(photo taken by me, 2014, Valentine, NE)
The clock ticked inexorably. Even in her dreams Claire felt the passage of time. In her dreams she was always searching in the dark for something that was just beyond her reach; in others people long dead came to visit her. She welcomed their company; her house was empty, and the long nights sleep, when it came with its shadowy visitors, was a comfort. She had spent much of her life in a restless sort of fashion, moving from place to place searching for that indescribable something—perhaps a sense of home—that was always beyond her reach. For twenty years her entire life had pivoted around one fateful decision—moving away. Going home, perhaps, was an attempt to rectify the past, even though the present had changed forever. And anyway, she mused, one place was much like another these days. Being alone had become such a way of life that she had long ago stopped trying to change it; a string of failed relationships haunted her; or perhaps more to the point, her failure at love haunted her–and the years spun themselves out behind her effortlessly, it seemed while she watched all the people she knew marry, she felt she was a bystander while the carousel of life spun around her.
At last she saw the lights of the Duluth hill draw towards her. What she would do once she got home she had no idea. She only knew that home was what she wanted; her heart ached for it, and she could not imagine what it had been in her youth that had called her away for so long.
She could no longer outrun the grief as she could no longer outrun the love that had followed her around the world for the last twenty years, outlasted a marriage, and went on still.
Claire pulled into town, and turned slowly into the parking lot of a motel. Wearily, she got out of the truck, grabbed her bag, checked in, and fell into a dreamless sleep. She did not feel the weight on the bed beside her, nor the hand that softly stroked her hair. Even if she had, she would not have seen her gentle visitor. Because everyone knows when you die, you disappear.