She awoke to find pieces of her mind scattered around her. She had fallen asleep in the middle of the floor in the middle of the afternoon. It was dark now and she was cold. The wooden planks of the floor and the walls creaked in response to the wind outside.
She lifted herself up on her elbows slowly and looked around. At first glance it looked like all the pieces were there, but she’d have to count them one by one to be sure. In any case, it was good that they all seemed to be there. Too often these days she would wake up on the floor to find too few pieces remaining around her. Those days were not good days.
She dragged herself on her elbows to the small table close to the edge of the room. She reached up to turn on the lamp and picked up her notebook and a pen. Then she dragged herself back to the place in the middle of the room where she had been sleeping. Keeping her head as straight as possible, she sat up and crossed her legs. She reached out her hands flat against the floor and slid them forward until she came across the first piece. She examined it carefully, taking in the varying shades of purple and looking for any scratches or dents. She turned the piece in her hand several times checking for any roughness or chipped edges. It seemed to be intact. She smiled and bent down to jot in her notebook:
There was nothing else she could do, here among the ashes. The fire had come suddenly, out of nowhere in the middle of a quiet night, and now everything had been charred through, disintegrated down into gray dust.
The gray dust lay everywhere, in heaps here and there among the property, in a thick layer over the car parked on the street, blanketing her skin as though it were makeup powder she had applied carefully in the morning to cover her blemishes.
She sat on the curb, her back facing the remains of what had been her home for almost all her life. She had come to this house as a young child — before she could even remember — and had grown and stayed in it throughout the years, even when the rest of her family had chosen to go elsewhere, to more comfortable and modern places.
But she had always stayed. This was where she had come to know herself as herself. This was where she had lived her happiest memories and had mourned her greatest sorrows. This was where she had met her God, and had left him, and had found him again. Now with the fire, it seemed he had been the one to leave.
I met you and fell into a hurricane. Wind and rain and gray swirled around me as I tumbled and spun and was thrust from one storm edge to the other. I reached out my hands to hold steady and found nothing but churning movement slipping through my fingers.
The sound was ringing in my ears – your name, your name, your name, shouted over and over through the pouring of rain and the whistling of wind. You said your name and it was a thunderclap in my ears. To this day it’s all I can hear.
My ears were ringing and my arms flailed. You came near and touched my skin – my skin pelted by water, scratched by debris, fully awake in the cold so cold it felt like fire. It was your hands on me that brought the storm’s embrace.
She sat alone in her cave, her back against the curved wall.
She had been living out among the surrounding woods for years and years, playing amongst the trees, being friends with the small animals that shared her space, drinking from the clean rain that fell. She had been at peace in the woods that towered protection over her and gave her what she needed to live. She had never feared its shadows or howling animal calls. She knew these woods loved her and kept her safe.
But now she sat in the damp cave, away from the woods, her dress in tatters and her provisions in a dwindling pile besides her. Hard rain fell outside. She watched the water stream down the stone walls to form muddy puddles on the ground at the cave’s entrance. This was her home now.
She sat silent and unmoving, thinking back to the day she had been drawn out from the woods.
She went to the bottom because she thought that was the only place to go.
She had climbed to the top and had found sky and wind and light. She had enjoyed it there, with the freshness and expanse and things laid bare. She had lived that top fully and for years had been happy in it.
Then something had changed. The wind had stopped blowing. The clouds had come in low to crowd her space. The air blurred and cast everything in shadows. The top had thrilled and filled her until it didn’t. So now she needed something more. Now she’d look for earth and stillness. Now she’d look for unobscured clarity.
“I like the sun,” she said, “but sometimes it hurts my eyes.” She put a hand up to shield the top of her face as she kept looking at the sky.
I looked over at her small form. Her long, black hair spread out around her head forming a dark halo that contrasted with the grass. She was wearing a neon-green top with large, hot pink stars on it that matched the hot pink of her shorts. Her fingers and toes glittered with sparkly nail polish that mirrored the sparkly studs in her ears. I smiled. At this age, she still liked everything bright.
I followed her example and put my hand up to my face and looked up. Around the sun, the clouds were wispy streaks of white against a deep-blue sky.
She walked slowly, carelessly. There was no need to hurry. She had walked down this street endless times, in her childhood, in her youth, and now as an adult. Signs on the buildings had changed. What had once been a Thai restaurant was now a clinic. What had once been the “ghetto” McDonald’s was now a gas station. Some buildings had been torn down; others had been built up. But the street kept its same general face, its same general attitude. She knew that beneath her feet, the ground still knew it was her walking on it, like she had for years and years before.
She came to the corner of her most familiar street the second the lights changed. Stop. Go. A red palm held up and a white figure with legs extended. She stood at the corner where she had stood a thousand times and looked out at her choices.