We had been silent since beginning our trip back to the city. She had been somewhat surprised when I told her that I wanted to leave but, as christmas was over and she needed to get back to waitress work, one day more or less wasn't that important. She had gotten an opportunity to see her grandmother which was what her original purpose had been and, as for me, the "sickness" I conveniently got after my perceived rejection kept me from having to spend too much time with them in what was essentially a shadows role. It allowed me to catch up on my reading, to plot further my intended scheme and, as well, put off the inevitable explaination of my behaivior in her room.
But finally the respite was over. I knew I had to confront her interrogation. Fortunately I had a better fix on exactly what I wanted to do. It might as well happen and get it over with.
"What was that all about?" Linda asked me.
"What was what?" I couldn't resist replying, if only to prolong the suspense.
"That trip in my bedroom. You start out with this crazy scheme and then disappear without saying anything more about it. And then you get "sick."
"I was sick." I replied.
"In the head mabye. Don't try to con me. Men always think I'm stupid. Well i'm not. I know a con when I get one laid on me."
"It isn't a con."
"Oh really, what is it?"
"I had to make a big decision and I got ahead of myself."
"Really." I replied and turned to stare out the window.
Drifted snow fell back from the road on the other side of the deep ditch, which was nearly filled. Behind a picket snow fence they receded in waves across the ragged corn field toward a farm in the far distance. Smoke flagged from the tip of the chimney of the farm house on the hill as I imagined myself snowed in at the end of a long gravel lane with her. I imagined I smelled hickory smoke from the farmyard.
In the bare branched trees that lined the ditch numerous crows stared at the road as they waited for road kill. The sky was leaden and menacing. Bloated clouds portended more snow, perhaps a blizzard. I was glad we left when we did. We might have trapped there. I would have had the inevitable encounter sooner than I would have liked. But at that moment it didn't matter any more.
I wasn't sure how to begin so I waited in silence for her to make the first move. Finally she did.
"Well, are you going to tell me?"
"What's to tell?"
"Oh God, is this what you're really like. I thought you were different."
"Different than what?"
"Just different. I thought you liked me."
"I do like you."
"Well, why are you playing with me?"
"Is that what I'm doing ?"
"What do you think?"
I knew she was right. The truth was that, in spite of my great plans, I was afraid to tell her what they were. It was ironic. After a lifetime of doing exactly what I wanted and not caring about anyone something was different. I was different. I wanted something different. I wanted to care, not just about myself and what I wanted but about someone else, about her. I wanted to stop casting a solitary shadow in the sun. I wanted...
It was frightening to care. In order to care I had to open myself up- reveal something other than my indifference. I had to put down my indifference. I had to shed that skin. Vulnerability was something I was unused to. I had, for so long, remained removed and then unmoved from the reality of what I engendered. Oh sure, I had hints but I never imagined that I would ever become who I became.
My vision was fatally flawed.
That instant of clarity made me weak. I leaned back against the seat, unable to hold my head up or to lift my arm.
"OK, instead of going back to the city let's go to the river."
"You mean it?" She asked. "What about work?"
"I'll pay you."
"I know what you said."
"To fuck you?"
"Rude and crude, that's me."
Is that a yes or a no?"
She whipped a sharp turn into a parking lot and spun out on the road heading NorthEast. The map traced the route as I imagined small towns and ever cresting hills and finally the limestone bluffs along the river. I followed it with my finger to the bridge into Wisconcin and stopped.
We had lunch at a resturant on a mountain whose serrated limestone bluffs dropped away to the rivers edge. Bright sun reflected from the leaves of the old trees that clad the slope and, as sudden blindness gave way to the phospherescent afterimage of the trees I thought , for a moment, that everything would be all right.