I open my eyes to a great big bursting blue sky. For a great long time that is all that I am aware of and I don't even know how long that is because I am even less aware of the clock. I feel as though I am suspended in mid air and this is all I care about, all I need to know. Small, fluffy cumulus clouds put in an occasional appearance, marching their way across the sky, all tendrils dancing and teasing until they dissapate into vapour. A mild breeze ruffles my shirt, bringing with it the scent of blueberries and I become aware of the soft bed of moss and lichens that shield me from the hard granite beneath. I look up and scan the meadow in which I lie: it marches down, all Canadian shield and wild flowers, rimmed by birches and maples. Towards the base of the meadow a falcon makes lazy circles in the afternoon sky and in the very far distance below I notice the sparkle of a large lake
I put my head back down but I do not want to sleep, do not want to forget this perfect day. More time passes.
The soft crunch of the grass and lichens heralds the approach of a person or a large animal. Feeling completely content and at ease I do not look up, do not stir from my repose. Soon the stir of air brings me a new scent, one of soap and freshly washed hair and ever so faintly of female sweat. Skirts tickle my cheek as a companion crouches down beside me.
"Babe, I brought you some blueberries," she says, softly touching my hair. As I push myself half-seated, she holds out a paper napkin. I think of blown glass as I admire the dark skins of each tiny and perfect fruit.
Taking three, I kiss her deeply in the mouth and we sit arm in arm as I finish the rest. "Thank you." I kiss her again and look into her eyes. I do not flinch; I feel no discomfort at the depth of this gaze, even though at this moment I do not even know her name. If I thought about it, I could remember how we came to be here, how we met and eventually planned this trip. But I feel no need, this moment--it's depth, it's detail and it's perfection--is all I need. Like I could count the strands of hair on her head, all the while noticing the interplay of colour--raven blackness mixed with deep caramel brown--and the glossiness and little imperfections in each. Spend the whole day tracing the folds and creases in her light summer dress as it drapes her softness. We lie arm in arm, sometimes gazing up at the sky, sometimes cuddling together face to face.
We get up and embrace, holding fast to one another, feeling the strength and warmth of each other's bodies.
She whispers in my ear. "Babe, I don't ever want to let go." From the corner of my eye I see the falcon dive down and I feel a twinge of fear, but quickly dismiss it.
I take her hand in mine and we walk down the gentle slope, crossing the mounds of granite. We follow a little trail through the trees listening to the birds. There is a crispness in the air as autumn creeps in. The hot August days have driven away all the bugs. We walk down and down as the trail steepens. I watch her step across the roots and rocks in her summer sandals but her strong legs handle it with ease.
Terry--bookish and effeminate. A grey, inoffensive man--that is my name. Terry for tough. A strong, volumptuous woman. It is also hers.
We are standing at the waters of a tiny lake set between the stony hills and crowded by the trees.
We sit on the stones and hold hands. Her eyes are blue like the sky and her brow is strangely light. Without self-consciousness, we remove our clothes and gingerly cross the rocks. The water is clear, despite the proximity of the forest. I wonder how I could deserve the intensity of this pleasure. And the thought burgeons into guilt--something unspeakable--is it hidden in the female flesh now stretched out before me? But the coolness of the water brings me back to the present and I gasp as it laps against my bare skin.
I watch as her arms cross rythmically back and forth just beneath the surface, her nipples inscribing small circles in response. She displays her breasts with complete trust, like a small child revelling in her nakedness. I allow my desire to wash over me, but there is no suffering--soon the fuel will be fanned into flame.
We swim the length and breadth of the tiny lake, taking in everything, at times allowing myself to be mesmerized by the gentle quaking of her ripe body, at others by the hypnotic intricacies of the moving water.
Once we leave the water, she ties her dress around her waist and begins to walk back to the meadow, with me close behind. We find a flat rock, cushioned by lichens and warmed by the sun. I stretch her out along this and explore her body head to toe until she comes in long, gasping sighs. Then we walk arm in arm out of the meadow, back through the forest and find our car, parked where we left it in a small field.
"Let's just keep driving and go," she says, straining against the wind noise and crunch of tire against gravel as the vehicle bounces along the rutted way. "Let's just go!" It sounds so cliche, and it is but it has such force in this moment. We'd driven back to the highway but not long after pushing deeper into the hills we passed another tiny road. She'd pointed, "There, that way!" and off we went.
"Let's go that way!" she cries again, this one no more than a track. "Faster!" though the suspension is already complaining, but we feel invincible. Several random turns like this later, the road seems to fade as we enter a clearing, but then a structure comes into view. I pull up beside it and ponder our next move. Have we just driven into someone's private residence? But before I can do or say anything, she jumps out of the car and runs out. I kill the engine and follow her.
