I Let Him Take Me Deep into the Woods

Ten months since we’ve met. Seven dates. Uncountable hours on the phone.

And yet this morning feels like the great unknown.

When we first met, he drove two hours north just to stroll around the block a couple times with me and a coffee. Later, he would tell me, of that date, “I remember you as the smell of snow.”

This morning, he drives two hours north and it is sticky-hot when he arrives, despite the rise in elevation and the early hour. He dresses sensibly, for ventilation and tick prevention. He has me dress like a fool in coochie-cutter shorts, damn near presenting the warmest folds of my body to the tick population on a platter.

But I’m grateful, anyway. He let me wear flat shoes. He’s sensible like that.

Day-use hotel rooms are our usual thoroughfare. He brings an envelope of cash to every meeting, and he always forgets to hand it over. I think that’s because, with me, it doesn’t feel like a service. With me, I think, I believe, it feels real. I make it feel like the real thing.

This morning, he approaches my window as I pull up behind him in the weedy dust off of the highway exit. I roll it down, and he passes in the envelope. “Before I forget,” he says.

I can’t look at him just yet, but I can tuck the money fluidly away as I prepare my bag for the hike with shaking hands. I’ve brought an orange, which might be lovely during the photoshoot but isn’t enough of a breakfast, and too little water. It’ll be alright, though. He has to make it back to the car by noon. I’m less than thirty minutes from my doorstep. I’ll be fine.

I hope we don’t get caught doing anything weird. Don’t get cocky after a quiet stretch and attempt some bold removal of our clothes, only to scramble to cover ourselves at the approach of voices. I hope we don’t go for any bondage stunts that look like a crime in progress at a twenty-foot distance. Not that there’d be cell service to call the cops.

The thrill is in the possibility. That’s true, but the thrill is too much for me at the moment. I’m shaking like a tissue as I step out of the car into the mountain air. Last night’s thunder was supposed to last into the morning but the storms have cleared. There are only little rumbles left behind.

There’s no cell service. I don’t know the trail. I have to enter trusting him to bring me back out.

He knows I’m scared. He pulls me close. He wraps me up.

I try to slow my breath. Grasp at the muscles that inflate my lungs, hold them steady, only to lose control again.

He strokes my head. I smell his neck. His breathing is steady, steadying.

He offers the rubber nipple of his hydration hose into my mouth. I take it, lying on his chest, on my feet, at the cusp of the forest. I suckle, drawing water from his back.

This is fine. It’s just the woods. I love the woods.

It’ll be fine. He’s safe. He’s sensible. He never gives me more than I can handle.

The trail is wide. A logging road. Brown grasses, their heads heavy with grain, divide our path up the center.

The crickets, leaping, accompany us down.


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If She Found Me

If she found me and approached me, asking, demanding, I wouldn’t deny it.

I would say:

Sister, you are right. I have wronged you.

Sister, you deserve the truth.

I have been eating bread out of your mouth. I have been stealing from you in a hundred different currencies– in labor-time, attention, emotion, kisses, sweat. He’s your man. All of his resources belong, rightly, to you.

You deserved none of the harm that I’ve done you. Sister, you are blameless.

If she stuck around long enough to hear it, I would tell her: of course he does not love me. You are the only woman he has ever loved.

And if she were looking for specifics, wanted to know how I came upon her man, I would tell her: see the latest indictment of a sitting member of the US House of Representatives for the web address.

Soon she’d have her fill of confirmation. Ready to take her leave of me, she’d wipe the filth of me forever from her hands, and I would tell her:

I am gone from your house, now. This, here, between you and me, is the final exchange.

And.

If she found me, I would swallow back everything I wouldn’t say. I’d withhold some of the finer points, like:

I am gone, but there will be another to replace me. He’ll apologize, he’ll weep, he’ll immolate himself before your feet, promising to change. He might even take a month or two away from seeking. He may truly want to be, for you, a better man.

Did I mention that he loves you? He loves you. He does not relish hurting you. But.

But.

The compulsion in him will not die. I do not take it with me when I walk away.

He’ll fight against it for a while. He does want to be a better man.

But sister, he isn’t a better man.

The need in him is absolute, consuming. It will rise again to devour every other concern in its path. Why else would he have done this to you in the first place? He does not relish hurting you. He loves you.

I won’t tell her that the next girl, and the next girl, and the next won’t care a lick about him, or about her. They’ll show up for the money, and they’ll grit their teeth through every hotel encounter.

Sister, do you prefer it that way? I won’t ask.

If she ever found me, I would eat her hatred and wish her peace of mind, hoping that she’d never find out about the next girl, or the next, or the next.

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