Lisa swept the floor of the empty bedroom one more time. Without furniture, dust accumulated, particles of the city settling out onto the dark stained hardwood. Or it had been there all along and she hadn't noticed. Certainly there had been balls of dust under the bed and behind the shoes on the floor of the closet that were unseen until she looked. Had Sam minded the mess? He minded the chaos even while he was creating his own but he never seemed to mind dirt.
He had grown up in other people's houses. She'd known that but when they lived together she understood it in a different way. He never owned the space, took no final responsibility for it. Someone else, and in his case someone else's mother or the mother's once a week housekeeper, was responsible, kept things clean. He claimed not to remember the places he had lived with his own mother when he was small.
Lisa asked him when they were in bed, in the dark, still naked, damp, cooling, touching hands or feet or her head on his chest. What was it like?
He had a hundred stories, all of them good, none of them about home. When he was seven, he lived in New Mexico on a commune and his job was to take a small herd of goats up into the foothills just below the snow. He read books he stole from the grown ups while the goats wandered away. When he was four, his mother told fortunes in some kind of carnival and he hid under her table, watching the feet of customers come and go and listening, dreamily to her voice describe futures full of love and good luck.
Everywhere he and his mother lived in those days, she burned incense, sandalwood or pine, sweet but also astringent. When they moved, in or out, apartment, house or tent, she smudged -- sage in a tight green bundle, set alight and waved in all the corners of the place, where ever spirits might hide. He remembered that.
He did it while Lisa was at work. Not the whole apartment but the bedroom, the day he came to take the last of his things. She'd smelled it right away, before she knew what it was or where, and then there was the half burned bundle, in the trash under the kitchen sink which she rescued and put in her desk drawer, for later.