The last time Carol saw him, Steven Ennex was waiting for his lover to die. Carol and Steven were standing at the pig sculpture in the Pike Place Market and Steven said when Chess went he was going to start drinking again. Tourists flooded past them with their silly grins, which made Steven's pledge worse.
"You won't do that," Carol snapped. "You're just looking for sympathy."
It had stopped raining -- a temporary condition at best -- and she had pulled the hood down from her green slicker and shook out her hair. "You know I love you. There's no need to beg or threaten me for it."
"You're sweet," Steven said. "But I am. I am going to do it. I want to get obliterated. I'd drink now, it's just that Chess ..."
Shoppers swarmed out into the wet avenues, their paper sacks gorged with produce. A Chinese fish monger tossed a silver salmon into the air, mugging for the tourists with their minicams. It was difficult for Carol -- among the sprawling rows of cashews and pineapples, among chanterelles and persimmons -- to imagine Chess, ashen in his bed at the hospice, his arms worming with tubes. Just as tough too to think of Steven before his swaggering, sober cynicism back when he was silent, morose, diminished by Valium and gin fizzes. At least his current acidity gave him sparkle. It was heartening in a perverse way.
"Of course, I promised Chess I'd stay sober," Steven said, steering her along the racks of international magazines and out onto First Avenue.
"Some bargain," she said. "A short-term character farce before you drink again and cash in your life."
They ran out of words, waiting for their bus, pressed together by circumstance under the transit shelter. Once she would have taken his hand. Now she looked off into the steaming distance of Pike Street. "Stinking buses."
"What's to live for?" he whined.
"Not much, I suppose, by your thinking," Carol said. "Maybe the opportunity to someday drop the melodrama."
He looked at balled up newspaper in the street. "Poor old Chess."
"OK, you might as well start drinking now," she said, lowering her voice among the crowd of gray and yellow slickers.
"What do you know about love?" Steven said.
Not much, Carol thought. Certainly not by evidence.
"Enough to stand by you in the face of the most pathetic, moronic behavior," she said.
"Every faggot needs a lady pal," Steven said. "It's like having a safety on the trigger."
The bus came and they squushed up the steps and found seats beyond the exit door. Seattle was a tolerant little city where everyone walked the rainy streets, shoulder to shoulder, safe in hermetic bubbles of caffeinated stupefaction; then the bus threw you together like a family of foul souls.
Carol sighed, put her head against Steven's shoulder and closed her eyes. In 1988, he had gone through rehab just to make Chess happy. Carol could see his relapse coming in stages. She had intuitively known the moment Chess' AIDS had gone active on that July evening at Steven's mother's apartment in Magnolia, all of them happily arranged around the living room piano.
Carol, Steven, and Chess had wandered there in the euphoric opera house afterglow of "Die Meistersinger" (or as Chess said, Der Singer Meister) and were sipping Chablis -- Steven nursing dourly on his Cascade water. On the mantle, there was a black and white photograph of teenaged Steven blowing bubbles though a wand. Mrs. Ennex raced around the room, targeting lamps on the artwork and turning the books in the shelves so that all the titles read straight up.
Her husband, Steven's father, had been a stress engineer for Boeing. He'd died running on a treadmill in the gym. After, Sandra Ennex had moved from Puyallup to fashionable Magnolia. Carol loved Mrs. Ennex cautiously. She was honest and direct, yet you had to approach her. She had silver hair that began in dark roots and culminated with flaring violet tips. The corners of her eyes were fretted, and her smile ended not in an upraised apogee, but curved down as if by consequence.
That June night after the opera, the lovers were seated at Mrs. Ennex' aquamarine piano -- the oddest thing you'd ever see -- trying to echo Wagner. Steven played the upper register while Chess bent into the bass lines and tapped the pedals. Mrs. Ennex was aiming one of the lights and the beam struck against Chess' right cheek. Carol saw the beginning spackle of the unaccountable, runaway rash, and she knew he was going to die. Watching him go, the way a hot day loses its lustre to the dark line of evening, was hard enough. And now, Steven had begun to issue up his bizarre caveats.
The bus groaned up toward Capital Hill. Carol lifted her head from Steven's shoulder, tugged on the end of his tartan muffler.
"Seriously," she said, "you need to get active again in AA, or find yourself an HIV support group."
