She bears us no ill will. She has ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends like you and me: the jagged pillar that split into a stalactite and a stalagmite when she told him she couldn’t do long-distance anymore, the cloud that clenched into a gray fist when she kicked her out. She’s spent time imagining what it’s like to be petrified, or swept up in winds from faraway places and thundered across a field. Her first lingering love was a block of ice from the Arctic, spun with blue fractals. Beautiful. No one—especially not a pillar of dust, dry and sun-scorched—could look at those mazes of cool frost and not be enraptured. They had understood things about each other no one else did: the assembled, granular work that it took to feel composed, the extremity of a stripped wind. The last time she’d seen that floe, they’d been floating away from her, chilling the water around them, saying, I’m finding our children. I’m taking them to my mother’s house.
She loves all her exes. She’s dust, already old the day she was born, but they made her feel new, each in their own ways. They all had good forms, lived in a way she found beautiful. Each time they split, it was natural.
A column of dust has room for power but not for hate. She would better exhaust herself with the wind on rainy days, feeling herself soften, darken, and then flicker back up, alight, when the sun settles into her as far as it can. Exhaustion can become a kind of transformation, and few know this feeling as closely as her. Maybe she’s not the best heroine, except that on some days it feels like the world has changed without telling her and is conspiring against her, also without telling her. This can be a good enough reason to root for dust.
She fell in love with a root once. It was hard for them to speak to each other because the root was underground. To speak with her love and see their face, she lay herself along the grassy dirt and waited for it to rain. The elements guided her down over a hundred years, deeper and closer, working with her. Her arrivals always take this soft kind of time and heart, more magic than the world can immediately recognize. But she does this kind of thing for her loves. Like all of us, she wants to find a natural fit.
When she finally found the root, she rested there for a night, neither of them saying anything. When the two of them could feel the morning seeping down through the soil, the root whispered, as kindly as they could, I don’t think this is working. Knowing they’d have to wait for their beloved all over again, if it took a hundred years or more. Our heroine whispered back, I know. It was painful—how many times can one do this? All for one night. Maybe it was like people said—more about the journey. She gathered herself up and kissed the root once in the way that dust kisses, which carries all her tenderness and hidden powers, all her personal history and her care. She went out the same way she came in, a fierce down and a nameless, excruciating up.
But she’s still out there now: brush in her wake. Sun glinting in each of her particles.
You could’ve driven past her. She’s bending through tree limbs; she’s paying attention. All the love that is her is still out there. She still remembers on some molecular level what it was like to be a star. She’s here with us, moving, pausing often. There goes one of the things she loves now.