Outside Mojave, the sky suddenly clouded, as if someone had shut off an immense blue valve, and the ferocious clouds scraped in, low and gray, toward us. The scent of creosote and mesquite syruped the air, but the rain refused to find a place to fall.
The two of us, tighter than a tourniquet, sat in the car and traded serried accusations, back and forth, like switchbacks plummeting into a deep ravine. Who had cheated on who, first?
Then, as we got out of the car and made our way toward the trailhead, you barked, "Watch your step, there might be rattlers," but you caught yourself and began to sing, "California, Here I Come," in a kind of snide shivaree, embarrassed that you had let your guard down, even for a moment, and shown any care for me at all.
Peering down at the seemingly vacant sand, I began to quietly count—off my footsteps, in a self—soothing mantra, just in case it turned out you were right.