The day was baking hot and we were somewhere we’d never been before: Parbold. Our parents were slow, admiring the view, and allowed us to scramble out of the car. Directly in front of us was a small mountain waiting to be climbed. At the top we stopped, confused in magic. We stood on the rim of a flooded quarry.
Tony was stripped to his loin cloth within seconds, a moment later lost in the water, kicking, writhing and splashing along with everyone else there. I hesitated. Rocks, a deep Utah red, towered over us; the lake shimmered turquoise, a Mexican blue. Across the water, on a ledge facing me and half lost in shadow a Navaho Chieftain stared sombrely at the sacred lake, now defiled. The sky, a jagged blue circle was empty except for a condor, slowly wheeling. Somewhere, amidst the rocks, a mountain lion coughed.
I tore off my clothes, was down to my last sock, eager to dive into the magic. “Michael!” It was my mother, her voice sharp in worry. “Come here, son.” My father. I stared at nothing, transformed in that moment to a boy in underpants holding a sock. The quarry was dangerous. I wasn’t to go in. What about Tony? My father scanned the cold blue water full of shrieking children. “He’s in there somewhere,” he said quite reasonably. “We’ll give him a moment or two.”
Years afterwards I scoured Parbold. We cycled there, exploring lanes that looked familiar but led to nowhere. Later still I explored maps in search of the sacred lake, a moment lost in hesitation. It’s there somewhere, and so is the magic.