Steven glowered over his shoulder at the middle-aged woman behind them in the blue-stocking Seahawks cap. "Maybe we don't need to talk about it here. And maybe not anywhere else, Carol. Back off, will ya?"
So odd, this righteous tone in her. Carol hated to think of herself as the broadly promotional girl for self growth. She didn't have the drinking problem. She had the disappearing-act boyfriend, mind-killing clerical job problem.
"I don't need to back off," she said, anyway. "Don't be an asshole. One death is enough."
"Then my friend just vanished into thin air," said the lady in the stocking cap, to no one in particular. "It happens."
"Thanks," Steven said, turning around. "As the lights go out over the world, your words will bear me through."
"Steven. You could be much nicer," Carol whispered.
"So could you," he said.
They got off at the light and trudged up Broadway to the Gravity Bar for some healthy drinks: wheatgrass and carrot-juice cocktails. The waitress behind the counter wore a white cotton shirt with kiddy Band-Aids crisscrossed over her pockets. A gold ring was threaded through her left nostril, which looked infected. She was chopping cloves of garlic, took one look at Steven and said, "How about a Liver Flush?"
"Is it delivered rectally?" he asked.
The waitress shook her head, grinned feebly. "Garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice with a mineral water chaser. Revitalizes the daylights out of your immune system."
"What immune system?" Steven asked.
"Sorry for you," she said.
The waitress ignored them a good ten minutes, passing back and forth, before she came and took their orders, then went off to construct their spinach salads.
"You go drinking and pill popping after Chess dies and your love is all a lie," Carol told him, starting up again. "Don't think he won't know."
Two sorority lesbians wandered in, set their Nordstrom bags on the counter, and fell into a roller-coaster dialog punctuated with "likes" and "wows". One of them plucked chocolate chips from a huge cookie and fed them into her lover's mouth.
"Don't start your Angels-Up-on-High sonata," Steven said. "You don't go up high when it's all done, you go out sideways. A diaspora of atoms."
"It's almost too hard to deal," Carol said, "when you're as pissy as this. I can't find much to give you."
He put his hand -- cold, brittle, damp with rain -- set it on her own folded hands and looked at her. Carol felt a dim shudder move through her.
"Give me your silent regard," he said. "Maybe I won't do a thing after all, you can't tell. Maybe, afterwards, something will change." He spoke without conviction and Carol felt her back stiffen.
"Don't snow me," she said. "Just don't bother."
The waitress finally brought over their salads. She held the check in the air, looked sidelong at them, fishing around until, at last, Steven said, "Don't ruffle your tail feathers, hon. It ain't catching. It's only a criminal lifestyle."
Carol laughed. He had always startled her into laughter. Go way back to Puyallup High days, when Carol and Steven had been sweethearts. The first time they were startled, fearful, and both of them ended up crying in each other's arms. But afterwards, they laughed even as they made love, delirious with the illicit and delightful end of their virginity. He could make her laugh at the idiotic rigidity of their Catholic families. But there was no glimmer of the brittle edge to his humor then, nor a spoor of the grave bouts of drink. They'd gone steady for a year and a half until he said something was off kilter about it, and he didn't know what. She was a good kid, he said, but something was horribly off. Now, somehow after all the fractures and disappearing acts, they still were friends. He had given her something that in his retreat grew in consequence.
After inexplicable abstinence, almost ten years later, when his newfound sexuality had finally surfaced, Steven was beaming. He met Chess in the Seattle Men's Choir -- Chess the erstwhile poet, the high school band director and math teacher. To Steven, who worked the night classical music shift at KUOW and tuned pianos, Chess was simply exquisite and their match serendipitous. Most of their friends were alarmingly dead or becoming dead. One night after rehearsal, Steven and Chess went out dancing. Chess broke his big toe, and they hurried to the emergency room, then home together afterward. Chess had recited Matthew Arnold -- Ah, love, let us be true to one another. That was that, and some way Steven's sobriety was linked to fidelity.
When Carol looked at Steven now, she could only see a blank palisade behind his anger. That was the worst of it. She tried to be cheery, to mend something across her face.
The waitress had marched off to other campaigns. Steven saw Carol's look and grinned. "Come on. Every faggot needs a fuzzy friend," he said.
"I'm your hairline trigger," she said, her laugh coming out more like a hiccup. "Try and not take the afterlife so seriously. Chess wants you to live happy ever after."
