoke a little bit about life and a lot about space, Noble prizes, and several other things that us geeks like. It was not the same as twenty years ago, but I felt young and full of energy. I took many pictures while the evening fell down, and the shallow sea of the Persian Gulf left behind flatlands of sand colored mud with the receding tide. Our friends told us that this season is still too cold for scorpions, but that we should not move any stone or dig on the sand just in case there was one hibernating there. There were no scorpions; I just found a dead snake when I left the camp with my husband looking for an interesting angle for next picture, and a secluded place where to pee.
When night fell, the wind was blowing from the south-west bringing a smell of dry salt and fine particles of dust from Saudi Arabia. We improvised our own unplugged version of “Hotel California”. In the semi-darkness, we could see very clearly the twinkle of the first evening stars.
When we finished with all the meat and vegetable skewers and several bottles of
juice, when the guitar players couldn’t think of anything else to improviseand the bonfire had been reduced to a few orange embers, that was the time to leave. We picked up everything we had brought, including trash, and returned to the civilized world in Doha; I wouldn’t have mind to spend the night listening to whatever it was that lead a secret life on that desert beach.
When I arrived home, I noticed a mild itch to which I paid no attention; I could just think about the desert, about the happy circumstance of finally having a social group that I could call friends, of when we could do this again. The next day I woke up with breathing difficulty, and today it has been already a week that I had an epic strep throat resistant to every lozenge that I could get to suck. The temperature had started to change again this week, and the sky is no longer blue but a gradation of periwinkle, and fine yellow dust that sticks everywhere, but preferentially on my poor irritated throat.
I was sick more than a week, with a couple of days in which I had to stay in bed because all my body hurt and I had difficulty breathing. I fully recovered exactly the next day in which it occurred to me that I should probably go to the doctor, but it was not until 2019 when I was reading some news online that I suspected that I might have gotten middle eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS), and know I guess I will never know.