Towns Like White Teeth

April 22

The hills of Andalucía are scattered with towns like white teeth. From a distance, the towns could be the Toothfairy’s treasure mounds. For every child, a town of teeth heaps up, growing tooth by tooth, year by year.

Red poppies blaze in the dry grass. In Rome and Giverny, I have seen fields all akindle with Morpheus’s fire, but these meadows have just begun to catch. My parents wait for me while I pick poppies, and as we drive past igniting fields, I weave them into a crown. I wish I could wear fire in my hair every day.

A few poppies have already kindled the slopes of Zahara. The town smells like early summer barbeque and fireworks. The eastern windows frame views of a lake as blue and opaque as raw turquoise. Above the town, the Moorish fortress is a clenched fist. A lone hawk chases thermals above the tower, gliding up the coils of hot air, rising like a flake of ash.

We climb a contorted trail to the fortress. Along the path, lovers have carved their names into the fins of cactus plants, preserving romance in something green and immortal. White butterflies tumble through the air like wind-blown blossoms.

The fortress is a thicket of brick walls and spiraling staircases. Low arches meet at right angles, framing an abbot’s miter in negative space. From the watchman’s tower, I look down at the gateway to Granada, the buckling of the land that invading armies must cross to capture Andalucía’s topaz treasure. In this strategic crow’s nest, I feel like a pirate sailing the turquoise lake. Where clouds smother the sun, the lake is tarnished, its brilliance smudged out.

Up here, the air smells like summer camp at the horse ranch. Cloud shadows stain the mountains, seeping into seams black with olive trees. Roosters and dogs chant taunts back and forth across the valley, too hot and tired to sleep. I would pirate away up here a while longer, but the wind is so savage that my mother is afraid I will be blown away.

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