“Eric?” I asked in little more than a whisper.
And seeing the familiarity in his eyes, I asked in a slightly louder – more confidant – voice, clarifying, “Your name is Eric?”
It had to be. Eric wasn’t a name I’d said to him for him to mimic back to me and I supposed he looked like an Eric.
And an Adonis.
And a Thor.
But while I was busy marveling over his marvelous physique, instead of looking happy he’d remembered his name, he seemed unsure. Not quite afraid, but something close to it, so I didn’t push him for anything more and gestured to the net, saying with a small smile, “Okay, Eric. How about I catch us some lunch?”
I decided then and there that I would just talk nonstop, describing every little thing I was doing, so he would get used to hearing the words. It was how I’d learned the little bit of Spanish I knew. By listening to other people speaking it and picking up whatever cues I could see by watching their movements.
Wading out into the water until I was ankle deep, I held the net up at about waist level and just waited for the delicious little buggers to scurry by, with my eyes trained downward.
It was how I saw the shadow of Jesus appear beside mine.
And given where we were standing, I supposed it only made sense that the shadow of his water diviner was poking out.
‘Water, water everywhere. Nor any drop to drink…’
The quote I remembered from my freshman English class was fitting in more ways than one, considering I too was starting to feel like an Ancient Mariner.
Like God, he seemed to be everywhere too. And since talking to him – like talking to Him – got me the same amount of conversation in return, I ignored the way his beacon was honing in on the undrinkable water sloshing around our ankles and only said, “I’m fishing for crabs.”
If I was hard-pressed to catch any, I could always use the little bit of the fish jerky I had left to use as bait, but I didn’t want to waste it if I didn’t have to.
He, however, seemed hard-pressed in his own way.
I could tell by the way he moved to stand behind me, with his hands falling to my hips, and his divining rod pressing hard against my lower back.
So I guessed the Pacific Ocean wasn’t the wet hole he’d been tuned into.
Wiggling my hips had the opposite effect of what I’d been going for.
Which was for him to get off of me.
Not – get off on me.
While our earlier Hump Day festivities had been nice in its own frustrating way, I wasn’t looking for a repeat so soon.
But if he happened to find my missing orgasm and gave it to me, I was sure a nice crab lunch would suffice as his reward.
That could be because the hunger in my belly was stronger than the hunger in my girly bits, so I used a free hand to remove each of his, asking, “Where are your shorts?”
God knows my willpower to resist him was shortening by the second.
I could use all of the cotton/polyester blended help I could get.
So I didn’t know if he was a quick study in the English language or just in universal denial when his hands went right back to my hips and pulled me against him, just as he said, “No.”
I was dealing with the terrible twos.
Post-Apocalyptic Island Edition.
A part of my brain told me I should probably be at least a little bit afraid. He was stronger than me – and towered over me by nearly a foot – but for whatever reason, I wasn’t scared.
But I was crazy after all…
But there was another part of me that was louder, telling me he wouldn’t hurt me.
At least not by forcing himself on me.
But I knew when – if…I meant if – our lessons on the birds and the bees led to recess, with him sliding into my playground, that was going to hurt.
Hopefully, not for long.
But he was pretty long, so who knew.
For now though, we were in the cafeteria, not on the playground, so I shoved his hands away again and turned to face him, saying, “That’s right, Eric. No. We need to eat.”
Om nom nomming on each other was tempting, but I’d already learned it wouldn’t guarantee satisfaction.
Not for both of us anyway.
A pot full of crabs, however, was a sure thing.
Seeing the look on his face – a mixture of confusion and something else – I ignored the way my body reacted to seeing him in all of his aroused glory and pointed to the water beneath us saying, “Crabs. I’m catching us lunch.”
Playing charades to mimic the act of eating, his look said it all.
That I was crazy.
So he was a quick study after all.
But I ignored him and his pointy parts, taking a step away from him and went back to looking down into the water.
Like my lunch order, I was starting to feel crabby.
But God must have been eavesdropping on my mental conversation – and I made a mental note to apologize to Him later on for anything else He might have overheard – because He decided to throw me a bone that wouldn’t leaving me hanging in the form of delicious clawed creatures scurrying by.
A lot of them.
Inching my way forward, I dipped the net into the water and scooped up more than a dozen in one go. The bucket was sitting too far away up on the beach for me to dump them out and not wanting to pass up the opportunity in front of me, I shook the net to make as many as I could fall deeper into the pocket before forcing the net through the water again.
When I pulled it up again, my stomach cheered at how heavy the net was and I turned to face Eric with a grin saying, “Lunch!”
And maybe even the next day’s breakfast.
He stared back at me, not nearly as excited as I was, but I didn’t let Mr. Crabby-No-Pants get me down.
Although – thankfully – with no pants on, I could tell another part of him had gone down.
Walking up onto the beach, I shook the crabs into the bucket one by one and then carried it further up the beach to leave it in the shade of the trees.
Now that his name was no longer Jesus, Eric walked through the water – rather than on top of it – following along behind me. And knowing he needed to hear me talk if he was going to have any chance of picking up the habit again, I said my plans out loud.
