we're driving below the speed limit, vaguely aware of where we are and where we're headed. outside of the city limits, streetlights vanish: our headlights and the unreliable stars beat back night's drenching blackness. we watch what emerges from the darkness: tract houses; untouched land; wooden fences; the hallmark high adobe walls stand sentry, hinting at private oases, verdant, cool, and heavy with the scent of water-loving flowers.

we wind slowly, haphazardly along the encircled roads, dirt, gravel, or paved. the name of our destination eludes us, neither marked at place nor mapped. it doesn't matter: we find it, inevitably.

we park, turn off the car and headlights, step out to gingerly join the night. the giant trees lining the street cast patterns of darkness, some solid and unconquerable. beyond, the cemetery opens up. our eyes, aided by the rising moon, adjust enough to make out the jumble of tombstones: some are glorious, ornate, foreboding; others are quaint, simple, utilitarian. we walk among the tombstones, lightly brushing their cold stone with our fingertips, leaning forward to receive their patient testimony.