"Look at this," she yells at me, for she has already explored the whole rickety thing. It is a simple wooden cabin--completely unoccupied and probably built for campers like us. "Come inside!" she says, her body silouheted by the open doorway. Crossing the threshold, I see an old woodstove, the centrepiece of the single room. Afternoon light streaming in through the paneless windows gives her face a ghostly shading. "Let's stay here tonight!"
I don't object, but make a note to check around the premises to make sure we are not trespassing or disturbing anyone. Stomping through the grounds, I find wood stacked for the stove, and an axe nearby but no signs of very recent activity. By the time I return, my girl has found herself an old chaise lounge, a cat reclining in bikini and shades. She appears extremely content.
As I sit down on the narrow front deck I feel a sudden sense of apprehension. Struggling through a wave of nausea, I choke, "How did you know about this place?"
She looks at me with concern. "Babe, I didn't know about this place at all! We just stumbled on it. I swear!"
I walk over and crouch down beside her. She sits up and kisses me. "And it's wonderful. It couldn't be more perfect!" There is no mistaking the joy on her face.
"Look, if you want to go, just take the car and leave," I say, throwing the keys on the table. She stares back at
me but says nothing, the pain etched deeply on her face.
"I'll expect you to be gone by the time I return." I walk out of the hotel room, my mind empty for the first time since we set out. Down the way there is a gas station where I purchase a pack of cigarettes and a chocolate bar.
Bootheels crunching on the gravel, my step is heavy. As I mount the first step to the door I feel the tension in my chest, my heart pounding heavily by the time my hand reaches the knob. The cheap handle is still unlocked--swinging the door inward, I see her still sitting where I left her. Only now there several articles lying on the beaten up wooden table.
"I rolled us a couple of joints," she states flatly. I pull up another straight-backed wooden chair. Without further comment, she places a blunt to her lips and lights it. Taking a deep draw and holding it, she passes it over. We continue like this in silence, pausing only to light the second one. It is strong stuff, more potent than any I've had in a long time and I know I'm in way over my head but continue anyway. Somewhere along through the second joint I feel something break inside me like the washing away of some megalithic dam.
For what feels like hours I just sit and stare. My thoughts slow. After a time I realize that I am staring at her. After some more time I realize that she is talking, revealing all the innermost workings and secrets of her brain. As knowledge gives rise to comprehension and comprehension to fascination I begin to inhale her words, long to feel as she feels. My own tawdry existence feels soiled and false in contrast to all her tiny, perfect triumphs and heartfelt, honest suffering.
With the new awareness of her soul comes a new awareness of her image. I notice the tiny exagerated curve of her lower lip, on a face so much more striking and expressive than my own regular features. The curve of her lips, the fullness of her hips (or is it the other way around?)--my need is overwhelming. Why had I not noticed before? Our lips meet and bodies touch and there is at once a great sense of need and completeness.
The bicycles rattle down the rutted track. At first I doubted these rusty old machines could carry us along these trails, let alone bear our weight, but Terry has proved me wrong. With her usual joie de vivre she grabbed one of them and for the last half hour we have been speeding through the woods. We ride hand in hand, the warmth of her hand, the scent of pine and
rush of the breeze tingling my senses. I am conscious of the green perfection of each needle on every tree, reaching to touch them with my other hand. When has life been so full?
After two hours of riding, we return spent to the cottage and collapse onto our air mattress. By the time I swim towards consciousness, the sun is low in the sky and she lies on top of me, arms wrapped around bare chest to bare chest, warmth of her breath mingling with my own.
We are driving along an isolated country road. The radio flickers in and out, sometimes we are humming or singing along sometimes just zoning out and watching the passing scenery or lost in our own thoughts. The setting sun swings around us, sometimes on our left, sometimes on our right and only rarely straight ahead, a brilliant pastel rendering.
"We'll have to stop for gas soon, hon." The needle is pointing directly at empty.
"We're in luck, it looks like there's a station up ahead."
About a kilometer-a-half away there is a crossing, the sign for the filling station peeking out behind the hills.
The smell of gasoline seeping into concrete and asphalt. I man the pumps while she walks off and smokes a cigarette. We are both drowsy.
She dumps a magazine, some popping candies onto the counter. I've got my wallet out.
"I'm out of cash," I say, pulling out my credit card.
"I'll get it babe."
The man at the counter takes the card and swipes it.
"No wait!" But it's too late. The receipt crackles through and he hands it for me to sign.
We walk outside. I look over to my companion. "Are you all right? You look like you've seen a ghost." She puts her arms around me and leans her head against my chest. We stand like this for a long time. I wish it was an eternity.
We are driving. The wind whistles in through the open window, toussling her hair and crinkling her dress. She rolls up the window and closes her eyes. With darkness has come a chill. It has also brought fog and my speed creeps down. I look over again and Terry is fast asleep.
There was a time when I lived on the street. Slept in whatever dive inn or flophouse that was cheap and would take me--when I had the cash.
