"You don't understand," she said to me, "everything I've loved is gone."
We stood by the still-burning fire. I wanted to touch her hand but felt unsure of myself. The distant peaks of the Rockies retained the brightness of the evening. I felt the chill I often feel in forests, where something is always watching you. The smoke thinned out our surroundings into dark smears, and suddenly I felt like I was standing in a dream with her.
"I'm so sorry this has happened to you," I said.
She looked up, tearfully. "I'm glad you were nearby."
"Listen," I said. "When I moved out here from the east, they must have lost half my boxes. The furniture was all fine, it was just the boxes with the smaller objects in. I lost all of my diaries, my records, books that had belonged to my father. I sent out a bunch of letters, but what can you do?"
I paused, trying to catch her eye. "In the end, you come to realise it's just stuff."
A gust of wind began to clear the smoke from the burnt-out house, and the twilight was deep blue against the glowing embers. She was gazing at her cement doorstep that still stood, untouched.
"Could I borrow some gas?" she said. "I'm going to head back to the city for tonight."
"You sure you don't want to stay at mine? That's a hell of a drive when something like this has happened."
She looked up at me, her eyes black and otherworldly in the dusk.
"Would that be any trouble?"
"None at all."
"Thanks, Sam," she said, the beginnings of a smile in her face.
I saw her shiver, so I took off my jacket and put it over her shoulders. It was then that she noticed the scent of gasoline that still clung to me, like bad memories.