C. and I left the desert sooner than expected because an ideal apartment opened up down the hall from her parents. At first, I did not want to leave Vegas. Not so soon. Then I thought about how I would move heaven and earth to live down the hall from my parents if they were still here. A different timeline, perhaps. I like my in-laws. They taught me to play mahjong. And it's a rare gift to live down the hall from them. When I lived with my father while we waited for a lung, I quickly discovered it wasn't the weekend dinners or games of chess that mattered—it was the day-to-day business of schlepping groceries and being nearby when he tipped over.

Truth be told, I like our spot in Ohio, even though this fact gnaws at my soul in the hour of the wolf. It's more diverse and strange than I expected, the food is fantastic, we live by a river, and there's a magnificent new library eight minutes away. We only lived in Vegas for a year, but by then, I knew my fantasy of the desert did not square with my reality. I imagined spending my days roaming the white spaces on the map, perhaps growing a long beard and summoning visions like the ancients. Instead, I spent a lot of time at Target. Despite hanging maps of the Mojave on the wall, I could not capture the hungry eye that comes with road-tripping, and there's an interesting phenomenon at work here: the psychology of the resident versus the interloper. 

Living in Ohio reminds me of Tarkovsky's Stalker, which I haven't seen in years, but I remember it as a fable about the need for a mythic place. Three men search for a room that can fulfill your deepest desire. When they reach it, they are too frightened to enter. Because what meaning would life hold if you were utterly satisfied? They fear terrible men might abuse the room, yet they cannot bring themselves to destroy it. The promise of fulfillment it offers is necessary in the world. The room's presence is enough.

Maybe I need the desert to remain a fantasy. Perhaps an annual pilgrimage will do.