"It's not the pain that I can't take," said Steven.
He rose and dropped his napkin on the counter.
"You can be one bitch of a nag," Steven said, simmering to a grand exit. His glamour was always enlarged by flight.
Carol started after him into the street, but he'd flagged a cab so deftly she felt deflated, ashamed standing there in the wind.
She went back into the cafe and paid.
"I guess I was a little stupid," the waitress said.
"Don't worry," said Carol. "With us it's hard to know the difference."
It was the last time she would ever see Steven Ennex.
ACTUALLY it was Angie Cooper, another Puyallup High survivor who now worked at Jenny Craig, that told her about Steven's overdose the day after it happened.
They rarely phoned each other anymore, so when Angie called at Klass Title, Carol hushed her voice so her cubicle-mate would know it was important. It was her fraud to get a rise out of Payton. He was already leaning across his desk pretending to look for something in all his papers, angling an ear at her. He'd treat her to lunch, or she could play it mum and reel him in all week long. Carol knew, guiltily, that she was still pissed at Bill Austry for running off without fanfare. Ten months shot to pieces. Carol knew she was working Payton like a Sousa Medley.
The receiver crackled; Angie Cooper was giddily toxic with gossip. It apparently happened following Steven's visit to Chess at the hospice. He had gone down the hall to the critical care unit and disconnected a sleeping patient's I-V drip and fed the trickle of morphine into his own arm. The first dosage, while scant, made his task easier and somehow sensible. He took down the entire assembly and climbed into the patient's commode so the full bottle, now reassembled for quicker deployment, could drain into him. Six rooms down, Chess was watching TV, clicking with drastic boredom from talk show to talk show.
Steven Ennex: Into the silent sideways diaspora of atoms.
Angie, idiotic as ever, apparently had no clue Carol and Steven had remained so close. She rambled on stupidly -- Steven had paid the price of his wicked lifestyle, she said -- then hung up. Carol continued to talk into the receiver: Fine, she said. Nice of you to call.
She dropped the telephone into its cradle and stared at Payton. His smile lifted up his brushy mustache. She smiled back. It was a nice afternoon, he said. Almost time for lunch. She plucked a paper clip from its plastic caddie, unfurled it with her fingers, and jabbed its first quarter-inch into her biceps.
It certainly looked odd, jutting like an antenna from her arm, and she began to laugh at the small purpling bubble that drew out of the puncture.
"Good God," Payton shrieked.
Carol let him come around her side of the desk and lift her from her seat. Then he walked her by her good arm down the hallway, tacky beer calendars fluttering in their wake, down the arcade of sputtering fluorescent lights to the men's room where he sat her on the commode and trussed a wet paper towel on her forehead. He dropped the paper clip in the trash and pressed his thumb over the punctured welter. She let him dance about, administering to her arm with superfluity, running the tap and asking if she'd had a tetanus booster.
"I might have a Band-Aid," he said, flustered, rummaging in his wallet when a red-foiled condom flap-jacked to the floor.
"Just forget it," Carol said, absently looking at the graffiti in the stall. Someone (she hoped not Payton -- but who else sat here?) had drawn a rather distorted representation of female anatomy. She reclaimed her arm, let him re-assemble his wallet.
"I'm really OK," she said.
When they had gone back into the office proper, Carol sent Payton out for decaf lattes and gyro sandwiches, and she telephoned the hospice.
"Sorry. I don't know who to call first," she said when Chess picked up the extension. "I don't know whether to come over."
"I didn't call anyone," he said gently. "Don't take it personally. Sandra was terrified of publicity and it still got in the PI and Times. Nothing to do or say, we've already had him cremated."
"Can we do a memorial service or something?" she said. "I kinda feel left out."
Chess was quiet a moment. She could hear the plink of Christmas jingles over his intercom in the background.
"I feel left out myself," he said. "You know, it ends up that Steven was the most self-centered little zit on earth."
"I'm coming over."
"Not yet," Chess said. "But you ought to call Sandra. You can do something for her."
"Hell, I don't know. You'll have to go and see," he said. "She's too nice a sport for all this crap."
