The laundry hung undisturbed. Neither wind nor gravity nor the hands of man had dislodged it in these last three months. I left the alley and wandered over to the clothesline.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Linsell asked.
"Leave me alone," I responded.
A voluminous off-white sheet was the first of it, suspended by more than a dozen wooden pins. Faded circular coffee stains and patches of blood were the evidence of both life as it once was, and life as it was just before things changed. I ran a hand along the soft cotton and noticed how dark my skin looked in comparison.
"We can't stop here," Linsell said. "It's going to be dark soon."
He was right, but I didn't care. These breaks became more frequent when we moved through neighborhoods. Out in the wilds, it was easy enough to put one foot in front of the other, to trudge over grass and wood and stone, to keep going and forget. But among the remnants and ruins I often lost my way or lingered, staring into windows and standing in gardens like a mystified museum guest.
"I'm cold," I said. "Hold on."
I set down my pack, grabbed a brown wool sweater from farther down the line, and pulled it over my head. It was scratchy against my face and arms and clung close around my chest. The cool autumn breeze used to be benign, a relief after dire summers. Now it cut like a razor, gently but repeatedly, and with shocking ferocity.
"Fine, whatever," Linsell said. "Happy now? Can we fucking go already?"