Bending and pawing through the dirt, I find two things: a blue button, and your shadow hovering over me. It's unclear if your posture is protective or threatening, and I realize it doesn't matter. I put the button in my pocket.
That first day, after you'd finished pounding me with your small, sharp fists, you leaned back against the jagged rocks and wolfed air into your lungs. I was reminded of a suckling newborn. Devouring, consuming. Rip, tear, bite. You started to talk and you haven't stopped since.
Something has come loose. Looped out of the warp and woof of time, it has heaved itself, a busted cassette tape, wormed its way to my feet and died. Everything was fine until the day you showed up. My days had long since arranged themselves around food, water, walks. Peace and quiet. I didn't miss the subway in the morning, the pant and glare of the morning commute. I no longer heard my own breath creep up on me, faster and faster, until I had to employ the coping mechanisms that Dr. Havoy had hammered into my head during those hypnosis sessions years ago. In fact, until the day that you arrived, bloody and hungry, I hadn't thought about the subway in a long time.
Last night as you slept, I yearned for gallons of black paint. I wanted to cover the spot where you lay, varnish again and again—emboss, seal the edges against your rising. I would need balls of wax to stop my ears, to block your incessant speaking. Grousing, accusing. Mewling, indicting. Sniveling, howling. Fingering, denouncing.
I wish you could be quieter.
The shelter I've made is hardly visible from a distance. It's woven from branches and leaves, with the odd rock or cement block used to gird the edges. Large panels, maybe portions of a front porch or the side of a house, provide the framework for my hovel. I have weathered many storms here. I have had plenty of time to comb the area, hoarding anything useful. In the back is a long, flat board, so worn that it is soft and pliable.
Here are my most valuable possessions. They are the reason that I arise each morning and begin again. I'm not looking for civilization. I'm looking for remnants of civilization, like the blue button, for instance. I like to know that once, long ago, someone, a girl child probably, wore a dress with shiny blue buttons. She crouched here at the sea shore, and glanced back to check that she wasn’t too far from safety.
I have found that I like people much more when they don’t exist. Yet, here you are.
I have never moved, not once in all of this time. There was no reason to. Morning dawned quiet and pink; night tiptoed away in gradations of blue-gray. Since my arrival, I had never seen another human being until I saw you.
My head jerks with a start. Christ Almighty! Shut up! For one brief moment, I wonder who is screaming, and then with a jolt I realize. Me. I know that even though you are probably the last woman in the world, I would rather be alone. I can build again. I begin walking and I don't look back.