Carol clocked out walked into the low December sunlight. At the corner of Eighth Avenue, Payton stood in front of the latte cart, hitting on a woman in a gray pant suit. Carol crossed over, walking briskly against the wind. She sat in the back of the Magnolia bus, rubbing her arm, wondering how Chess would hold up, laughing suddenly at the insanity of that notion.
Up the hill, at the apartment in Magnolia, Sandra was apparently not at home, and Carol bitterly tore at herself for not phoning ahead. As she turned and descended the stairs to the street, Carol heard the faint rich supplication of a piano. She went back and rang the bell, but no one answered. Well, perhaps the music had come from an adjacent apartment. The wind bit away at her cheek. The cold air tickled her throat and by the time she stepped off the bus at Phinney Ridge, she had developed a cough.
Carol ate a supper of mushy salad and cold vermicelli from the icebox. She took a broad swig of cherry Ny-Quil -- a leftover from the flu -- and slipped into bed before the winter sun went down.
Later, around midnight, the phone roused her from blank, narcotic sleep. She rolled over in bed, fumbling to put her mind together. It was Payton, most assuredly smashed.
For a moment, undeniably, she thought of having him come to her bed, if for no other reason to get the ugly thing over with and move on ahead into dark resentments and a search for a new job. She missed Bill Austry. She missed him in her bed, though she missed not so much his feckless intimacy, but the inebriating promise of it.
"You have to leave me alone," she told Payton. "You can't make it better."
"If it's about working at Klass, I'll quit," he said. "Please go out with me." She could hear the sound of talk, glasses clinking in the background.
"There aren't enough jobs out there," Carol sighed. "Otherwise, I would have left Klass a year ago. Besides, Payton, I just can't see you. Not socially."
"Then see me anti-socially. You don't want to, it's not can't."
"OK. I don't want to."
"Then fuck you very much, Miss Office Tease. You know what sexual harassment is? I do. You can't feed me to the lions."
While he continued his sloppy tirade, Carol wondered about lions she had seen on Wild Kingdom and how the meat dangled and shook from their mouths as they fed. Then she thought of the drawing in the men's room and hung up on Payton. Her cough started anew. She unplugged the phone and went in search of the Ny-Quil bottle.
THE URN that held Steven's scant ashes stood on top of the hospice armoire, a Japanese brush painting of vermilion carp behind it. Sandy Ennex stood in the sun-blazed window frame tilting a water can over a Wandering Jew. Her face was smooth and peaceful, as if it had been rectified. Nearly a week had passed since Carol had first spoken with Chess, and in the interim he'd freighted himself with Steven's death. A pale green oxygen tube had been fastened into his nostrils, and he was propped up with pillows. His voice had a thin, nasal timbre.
"Old musicians don't die," Chess was saying, "they simply decompose."
"Good one," Carol said from her chair next to his bed. "You have any others?"
"Sure," Chess said. "I was thinking he didn't go back to the bottle, he went into one."
"At least I was sober when he died."
"Come on, Chess." Carol popped him on the shoulder with the paper. "That's enough."
"Oh, indulge him," Mrs. Ennex said, turning from the window. "He'll be done in a minute." She looked over at Chess. "Won't you, dear?"
"She loves me like the daughter she never had," Chess said.
Carol grinned, "I'd gladly take that job."
Sandy Ennex put up the watering can and smiled at her. "Carol, you were the one that was supposed to marry Steven," she said, then winked at Chess.
Carol hid her face, mugging. "I guess he just forgot me at the altar," she said. "One of us forgot."
Chess folded his hands behind his head. "If that had happened we'd have been in a helluva state," he said. "Tails wagging dogs. Anyway, Carol has good old Billy."
Mrs. Ennex looked over, sharply rapt, but said nothing. From the window behind her, the sun kindled the tips of her hair and gave her a faint, purple corona.
"We can't stay as long today," she said. "I'm taking Carol over to Westlake Center to look at decorations. We might even buy you a present."
Chess nodded at the urn. "Maybe you could take him along. He needs a walk every so often."
"Good lord," Carol said.
Chess shut his eyes. He reached up with his hand and ripped the oxygen tubes from his nose.
"I hate these goddamn things. I have boogers the size of rocks, and my chest feels like a building fell on it. I meant it. Sorry, Mrs. Ennex, but would you please take what's left of your son the hell out of here?"
