The rolled-up mat sat between the door and kitchen cupboard, waiting to resume its post in the ever- revolving landscapes of America. she grabbed it and slid outside into fresh air. Welcome, it said, in large black letters. Only two months old, it looked like it had seen a lifetime—a lifetime of sun and the treading of unsettled feet. Hannah placed a heavy rock on either side to keep the edges from curling.
Her mother was convinced no home was complete without that offer, even for the simplest of visitors.
Hannah stepped onto a tree-lined trail. The textbook under her arm was the last one she had left. American history. Although her dad considered it the keystone of the future, Hannah found no solutions within the pages. As the trail faded into wilderness, she found a tree scorched to death. At its blackened base, Hannah dug a hole and laid the book to rest. Damp soil invaded her nails as she scattered the last of it on top of her old college book.
The ground cradled her sorrow when she stretched out beside the new grave and searched the heavens above the arms of the forest. The ache in her chest rose to meet her tears as they slid into the earth. How do I find answers from a silent God?
A sudden whisper danced from branch to branch and flowed around her for a moment.
Perhaps the forest still remembered the earliest inhabitants that took less and lived more freely. Or maybe it was God’s voice, indecipherable, like always.
Noises of a waking camp interrupted her peace. she hungered for solitude like a woman craves chocolate. she searched the ground until she found the path that led to the shore. Hannah quickened her pace when salty air joined the trees. Starfish accented the rocks like God had decorated, but Hannah didn’t want to sketch this time—she wanted to run until her legs shook.
The wind loosened her hair, whipping it into tangles. she pumped her legs until the sand began to dissolve beneath her feet and then faced the waves, returning their roar. When she ran out of breath, she collapsed into the sand.
Hannah hugged her knees and caught sight of her hands. These aren’t nails, these are claws. The jagged edges on her fingers framed the dirt from the burial of books and dreams that had been her life over the past few months. Up until her family had lost everything, Hannah had kept her nails in perfect condition—a French manicure one month, custom airbrushing the next. If my friends could see me now, they wouldn’t recognize the hobo I’ve become.