The room was large enough to contain a man’s life, and with adequate space to move about comfortably, but no extra. A large, sturdy dining room table doubled as a desk. He leaned on it heavily, switched on the computer, and music absorbed the quiet. In one corner there was a kitchen area composed of a sink/faucet combination that served both culinary and hygienic needs by having a large mirror placed over it. “My friends and I broke into an old closed down hospital in Philly and I took it from the children’s psychiatric ward,” he boasted when she peered into it. She pictured pale children in uniform pajamas, and many beds arranged neatly in rows; then him running through a dark, dusty corridor, clutching stolen property. To the right of the sink, a pantry area consisted of a counter with neatly arranged jars and coffee tins, disclosing their unidentified contents only when pried open. A shelf above held spices, and cabinets below stored pots, pans, and dishware. In another corner a large armoire stored all the linen, clothing, and toiletries that a man who lived alone would need. A nearby wood stove provided heat. His bed was placed up against a large window, lying in it one had a view of his garden surrounded by an old moss covered stone wall and beyond that tree tops became mountainside became sky.
They had known each other for years, said hello on the street, before he asked her out. It had taken her by surprise because she had never considered him, never looked at him that way. He was sitting at the bar where she worked, focusing his attention on the cell phone in his hand. He looked up, his eyes rounded by the lens of his spectacles seemed bigger and were distinctly grey. He had a crooked boyish face with an asymmetric smile, his long skinny arms dangled from his shoulders and attached large hands that were waiting for the rest of him to grow up. “Would you like another beer?” He cleared his throat, “uh yeah, sure.” She walked away and he watched her. His eyes moved down her back, over her ass, and down her legs, and back up to her ass. He had plenty of time to watch her as she walked to the other end of the bar and helped a few other guests. Her smile, the way she threw her head back when she laughed, and the disapproving glare intended for the unwelcome advance from another patron. He sipped his beer and returned his attention to his phone. A few hours later, joined by friends, someone made a comment about “the lucky guy who gets to take her home.” Inspired and spurred by desire he leaned over the bar and quietly asked if he could take her to dinner sometime. “Dinner?” She was shocked, he was the ex-boyfriend of a friend of hers, off limits as far as she was concerned. His eyes pleaded, his friends were watching. He reminded her of a little boy in a sandbox holding out his shovel for a little girl to play with him. “As friends,” he coaxed. Well, there was no reason two people couldn’t share food and conversation as friends, so she agreed. They went to a Mexican restaurant and she instantly decided to try the crickets, even though she had never eaten insects, because she liked the way the waiter said they were “very crunchy!” When her plate arrived she looked with dismay at three soft tortilla shells, overflowing with tiny, red, fried bugs. Well I can’t back out now she thought, and took a big bite. Yes, they were very crunchy, and salty. She ordered a tequila flight, resolving to finish her meal as if it were a dare with herself. He spoke of his ex-girlfriend, describing some floozy in Brooklyn who had ditched him for another man, in her mind the little girl in the sand box pushed the little boy down and ran away with his shovel. “People can be cruel and selfish” she said but she wasn’t in the mood for pity sex so she changed the subject and they talked of their childhood lives growing up in rural America.
Now she sat across from him, in his one room cabin in the woods. The night fell rapidly on a Maine winter night and a velvety black darkness wrapped around the windows. The smell of dinner hung in the air, he was apologizing, admitting and regretting, things he didn’t need to say but he did to make himself feel better. He unnecessarily complicated things to create such a maze of confusion that the other person no longer cared to make sense of him or any of it. Sometimes she was that other person. “I like my solitude” was his favorite line. She took a long sip of her wine and looked out into the blackness. His eyes were so full of stories that she didn’t need to hear what he said, he never meant his words anyway.