We top a slight rise on the way back through the woods and there’s an old farmhouse standing there and I can tell by looking it is old and it is solid. You don’t see the sort of craftsmanship in house building as there once was and I think it’s a shame. Time was when a house was built the people who were going to live there did most of the work and their family helped, and there was always a neighbor around to pitch in because that was the way it had always been. Houses were made of wood from the local trees and planed at a local sawmill. There might be someone who did the plumbing and the electrical work was nearly always farmed out, but each time to a local.
The steps to the house are missing, so I know the house has been looted to a degree, and that too is sad. Some of the window panes are broken and there was never much of a yard here. Someone has planted pines trees around the house, but not too close, and we stop to take in the sight of the house, unexpected as it is. Neither one of us speak, because that’s what we were doing, without saying anything about it. Sometimes a man and a woman can just walk and hold hands, and not speak, and the world be perfect for that walk. Holding hands with a woman is a simple thing, but it’s how relationships begin, you know. Your first contact with someone that might work out is usually holding hands with them, and it’s something everyone does with whoever they are with. You can hold hands and do a lot more than just stay in contact with who you’re with. How tightly you hold her hand, how she squeezes back, it all means something that only you two know. If you can argue with a woman and still hold her hand that means a lot. I don’t mean argue and squeeze the hell out her hand to hurt her, I mean if you can have a heated argument and still stay in touch you know it means something. Holding hands with a woman doesn’t mean a whole lot until it means everything.
She wants to go in and I know her well enough to know this, so I go first, and I show off a bit by leaping up into the threshold from a cinderblock. She grins up at me and I pull her up easily. She isn’t a heavy woman at all, but she likes the idea of me lifting her up like that and she smiles at me. I pull her up close to me and she lets me kiss her but pulls away before the fire starts. She isn’t sure if this is a good place. She’s cautious about such things, but the blush lets me know she’s thinking about it, and the smile lets me know it’s okay if I think about it too. But she disengages from me, letting her hand slip away from mine, moving towards the old kitchen sink, and smiling up at me as if this sink brings back some memory.
“My mama had a sink like this, Mike” she whispers to me, and she turns the handle but nothing comes out at all. She lets me put my arms around her but she also pushes back against me in a way that let me know she wants to explore the house, and look around. She turns and gives me a look, as if to ask if she’s going to have to say it aloud, or not, and I mention the cabinets might have mice in them, so she better let me open them. She rolls her eyes and laughs because she isn’t afraid of such things the way some women might be, and before I can stop her she’s up on the counter and opening the cabinet doors. This isn’t a large woman at all, mind you, barely five feet tall and maybe ninety pounds soaking wet. I put a hand on her leg, to steady her and she knows this is why. She looks down and smiles, and I know that smile and I like it. She has the temper of a true redhead and I’ve learned that just because she’s allowed me to touch her before doesn’t mean it’s safe. When she’s angry she doesn’t want physical contact and it is a damn good way to start a fight to ignore this fact.
“Got a tin cup in here for your coffee!” She beams at me now, having found a treasure for me. She hands the dusty artifact to me and it is a blue and white speckled coffee cup, dusty yet undented. She jumps down so I can catch her and I do, somewhat. The walls in the kitchen are painted white, with a water stain where the roof leaks, but the rest of the house has tongue in groove pine paneling, from the floor to the ceilings. The ceilings are small versions of this craft, with boards running the length of the small rooms. There’s a living room, and two bedroom, one to each side of the living room, and there is another room, even small, as if it was a large pantry, but there are no shelves.
I love the way this woman smells. We’ve walked for three hours, maybe more, and she’s sweaty. It’s not hot out yet but the warmth is still with us. She smells like a woman ought to smell, full of body scents, hair that has been tied back and wind swept, and the smell of someone who has power, real power, in that body. A woman’s scent tell you a thing or two about her, if she likes to hide it, or if she thinks everyone ought to let go a bit, and smell like people really smell. She can read my mind sometimes, I think, and she cuts her eyes at me, seeing if I’m listening to her explanation of what she thinks the room might have been, or if I’m lost again.
“It be easier on you if I stopped coming around?” She asked suddenly.
“Yes.” I know better than to lie to this woman.
“You ever ask I’ll leave.” She drops her eyes just a bit, but looks back up at me hard, and I know now I have to live with my words to her. “I’m serious, Mike.”
“Stay” I say aloud.
“You could quit telling them ‘bout me.” And she begins to fade on me, and I hate it.
“Could I really?”
I woke up in darkness with Lucas sleeping beside me. I’ve shooed him off the bed now because it’s too warm, but I always wake up with him up here with me. It’s dark, totally, dark, but I remember where the house was in the dream, and I wonder if anyone remembers it.