"So you say you've got a plan?" I asked, trying to cover my amusement.
I looked over at the neighbouring tables. I had chosen a seat near the wall with a panorama. You never know when trouble might rear it's ugly face, if you'll pardon the cliche. There was no sign of the Angels tonight, just a couple of broken down Indians and some over-the-hill street-walkers.
Dill was trying to down his glass of cheap lager as fast as he could manage, but still found time to look over at John. "Yeah, I heard it from a couple of buddies that the security system is being updated. It'll be down for the whole day. We can take 'er easy. Set us up for all the
booze and chicks we'll ever need!" He chortles. It was not a pleasant sound.
"Well I'm game." I reply. This was a time when I would try anything. Dill nods. He wasn't much of a talker.
I'm not sure where I picked up these two guys, they are the sort of mates who just materialize. We continued drinking. I traced the uneven wood beneath my fingertips. I had been been a philosphy Master's student once. Best not to get too deep into it: anyone who's tried graduate school will know why I quit. For those who haven't, it probably isn't worth explaining.
Maybe everything in life is like that, but I began to see my advisors for what they really were: pretensious blowhards who's theories had little or no connection with reality, my department as a collosal waste of the
taxpayers' money. The only thing that philosophy will tell you is that life is meaningless and the more you
try to put words around it, the more meaningless it becomes.
Soon there would be plans to be drawn up, equipment to acquire and egos to be stoked, but for now, we just filled out the rest of the evening.
I walked into the bank, all swagger and false bravado, because thats all I knew. My companions were right behind me. I tried to mark all the clients and staff but John has already blown our cover. "All right everybody,
this is stick-up!"
I take over immediately. "Lets all just take this nice and slow." There was an elderly man in the corner by the slips. Dill and John had both drawn guns.
"Nobody try to be a fucking hero." There was an elderly woman. A young couple were standing by teller. A strong looking buck.
I turn my attention to the tellers, but the screens were already going down. So much for the security upgrade. The young man is walking intently toward us. There was a catch and he slipped, sprawling right beneath me. For a brief time he struggled, trying to regain his centre. I pulled a Glock from my pocket, acquired only two days prior, and placed it on his temple. He froze.
"I told you not to be a fucking hero, sport." I pulled the trigger. One. Two. Three times, then watched as the lifeblood drained through his mouth in a great, spreading stain of crimson.
We are fucked. My two accomplices were agape, looking at me in bewilderment. "OK, I say we take the girl. We can use her as hostage." I motioned her over. She hid her fear well.
"Fuck that," said John. "Look, you just killed a man. Now you're talking about adding kidnapping to the rap."
"Yeah, fuck that." Dill had become talkative. "I'm gettin' outta here. The cops are gonna be here any minute. You can keep the fucking gettaway car. Better to be about on foot." He turned tail and walked out, John at his heel.
"You won't try anything funny?" She nodded. I kept the gun by my side, trying to conceal it. I made her run to the parking garage, accessible through a series of walkways, but well away from the bank. I had planned
the getaway route through sideroads and back alleys and it was all I could do to keep it under control. I floored it every chance I got.
Somehow the cops didn't catch up to me. Hands still tight on the wheel, the gun in my right and driving a twisting country backroad, I asked for her name.
The fog is very thick and I'm having trouble seeing more than a few metres ahead. The wipers are on and we creep along at forty. A flicker of light in the corner of my eye and a police car materializes, passing me at high speed and cutting me off. There is a single blib of the
I hear a bullhorn, but I'm not sure what it's saying. I start to roll down the window. Several policemen have surrounded the vehicle with weapons drawn. A lone officer approaches, his face a mask of tension, arms braced behind a revolver.
"Get out of the car with your hands up!" he screams. Slowly I undo my belt, but do not move fast enough. He opens the door and hauls me out.
"Terry Townhouse, you are under arrest for armed robbery, kidnapping and first-degree murder."
I cannot make bail. The monotony of the open toileted, rock-hard bunked cell is interrupted by a minor commotion.
"This is quite improper..."
Flanked by two burly guards, with a solicitor and another guard in the background, my one-time lover stands before me.
"Please..." she intones. The guards remove to a respectful distance. She tries to force a smile. It would not matter. She is as radiant as ever.
"I don't really know how to say this," she begins. "Sometimes things just happen. Maybe it doesn't matter why but if they show us a new reality...
"I will always remember the times we had." She puts her hand through the bars, but I do not take it. It was the last we ever spoke.
Judgements are read, sentences passed out, an inexorable, clockwork machine. Sometimes I can force myself to look in Terry's direction. She looks down, never once making eye contact.
My walk on life's razor edge is now over, replaced by one of routine and conformity. But sometimes, when I stare out across the dusty gray of gravel and asphalt, over the razor wire, I think of blue skies and blueberries, crystal lakes and rolling Canadian shield,