AT WESTLAKE CENTER the traffic was ugly. Carol had held the urn in her lap until they had found a space in the parking garage, then she nested it carefully between a cashmere sweater and a yellow towel in the rear seat. The sky was swept clear by the wind and the air sizzled with Westlake neon. People jostled each other on the sidewalks. Mean little world of indifferent traffic, Carol thought, running circles inside this surreal big one with former lovers in urns. Customers were lined up five-deep at the coffee kiosk just outside the center, and Carol and Mrs. Ennex drank their caffeine fix at a white table beneath the red umbrellas. Bike messengers huffed by on the cobblestone.
"Seattle is a city for the zealous," Mrs. Ennex said. She looked at Carol blankly. She stood up from their table and Carol hopped to her feet, and they pressed ahead through the throng.
Inside the mall the air was thick with cinnamon and tallow. On the mezzanine, there must have been two dozen Santas mulling about. Carol stood on the up-escalator and took Sandy Ennex' arm.
Carol said, "Chess didn't really mean it, you know."
"Oh, yes he did!"
Mrs. Ennex opened the top-most buttons on her Burnaby parka. In the sudden heat, her eyes had begun to moisten. "There's nothing I don't know about Chess. I haven't been spared information about anyone."
"He just meant he couldn't stand it."
Mrs. Ennex pulled her arm free. "Let's stop this. We know how to get along fine, don't we?" They had topped the mezzanine, and Mrs. Ennex went into the bright spectacle. "Oh Carol, isn't that the most fabulous potpourri?"
"Sure," Carol said, lagging behind.
It was fine, this mindless shopping, except for the whole thing, and it went on for hours. Mrs. Ennex stopped in the chic-as-hell shop to buy cedar bars for her dresser drawers, stopped for another quick double mocha at Starbucks, looked rather hopefully at a Venetian-glass tureen in an upscale studio, and finally settled on a pair of peach-colored sandals at Leeds.
While she tried them on, Carol wandered off to Brentano's and found herself dragging her hand over the titles on the self-help rack. The volumes ran over four shelves and she had to kneel to read the bottom row. Women Who Hate. She gave that one a thought, until she felt Bill Austry's shadow course through her with its icy amperage, then she stood up and looked around. The aisle was empty and gave out a hallowed hush.
Carol set off for the fine art books, but ended up in the metaphysical section and was reading something in Emmet Fox about "the light of the body is the eye." The phrase held her in a strange vortex. She was still lost, her eyes blurred when Mrs. Ennex swooped in beside her and took her hand.
"Find something?" Mrs. Ennex asked.
"Delight of the body is denial," Carol heard herself say.
"Don't be so rough on yourself, dear," Mrs. Ennex said. "Incidentally, I've had too much coffee. Now, you'll have to suffer me over to Nordstroms. Can you? It's only four and I'm not nearly ready to quit."
It was the break of evening when the dusk is glazed with secrets. Carol accompanied Mrs. Ennex into the chill air, and they fell into step beneath the blinking cadence of lights. Vapor rose from their lips as they chatted about pianos and how much Steven had liked to play. Now that they had finally gotten around to talking, Carol was vacillating. She told a harmless story about the afternoon that Steven had come home tipsy with spring fever from the University of Washington and played through half of the Ring on Chess' dining-room upright. They'd sat there all night long, trading places, Chess and Steven working the keys while Carol turned pages and brewed coffee and twisted fresh candles into the soft-wax base of the spent tapers, the three of them blissed out as the sun finally peeped through the shadows.
Carol and Mrs. Ennex were standing now before a great mirror at the perfume counter in Nordstrom, and Mrs. Ennex lifted an atomizer of Opium and squirt its potion into the air. Carol watched in the mirror as the mist dissipated into the background of lights and moving bodies.
"Such a nice story," Mrs. Ennex said, "and nice of you to tell it." She put down the atomizer and met Carol's eyes in the mirror. "You're not seeing Billy any more, are you dear?"
"I broke up."
"Naturally," said Mrs. Ennex. "Inevitable."
For a good moment they watched each other in the glass, then Carol took Mrs. Ennex by the arm and led her deep into Nordstrom so they could buy something for Chess. They looked for a long while before giving up.
IT WAS POURING OUT and the howling wind made the lights flicker across the city. At Klass Title, Payton showed up drunk. He stayed long enough to call Carol a "no-time slut" -- whatever that meant in his personal lexicon. Then he removed his sports coat, turned it inside-out and began dumping the contents of his desk into it. He went off like that into the rain, the coat-bag slung over his shoulder. A newly unemployed Santa of Malice.
