“You look as though you could use a rest,” she said, looking as though she wanted me to negate her observation.
It was not in me to let this advantage pass, though, and I eagerly assented that I did, indeed, need not only rest, but some more blueberries as well. Without waiting for further suggestions, I plopped down where I was. I quickly stood, having poked myself with a sharp stick or stone, and moved to sit on a fallen tree instead. I reached for some more blueberries and ate uninterrupted for at least five minutes straight until I felt sufficiently full. The whole time the woman in front of me looked toward her destination, then down at the decaying leaves at her feet, then off again in the same direction.
Destinations can change on the simple turn of a phrase.
“What is it?” I finally asked.
“What is it that you keep looking for or toward or whatever it is you’re doing?”
I swatted a mosquito and began to itch with zeal what promised to be a generous patch of poison ivy on my ankle.
I spoke quietly to myself now. “What in the world am I doing?”
“You asked if you could join me,” she replied.
“At the table. I meant to ask if I could join you at your table,” I answered her, frustrated with my stranger’s assertion and amazed at the misunderstandings this world holds and how destinations change on the simple turn of a phrase.
“You followed me. No. You wanted to join me. In fact, when your little Honda pulled into the café, you looked,” she paused, searching for a word which she couldn’t quite find, ‘lost’.”
I stared at her, baffled that she’d not only noticed me come to the café in the first place, but also that she’d studied me. It was she who I had thought distracted, but her narration challenged my blazingly astute observation.
“Let’s see. You’ve, on impulse, decided to pull up roots, that is if you’ve ever had them which is doubtful; a result of something in your past, perhaps.”
A lump began to form in my throat, but I stared sullenly past her; a habit I’d found useful in life.
“You’ve used your last dollar for a week’s worth of cheap motel and a full tank of gas; and after a few days of little sleep and not much food you’re wondering if you’re still sane.”
She was about to continue, but, to my strange relief, another shriek split the air. At this she jumped to her feet and flew from the woods, running in the same direction in which we had first started.
The day was by now growing toward twilight, and having been afraid of the dark since my childhood, I sprinted after her. After all, it’s one thing to follow a stranger in the daytime, but quite another when the dark closes in. As the moon rose, she was – being the only human in sight – in an instant, my friend.
to be continued . . .