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Jarid Manos Headshot

I Could Be a Desert

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I haven't had sex in over 2 years. By choice.

And before this past January, I hadn't cried since 1999 and the Denzel movie The Hurricane.

Even if I get smashed by a pickup truck, my torn flesh may cry that clear liquid before red blood pours, but my eyes will stay dry.

It's not like I don't feel. Being an activist for so long under constant siege from problems, suffering and loss all over the world, you have to be passionate.

Before I came to Miami, I had a stone-cold moment: "You have to change everything."

I realize I've always been drawn to unavailable men, and allow myself into situations that aren't good.

This past 106-degree summer in Dallas, though it's hard to admit, I fell for somebody I shouldn't have, who gave huge mixed signals. Even though I knew we weren't compatible, I got caught up. (Also he didn't tell me he was seeing the dude of an old friend at the same time.) Def thankful we never slept together. It's very embarrassing to like somebody so much you actually have to ask God to be freed of it, like it's a flu. I never like anybody. I'm used to everybody liking me. Now I look back and think "what the hell?"

In January, a couple weeks before I left Dallas, a few months after getting over that "flu," I rode my bike to the largely ignored Freedmen's Cemetery Memorial, a little park honoring freed slaves who'd built a community and were buried there. Years ago, nearby Highway 75 had obliterated many of the graves.

In the center a bronze statue rises of a barefoot, full-hipped woman kneeling next to a barefoot man sitting on a tree stump. Their heads are down, as if crushed by monumental grief. One of her arms is around his waist. He is holding her. His bare back is keloided in massive whipping scars.

In the cold North Texas afternoon, with a recent winter rain passed and mist dissipating over grassy areas, I sat on the granite bench encircling them and it was like they were a bronze upwelling from the Earth.


Something happened to me. My throat began to grip and shake. I pulled my hood over my head. My face opened up like rain in the Sahara. But this was not just about the bottomless pain writhing over human beauty in front of me. I felt the world in that upwelling of perfect, transformational art.

Soon I was helplessly crying so hard I couldn't sit up. I actually fell sideways onto the red granite bench. It came in ragged waves, a storm. Took over an hour to pass. For several hours later I felt very weird -- sinus passages, eyes, head. And dizzy. Drizzles came on and off into the night.

A few weeks ago I rode ten miles up to a Florida park beach to be alone and think. The broad sand was like a desert; at ground level you'd never know just over the ridge was a light blue ocean.

I swam about a hundred yards out. A similar but different situation like last summer was brewing. People hide sh*t, but damn. The aqua-clear waters were largely flattened by cold-front winds pushing out from shore.

I came upon a honeybee floating. Bright sunlight dazzling. Something made me touch her. Her legs moved. She continued drifting.

Bee colonies are dying worldwide. She could've been a hundred miles out. She could float to the Sahara, where my own blackness is from. She was just a bee. I'm sure I stomped my share of them as a kid with no proper influences.

I swam over and got her. She was very waterlogged, but once on my hand she showed life.

I put her on my thumbnail in case she got too feisty. Like a cat cleaning her ears she pawed at her black antennae that looked like the few curls of hair on my chest.

Holding her above the water, I side-kicked in. Dripping on dry land, I grabbed my shirt and placed her onto it, held her close to my chest.

As I carried her to the dunes she collapsed face down, arms spread out onto my shirt. With my hand I tried to cup her into the face of a yellow dune sunflower but she couldn't hang on and fell between the sea oats.

I could never find her again. I parted as much of the long raspy grasses as I could to allow the Sun to reach her. She probably didn't make it. No secret that most who are lost to sea, or at sea, never do.