Dust darkens the sky and falls in clumps on the ground, into crevices and cracks, and litters the pavement like midwinter snow. The dust is falling from the burning building. The building is groaning like the hull of a ship. It’s on fire about halfway up. It’s the smoke that gets to me. Thick black smoke, climbing the sides of the building like a millipede coiled around a stick.

The dust is falling, white and gray, and floating like petals to the ground. Everyone is sneezing. Even as they run from the shadow of the tottering building.

People are running with shirts around their faces, running with their mouths covered by their hands. Their hands are black and covered in soot. The dust is like the shadow of a planet eclipsing the sun, and the building is groaning like a ship. The firemen hold flashlights as they run into the dust.

People grab me and pull me toward them. They hand me a water bottle, a mask, and a wet towel. They rush me away from the rising cloud. It’s blooming like a flower. They turn every few seconds as they push me through a frozen crowd. There’s a pregnant lady sitting in a stroller, watching. There’s a man with his shirt unbuttoned and his pants in a pile around his legs, and he’s watching. There’s a girl standing at the corner, under the shade of a blue umbrella, and her mouth is open and her eyes are too and she’s watching the dust fall.

In Japan, we walked under cherry blossom trees and I held the umbrella over our head, and when a breeze passed through the trees, the branches would shiver and petals would fall, and I held onto you, your hand to my chest, as the ground became littered by flakes of a time long before the petals turned to dust.