Meeting in the Woods
I thought I was alone in the woods when I tripped over the root. But
he was there, or almost, still distant on the dirt path.
I'd left the A-Point electronics factory at 3, and by 4 o'clock I was
sitting in an air-conditioned apartment, reading to a mentally agile
centenarian, Mrs. Hatchupper. She loved "The New York Times."
Every time I read the "Times" to her I bumped into some word
I've never heard before. Like hubris. I tried to remember it by attaching
it to Hatchupper. Hatchupper's hubris, I thought to myself, picturing
the slogan on a t-shirt she might wear to bed, while Mrs. Hatchuppper
felt through the crinkled bills in the covered candy dish on top of
her TV set. She gave me ten dollars for the reading.
"When are you going back to school, Tasha?"she queried, clutching
the table for balance as she stood to walk me out.
"Oh, it already started. I'm just at the factory for the next
three Saturdays because tuition's due and I need the money for books.
A-Point knows I'm out of there after that."
It was nearly 7 o'clock and darkening when I clicked her door shut
behind me and headed into a translucent evening.
It was a little after that that my sandaled foot caught the root. I
went sailing into the well-worn path like a poorly aimed arrow, getting
dirt in my mouth. I was standing, wiping it away, tapping my fingers
against numb lips when Andy approached, coming the opposite way, but
of course I didn't know him yet. At that time he was just some dim,
masculine silhouette smelling like Royal Copenhagen, which one of the
guys I'd dated at school wore all the time. I loved the smell but not
"You okay?" Andy asked. I could hardly see his smile, but
I could feel it in the dark, warm and reaching toward me.
"Yeah," I answered apprehensively, not accustomed to meeting
anyone on my woodland path.
"I felt that from twenty yards away; made me wince. Wanna beer?"
"Mmm...just a couple sips."
We veered off the usual path, me postponing the eventual birth-of-Venus
springing out into the parking lot behind the Zippy Mart on Mill Street,
him delaying his expulsion onto Deer Lane, where Mrs Hatchupper lived.
We sat on a log next to a little creek, my thoughts running away with
the current as I popped the can of beer open. After two or three sips
I came to feel like I was swimming in amniotic fluid, treading water
in the warm darkness of Mother Earth's womb.
"This is why guys accost girls in the woods and have them drink
beer: so the girls lose their bearings, and the guys can have their
way with them," Andy said, "but I'm a little different, just
"How?" I asked, not half as concerned as I would have been
without the beer.
"I actually really like women, so when I seduce someone I let
them take as much time as they need."
"Are you a wolf in sheep's clothing or a sheep in wolf's clothing?"
"Both," he answered, laughing and tapping my thigh briefly
with the hand that wasn't holding a beer.
When I got home, the first thing I did was look up the word, "hubris." The second thing I did was copy Andy's phone number into my address book. I hadn't been sure of what he looked like exactly until we reached the birthing streetlights in the parking lot behind the Zippy Mart. He walked me all the way home. He hadn't tried to kiss me. He's part Indian and looks like his great-grandmother, who was a Cherokee. I could tell there was a hook, a line, and a sinker, dancing dangerously and enticingly in the water all around me that night. I didn't mind at all.