A Parting Digression

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Dust

Dust in the air.

Hanging in ragged streaks as the hamsin wind screams high above. Thin clouds racing, leaving grey shades behind them in the sun bleached sky.

We creep in small groups like penitents. Trailing in clots along the gravel path as if walking alone would be somehow wrong. Cedar and olive line our descent, down amongst the low stone temples. Marble and limestone gleams in the erratic sun, columns and slabs infused with the memories of strangers. How can a thing mean so much to one, but to another simply be rock? The marble whispers to me as we walk, groups breaking and reforming, holding hands, embracing, whispering greetings as we follow those who walked this road before us.

“As you are, so once were we.”

Dust in my throat.

We stand, her burden set down, my tongue uncertain as I simply let my thoughts become noise. No beginning, no ending…like a song found by chance through static. How can I find a voice for her life? How can I forge a fortress with two decades of words?

I speak of the time she played piano in that bare, tense rehearsal room. I speak of the sprite’s gleam as she played out her first sly prank. I speak of plotting around a stained Judean table. I speak of roaming green hills frightening sheep. I speak of her polishing her son’s French Horn while we wait for the call. I speak of a train hurtling through a fragrant European night. I speak of a sea of bright, confused Italian faces. I speak of cups of bad coffee and pieces of toast and cat fur in the butter. I speak until I stop and others speak.

“As we are, so shall you be.”

Dust in my hands.

The shovel is gripped too tightly, my knuckles lifelessly white. Brown dirt covers pale cloth in bloody splotches. The sound is faint but echoes as if being answered by many voices, I am surrounded by silent figures.

When did she become so small? When did she become so fragile? I move with careful intent, pausing as I fuse this moment into my soul, the last favor we shall ever exchange, she and I, the last farewell. I pass the shovel to another and step back into many arms as I turn away from the pit….filled with dust.

Nothing but dust.

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