You took my hand as we traversed black lava, a path of shards. We stood within the volcanic cave and I kept a wary eye for mountain lions that spring and attack. You took me to red hoodoos, the ones in Utah, capped with snow. We slid past, silently, on skis. You laughed when I fell. You caught it on camera.
I asked a question once (are you going to take a shower before the race?) and you raged against my impertinence. Your anger lasted the entire day – long after the race was over – and I found myself at the edge of the south forty, hemmed in by forest service boundary signs and barbed wire. A remote corner of the southwest where snow and desert were equally accessible, where pine and sand and cinder met as one.
One morning, thin white paper floated from the sky, drifted down and landed gently, peacefully, on my lap. The antithesis of what was to come. You loomed over like a storm cloud, bearer of that tiny scroll.
“These things must be done,” you said.
I, on a Saturday, read a novel.
These. Things. These things which must be done when, and how, and—
“Why?” I asked. “Why now?”
The book in my lap held more importance than things to be done that day.
You hated my questions of why.
At a cheap motel in Tucson, walls stained yellow with the smoke of cigarettes, burns pockmarked into the bedcovers and the curtains, you wrapped your hand around my forearm. In your search for whatever it was that you could not find, you pushed me aside. A shove into the space between vanity and sink. Your grip, that time, left bruises.
Sheila Lamb is an MFA candidate in Fiction at Queens University of Charlotte. Her stories have appeared in Soundzine, Referential Magazine, Santa Fe Writers Project, and elsewhere. Visit her website at: http://sheilarlamb.com.