Unfamiliar Wilderness

28 03 2006


Crystal lake ran out in all directions. She sat there looking out on the expanse wondering what was to come. Sensing nothing in particular, he walked around the edges of the lake, passing her. Moments after passing her, he recalled her face as if it were some lost memory or dream he had forgotten. He turned back to analyze her reclined figure forming a silhouette against the setting sun. She was postmodern, guessing by the book in her hand, and based on an intuition she was also independent, focused, and energetic. He turned his backwards glance almost into a stare, until she glanced back in his direction. Smiling, she called out to him. By the time her voice got to him, he had already continued walking.

She laid herself out on the blanket watching the red sunset trickle across the soft, beating ripples scattered over the lake. Her name was Jane. She would tell you that she grew up in a prestigious boarding school on the shores of this lake, before going on to Ivy and eventually, the lucrative job she works in now. Though her job is lucrative and she graduated Ivy, there never was a boarding school on Lake Paraguas. She still comes every summer as if the invisible school was her home. The years go by and yet her face hardly ages, her friends and relatives have all forgotten her birthday, it is a hard-kept secret.

When the sun had set twenty minutes later, he realized he would not make it to the campsite before dark. Rather than pursue what he felt would be a fruitless and painstaking venture through the unfamiliar wilderness after dark, he headed back towards the woman with the book. Using his cell phone he notified his friend that he would not make it that night. Though the voice on the other line was worried and agitated, he calmly replied, “I’ll find my way” and hung up. The woman lay there taking a nap in afternoon attire.

She woke up as his footsteps broke the small twigs and branches she had put nearby. “What took you so long,” she spoke without opening her eyes. “What do you mean,” he said startled at her keen observations. “You know exactly what I mean, you just don’t think a girl like me could figure you out so easily.” Hours passed. Eventually, it struck the both of them that it was far too cold to be outside. She spoke, assuaging his fears, “I have a place, you can stay”. He then realized that amidst the long conversation about his past and her future he had neglected to ask permission to stay the night. He also became suddenly aware that he gave up his chance to get to his campsite that night in exchange for the uncertain odds that he might get to stay with this woman. The lake trembled deep underneath, though nothing changed the glassy surface.

He followed her all the way into her cabin on the hillside. Entering the door, they immediately began kissing passionately. At first, he pretended to be surprised, then he gave in and kissed back fiercely. Never before had he noticed her long, swaying green dress, her defined shoulders, smooth complexion, and wistful eyes. Moving towards the bedroom, they continued kissing thinking about their past, their present, and perhaps their future. Almost at the foot of her cleanly made bed, he paused. What did he know of her past? And what future? Would they even have a future? Is there a point to the present without a future? Jane seemed to articulate his exact past, her future. She had faltered several times when talking about her past, including when he asked questions surrounding her experiences at this lake. “It is home for me,” she had said, “I visited when I was very young. We always carried umbrellas, even if there was no rain. My mother used to say we must always block something out; if not the rain, the the sunlight.” He asked Jane how old she was and her birthday. For once, she replied honestly though it was so direct, so honest, that it made him doubt it. “September the fourteenth, nineteen hundred and seventy seven. And that makes me about thirty.”

Without realizing it, he was already in bed with her. It was if his consciousness became separate from his decision-making. While he thought things out, his body was simply getting things done. Sensing nothing, he chose to go on, to make love to Jane. Afterwards, she offered him coffee and toast. Blinking, he noticed she still was not wearing clothing. He replied softly, “no”, fumbling the covers and adding, “thank you.” Hours passed.

He woke up just as the sun was rising over the lake. Small ripples soon brought last night’s events into focus. He smiled as he watched the reflection of sunlight over the lake. “Nothing,” he told himself, “not a thing.” Turning away from the windowsill, he noticed Jane still nude. She was beautiful. Not just on the outside, but her voice was sweet, her past was interesting, and her thoughts intricate. Truly a pleasure. Offering him a small breakfast, she caressed his shoulders. He paid his dues as a guest and ate dutifully. Afterwards, he quickly made the jog over to his campsite. He eventually arrived at his tent with the old Chevy parked beside it. He remembered how perfect the campsite was; there was no one for miles. Unzipping the tent flap, he went inside and gently woke up his wife. “Good morning, darling.”



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