Only Rocks Are Rocks

Gwen Frisbie-Fulton
3 min readDec 26, 2023
Photo by Marshall Williams on Unsplash

She says she didn’t have much use for his legs anyway, but recognizes that he probably did.

Now, she is folding her laundry next to me in Tuscon; a stack of bedazzled jeans. She sweeps her hand through the lint trap and pocketed the tiny rhinestones that came off even though she tumbled dried them on low. I ask her if she resews them, and she corrects me: She glues them.

I’m always curious about who is out here, in the desert. I know that people are born here and live here, but I sense that people who end up here from somewhere else always have a story. I am here because I am passing through. I am drying my sleeping bag and clothes because I wasn’t aware, until now, that it sometimes rains in southern Arizona. The woman with the bedazzled jeans is here, she tells me, because her husband of 20 years was an arborist and lost his legs in a terrible accident in Maine.

She didn’t care about his legs or whether he had them or not. She never married him for his legs, she tells me. But he cared so much about them that when they were gone he became so angry, so withdrawn and scowling, that he became unbearable. She was content to push his wheelchair and sit with him, but her adjustment, she says, was better than his so she left him and moved to an apartment in Tuscon.

The accident was gruesome. He must have been 40 feet up a maple when he fell with the tree, pinned underneath it until his legs were unsalvagable. The doctors removed them the next day.

I am watching my laundry spin in the dryer, thinking that she sounds pretty callous– leaving a wheelchair-bound husband and moving across the country to start a new life of rhinestone jeans is a story so hardened it repels me a bit. But perhaps this is why I’ve avoided marriage- I’ve always thought of it to be like an interstate highway, one where the exits are spread out and you have to drive, no matter how it is you feel that day, to keep up with traffic and exit only when there is a ramp. I prefer backroads or even a decent frontage, where you can meander and stop to take pictures or investigate the wildflowers growing in the ditch. Interstates just plow you along, the story making you instead of you making the story.

The woman coughs a smoker’s cough and punches me in the arm. “Don’t get yourself tied down,” she says.

“No risk of that,” I say. I mean it, but am shaken by her candidness. Usually, when you meet a stranger you sense the opportunity to tell your story however you like, with whatever twists and turns you want to lean into… you get to explain yourself, make yourself the hero. You can walk into any laundromat in this country and become whoever you want to be. But she hasn’t done that– she just tells me her husband lost his legs, got sad about it, and she left.

Sent him the divorce papers from Wichita.

She offers me some of her M&Ms and I decline, so she loads up her laundry bag and heads out. I stuff my dry sleeping bag back into its bag and take off myself, choosing a state road headed north towards Phoenix. I drive looking at the saguaros and Joshua Trees, wondering about myself and what I would have done.

No one is a rock, only rocks are rocks. She may have moved to this barren landscape because there are no trees.



Gwen Frisbie-Fulton

Mother. Southerner. Storytelling Bread and Roses. Bottom up stories about race, class, gender, and the American South. *views my own*