Sula smells all musty. I know that smell of hers, when she’s been in the woods. A little tang mixed with earth and her usual je-ne-sais-quoi, something I’ve never been able to pin down exactly, it’s like lavender mixed with wet wood mixed with something almost familiar but not quite. She obviously didn’t grow up on a coast because she never smells salty, never.
“Nell! I’ve been in the woods.”
“Oh yeah, how.”
“The mud on your jeans.”
“Fair enough. Anyway I found this amazing thing.” She digs in her bag and pulls out one half of a deer skull.
“Where’s the other half?”
“Is that all you have to say? Boring. I think I’m going to cover it in knitting.”
“Good point. I should go for something a little less obvious.”
“How about a mobile?”
“Not bad. I’ll need to go scavenging for more bones. Wanna come?”
“No, another day, when there’s more than 20 minutes of light left.”
“Oh. Right… Yeah sure. Don’t know how much help I’ll be though…”
“Tell me about it.” I must be zoning out. “I’m losing you aren’t I?”
“What’s it this time?”
“Don’t answer that. Let’s go eat.”
“Ok. I made nori rolls.”
In the kitchen, I wash my dish. As I cross the window to dry my hands I notice a potential person under a streetlight on the far side of the parking lot across the street. I don’t pause; I go about my business.
On my way out I turn off the kitchen light. I creep back in, hugging the shadows in case any other light is seeping in. I peer out the window round the back of the open curtain.
There he is. Who he is I don’t know. He begins to walk, across the parking lot and away from the house. It looks like he’s talking on a cell phone. I watch him walk down the street. He doesn’t once look back at the house. So either I fooled him good with the light trick, or he wasn’t actually spying on us. The latter being much more likely, I leave the window and head upstairs to bed.
Just in case, though, I close my curtains, upstairs. All night I hear them rustling against each other in the late spring wind. They whack me in the face when I get up to pee.
She acts like she doesn’t know what she’s doing but really she does. All in those blue shoes, just who does she think she is. Raising her hand, calling to attention, cilantro-stained fingers. In stark contrast to her shoes, to her hair, she wiggles them, with a little smirk on her face. How dare she, I think. How dare you?
You know just what you’re doing don’t you. Like you were sent here to torture me. What if I was? That’s not funny. I’m not being funny then wipe that smirk off your face sweetheart. Oh it’s sweetheart now is it? Well I thought it was nicer than hussy which is what I really wanted to call you.
Hussy. Now who’s being snarky. Not me. Hm.
What did I just tell you about that smirk! But it only widens. And worse—comes closer.
“I was wrong. Desire can be attained. People, can be attained. You, have stolen from me. You have stolen me.
“I was so wrong, I could never have seen the theft coming. It was outside the framework my entire belief system is based on.
“If we have a foundational belief system that actually holds any weight. Or does it sink like a dinghy in a storm, so easy, so fragile, it kills all its passengers on the way down. I’d rather think of going like that. Peacefully. More peacefully than this, anyway. Quicker, anyway.
“It really isn’t fair. You have you, you can’t possibly need the both of us. This is just selfish, really. After all, if my beliefs prevent me from stealing you, from believing that I can steal you, the least you could do is not steal me. That way we can live in peace, on our own, in our own separate boxes, not disturbed, not controlled. What do you say?
“I would greatly appreciate it if, once you’re done, at your earliest convenience you could return me to me, please thanks.”
I tear up the letter. Then I burn it. Then I dump the ashes into the river.
“I have a way with words,” she says as I cling to my blanket in my own wordlessness. That’s for damn sure.
If I have one more dream about cilantro I am killing all my plants.
I love this part of the county, on my bike. It is so flat and windy, it’ll be really easy for a while and then bam, you’re hit with a big wind and have to struggle to stay up, or keep going forward. Sometimes you get bugs in your mouth but most of the time you’re next to pesticide-laden factory farms no bug will go near. Once in a while the border between two farms is wide, a random dense wood, and there are your bugs. I cross the bike path which I almost never use because it’s in one of those wider borders of woods so there are a ton of bugs. Last time I was in there I came home covered, picking bugs out of my hair all night, and swore I would never ride the bike path again. Sula said, but it’s safer, what if you get hit?, because the roads have no sidewalks or even sides, just banks to the fields. They’re mostly state highways. I said, since when are you concerned with safety, Miss Huck Finn, Miss Sula Sawyer, Miss First-Act-Peer-Gynt.
So I ride on the roads, but I’m always really careful. Today it is clear—the road and the sky. Which is nice because sometimes both are icky and congested. Something about this time of year, though—everyone stays where they are, why I don’t know, it’s gorgeous. All around me the green fields shimmer, some are almost yellow, if you squint. They roll and wave, and are so far away, and yet they begin right near my feet—right at the road.
I stop my bike and drop it into the bank, then crawl up the other side. My feet are bare and my toes dig into the grass and then the earth. There is something kind of sharp under my left heel, but it’s just a stone I think so I don’t bother to move. I do this thing I sometimes do: I look at my feet and then slowly my gaze rises to the grass just in front of them, then further, to the field in front of me, then further, to the land that stretches out to the horizon. This one line of sight, uninterrupted, traceable landscape. It is still kind of amazing to me—it is not how I grew up, I came here from the coast, where sure you could be in the water that stretches forever, but it moves, it’s alive in a different way, almost sinister, and you can’t look at it for very long without losing sight of it. Once it’s just water there’s nothing to focus on, because really it’s all just reflection. It is temporal, ephemeral, ethereal, surreal. The only thing really real are the salt and the fish darting around your legs.
But here—a feast for your eyes, which focus on this, then this, and then this. You are literally grounded, you feel planted, like a plant. Like all the other little plants around you, like very single blade of grass. It only reminds me of water when wind blows through—when the grass whistles and ripples. A sea of green, such a lovely, solid green. I look back at my feet which are not green, and not fibrous, not really. They look so alien in the grass, to my eyes. But the feet themselves say something very different, pressed into the soil. They say ooh ahh, that feels nice, stay here a while please.
I stay there a while, then I hop back onto my bike. I ride a while longer looking at all the green and the blue of the sky. A duotoned world, this is. The grey asphalt of the road doesn’t even factor into it and soon it disappears, and the car, well, I never see it but I definitely feel it when I hit it.
At this point I’m not even going very fast which is handy.
The fields fly up till I lose sight of them. All there is is gray, swirly gray. I keep blinking and every time the swirling slows. The gray is no longer swirly. It was my eyes. The gray has cracks in it, that went swirly when my eyes did.
Gravel, sliding crunchily, just beneath me. A car door opening and slamming. Footsteps, become like the gravel. The proverbial “Are you ok?”
I look up into the pretty face of the woman who hit me with her car.
No wait. I hit her, I think.
I ask her what happened. She confirms that it was I that had hit her. She had slowed down to let me pass when she noticed I wasn’t in the slightest watching the road, but it didn’t quite work out. I try to imagine that happening but I can’t so I let it go. She tells me all this while helping me to my feet. I assure her I am ok, just a little shaken, that it is my bike I am worried about.
She says as I stumble to my bike that whatever damage is done, she will pay for. I look back at her to thank her for the gesture, and the sunlight hits her face when before it was only in shade. “Sweet on a green-eyed girl, all fiery Irish clip and curl.” “Those green eyes, serene like a lake, in whose calm waters, one day I saw myself.” “Is it the sun, that makes them so green?” “You know what green eyes do to me?” “Yeah.” “Then shut up.”
See her eyes were very green.