Carol telephoned the home office in San Diego and informed Mr. Elliot that they'd need a new clerk. Mr. Elliot said he'd fly up after New Years. "Pronto enough?" he asked.
"Sure," she said, "I'm great at holding things down."
After she hung up, she went into the hall cabinet and took out a roll of paper towels and cleanser, and she burst into the men's room and scrubbed at the misshapen image of the vulva. By the time it was gone, her arm ached. The rain pelted the skylight, and the whole thing made her rather sad. From the outer office, the phones had begun to ring and she let them dash themselves out.
She was thinking of Chess as she passed back through the hallway with the half-spent roll of towels in her upraised hand. It came upon her like an intruder, her own shadow cast so large upon the wall that her heart blazed.
She sat at her desk, waiting grimly for the image to resolve itself: this sudden demonic figure with upraised weapons of sanitary fortitude. A regular Brunhilde of the bathroom, the latest in a series of false gods. Carol burst into laughter. Chess' gloom called for action of heroic proportions.
She telephoned Marty Abrahms at the Gay Chorus. Yes, he said, it would be a bitch getting everyone together on short notice for a Wagnarian wake. But Chess' life was ever contracting. Sure, one pithy segment followed by a huge party. His enthusiasm grew as they spoke. They could certainly gather a few costumes from the Seattle Opera, and he was suddenly confident Carol could learn the part by rote with his coaching.
As the last rain of the year whipped against the windows, Carol locked up the office and took the bus to Pike Place. She walked past the newsstand under the cover of the market, beneath the bare bulbs dripping with steam, past the herbalists and the fish mongers and the dangling roast chickens. She took the ramp down, underground to the magic shop. They sold flash paper there, the kind that sparks up between your fingers like a burst of sub-atomic energy.
"NATURALLY, the costume calls for braids," Mrs. Ennex said.
Carol sat before a long mirror in the living room, the costume armor plate fastened over her breasts. A Valhallan hat with its curved horns sat beside them on the aquamarine piano.
Outside the apartment in Magnolia the rain had given way to a furious blow. The alder scratched away at the windowpanes and, beneath the mantle that held the black and white photo of Steven Ennex, the flue moaned with an suck of wind.
Earlier that morning Carol had conditioned her hair and it combed out easily, sparking with short embers of static as Sandy parted the middle with a blue brush. Carol could feel the heat of Mrs. Ennex' wide bosom against her neck.
Sandy divided the hair into thick bands, and she twisted up the shocks into twin, maiden braids. She smiled at Carol in the mirror.
"So where'd you place the urn?" Carol asked, matter of factly. "I thought it'd be on the mantle."
"I had to take it back to Chess," said Sandy. She looked sternly at Carol in the mirror. "You know? I have to confess something."
Carol closed her eyes, then nodded.
"One afternoon I was standing right here," Sandy went on, "right before this mirror with that silly urn in my hand. I was looking for a place for it. Then the next moment I had the lid off and I was stirring the ashes with my finger. Well, sort of stirring. I just took a dab of him, see, and put him to my lips. Then tasted him on my tongue."
Carol reached for the hand that held her braid, and Mrs. Ennex stiffened.
"Oh," Carol said. "it's nothing to be upset about."
"I wasn't upset, dear. I'm upset that I never did as much for him before, even knowing where he was descending."
From the streets outside, the wind kicked itself up and the light began to flutter, and Carol felt the air begin to move inside her in strange euphony. Against her back, Sandy Ennex' body had begun to sway. Then, Sandy ran a hand through Carol's hair.
"You really are beautiful," Sandy said, "from within and without."
In the mirror Carol's eyes were brimming. Sandy reached up and let loose the knotted braid and began smoothing the long wisps of hair with her fingers, running her hands delicately down and across Carol's shoulders.
Carol tightened her eyes, then gave up with a distended sigh that ran through her body.
"I was worse. I knew he was going to do it," Carol said, weeping honestly now.
There was no end to the things everyone had failed to do. The news of her great iniquities rang from Carol's heart as the alder smacked against the window. All along, Sandy Ennex just kept smoothing her hair and smoothing her hair, and after a while the wind began to take the world away in pieces.