She holds my hand all day and I feel time vanishing from around us, breaking out in great peeling strips that when they hit the ground are like they never were. We are sitting on this monumental slab of stone that looks like it is from the future. It has been here my whole life, but sometime before that she says it crushed into the dirt, flinging up saplings and stiff yellow grass in its wake. She says it lasts because it already existed later, but when the sun is setting and throwing itself wide across the lake I forget that idea for the warmth of her hand next to mine on the stone. She says that I’m a fool but I’m not sure she minds.
She built this house minute by minute. She built it for me. She told me so.
I stood on the graveled walk every morning to see how it rose up. One day my home broke through above the clouds and she came to me, smiling. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, she said, but look at it, just look at it.
Those days the dust clogged the air so bad that when I wiped my nose the side of my hand came away black. There was something awful about the house but she was so happy, that day.
My father stayed with us the week after my mother died. He said he had stayed one night in their home but couldn’t sleep. He felt her in the bed next to him, the weight of her, but every time he rolled over to curl against her she would be gone.
She brought him a mug of coffee and a plate with dry toast and pats of butter, jam, every morning. He never ate her offerings and I don’t know why. Every morning he came downstairs to complain of his hunger. After, he would always say that it was wrong his body kept going the way it did, when hers had stopped.
She came out of a storm so thick with dust the sky had turned past brown. Her hair hung caked and stiff around her face and black hole eyes. I tried not to look at the dirt she left on the sofa, I took her shoes outside to clean.
I told her to shower. I gave her a towel. I told her to stay as long as she wanted.
We say a lot of things without knowing what we mean by them.
Ellen Rhudy is a Peace Corps Volunteer serving as an English teacher in the Republic of Macedonia. In October 2011 she will begin researching Albanian culture as a Fulbright student in Tirana. Her fiction has appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hanging Loose and Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure. She writes about books at her blog, Fat Books & Thin Women.