The Rest of It
by Abigail McFee
She found stones the size and shape of black beads each place she went. They lay
like gems on the ground near her blue house and formed trails next to her feet as she
walked through town. At night, when she drew a bath, a few small stones would clang from
the spout. When she spread her palms wide to tend to her plants, stones clung to her hands
like slight roots, bare bulbs, in the soil. When she hugged, for the last time, the man she
loved who could not love her, a lone stone fell to land with a meek tap on the path next to
her feet as he turned to leave. She bent to pick it up.
She did not know when she had seen the first stone; it would not have seemed
strange. It was just that soon she had to see them. Her eyes searched them out, with no
thought. And now all of the nooks, each space in the vast world that seemed to shrink half
an inch each day in a long march to one day close on her, held a stone.
No one lived near her, but one day she felt brave and told a friend on the phone that
her house was filled with stones, that they showed up on their own, at all hours of the day.
Her friend did not make a sound for a long time. “They might not be real,” she said at last.
“They might just feel real.” But she could hold them in her hands, could toss them in the air,
could step on them when she walked. She did not give this as proof. She just said thank you
and hung up the phone.
The house grew cold at night, and in the shell of her sheets, the chill would hold her
in the grip of a dream. It was the same dream each night: she drowned. They say you don’t
die in dreams, so drown is the wrong word: she felt what it was like to lose her breath, to
go still from fear in a sealed blue world, void of waves, with no north or south or east or
west. She would feel her lost limbs start to sink, and then she would wake up.
She thought the dreams had to do with him. There were times when she saw his
face: once, on a beach that did not seem real, she stood in the surf and saw him kick a ball
through the waves. He looked her way but did not seem to know her. It was true she had
not known him. You do not know the one you love, by which I mean, they are not whole for
you. So she had seen parts, and she had filled in the holes.
With time, the stones grew in size, so that soon they would fill the whole house. She
tried to scoop them up, to clear off at least the bed and the chairs, to make piles. Her hands
shook. The stones still came. Like dust, they would not stay gone for long.
With no room left in the house, she spent most of her time in the yard. The stones
piled there, too, but the height of the pine trees calmed her, and at night, the bright glow of
the moon. She thought through it all: the way lips move, how it feels when a tooth is loose,
his touch, that dark joy, how leaves fall, the things she did wrong, the things she did not say,
how her knees ached as a girl when she ran, the strange shape of some shirts, the path that
led to the road, how you hear a song once and then lose it. She held these things in front of
her, looked at each of them with care, the way she had looked at the stones at first. She saw
a life she could have had, one in which the earth did not break each time it brushed her.