But without him her hard edged hurt wasn’t mollified, but rather laid out clean like bleached bones on caked red clay. The ground was different where she came from; there were no berries miraculously growing in it. If an animal fell over and died in the woods where she came from it would stand out bare for a while before sinking deep, and the red wolves and turkey vultures would pick them clean before they were swallowed up by the earth.
Up there, so high that the latitude was double that of Tennessee, if you didn’t freeze in the snow you sank into the muskeg. The last thing you saw was thick sedge, waxy green bear berry bushes, violent-light fireweed blooming down onto your skin. Without him to lift her up from the melting permafrost she was a storm cloud. A fire allowed to burn all the birch trees down. He was the soaking rain that was predicted but never fell. He was a warm front from the south that lay stagnant on the other side of a mountain. Without him she smoldered, became too much herself and no one else. Her laugh, when it came, wasn’t easy. It was hard like the veins of quartz that he pulled from the earth like a rotten tooth.