“I needed to build a fire and grab a pot big enough to cook them in, so we can eat.”
I couldn’t know for sure if he would want to eat whatever I cooked, but it seemed rude to not offer.
His eyes went from me to down in the bucket, so I carefully picked one up in between my thumb and fingers, showing it to him while saying, “Crab.”
I repeated the word several times, slowly enunciating the single syllable word, and his eyes focused on my lips, but he made no attempt to repeat it.
Instead he reached out and took the crab from me, holding it at its sides and breaking it in two, before putting one half up to his lips and eating whatever he could.
And then holding out the other half towards me.
He wasn’t always selfish.
But I wasn’t about to eat it – even if he was being sweet in his own way – nor could I stop myself from saying, “Eww…”
And then feeling the ghost of Gran’s hand cuffing the back of my head, I quickly added with a small smile, “No thank you.”
I didn’t care if it made sense that he ate it raw – he wouldn’t have known how to start a fire, much less cook whatever he’d been surviving on – but I was still grossed out.
And the sight of it helped to temporarily douse whatever had been left of my appetite.
Both of them.
But hoping one of them would return once I got the rest of the crabs cooked, I walked away from him back towards the boat.
Gathering what I needed, I made my way back to the beach and set everything down, using a small shovel to start digging as I said, “We need to dig a fire pit and then look for some dry wood further inland. Driftwood looks pretty when it burns because of the saltwater, but daddy said it’s toxic, so we can’t use it to cook with.”
Glancing over at him, still standing by the bucket of crabs, he seemed to be paying attention to me.
I just didn’t know if it was my ass sticking out, since I was bent over and on my knees, or my words that he was focusing on.
But my appetite had returned – the one in my belly, not the one a little further down – so I went back to work with the shovel and kept rambling with, “At least we can cook them with saltwater. And if we catch any fish later on, we can wrap them in banana leaves and steam them. I know you’re probably used to sushi, but I just can’t do it.”
I had no way of knowing how well my impromptu Julia Child cooking show was doing with my viewing audience, but as soon as I had a suitable area dug out, I stood up and walked by him, gesturing with my hand while saying, “Come on. We need wood and you’re gonna help me carry it.”
But remembering the other kind of wood he was prone to carrying, I stopped on a dime to go back for his shorts before he ended up with a splinter in places I was sure he would want no part of.
Only to get nailed with another kind of splinter in a place I wanted no part of him lodging himself into.
That was – and would remain – an outbound lane only.
“You have a one track mind,” I chuckled, with a small shake of my head, as I turned around to face him.
And I had a very good idea what track he wanted to race his Hot Wheels on.
You could say a tunnel – of sorts – was involved.
But he hadn’t always been so…
Horn-dogging for a trip down my highway to hell?
And seeing the look on his face, I said my next thoughts aloud by snickering out, “You know, back when you were the savior formerly known as Jesus H. Christ, your cross hadn’t been so burdensome to bear.”
A lesser man could throw his back out from carrying the weight of it.
So I could only guess it was having a taste of the two apples on my chest and a romp through my garden’s gates that was causing his compass to try and find his way back.
“We need to get some wood,” I reminded him, when he just stared at me. Then taking a step back, so I wouldn’t be unnecessarily adding to his crucifixion, I pointed down, while keeping my eyes up – he was formerly known as Jesus H. Christ after all – I added, “And I don’t mean that kind of wood.”
As much as his body’s braille was trying to tell me something, I didn’t want to read into the look in his eyes when he finally said, “Sookie?”
It sounded like a question.
I just wasn’t sure what he was asking for – other than another bite of my apples – so I acted like he did most of the time – clueless – and asked, “Eric?”
From the looks of it, I really stumped him with that one.
So after a moment, when he didn’t say anything else, I just smiled at him and reached out to pat him on his chest, about to remind him we needed to cover up his stump with the shorts he’d left behind, when he did some reaching out himself.
Putting his hands on my hips, he pulled my body flush against his own and repeated, “Sookie.”
My tone had been questioning.
Probably wondering where my sanity had gone to.
It had fled like rats from a sinking ship the moment I was pressed against him again.
But looking up at him, I soon realized something must have been lost in translation because while I’d been down in the gutter, he appeared to be lost in a different kind of way.
One that I didn’t think had anything to do with where we were standing or the direction of his compass.
Or my broken moral one.
It looked more like he was lost, maybe because he was no longer alone?
It hadn’t really dawned on me how different his world became until I crashed into it. I’d been around other people for the majority of my life, whereas he’d spent the majority of his all alone.
So while I knew what it was like to be all alone, I had no way of really understanding what it must have been like for him.
But I was sure it was horrible.
And while I had a pretty good idea of how that felt, I suspected he’d had a much rougher time than me.
But he wasn’t alone anymore. And neither was I.
We had each other now.
Considering the world we lived in, that right there was a miracle all on its own.
So instead of pushing him away, I put my arms around him and hugged him to me, saying, “We’ll figure it out.”
God only knows how confused all of my babbling had been making him. I had no way of knowing if he’d understood any of it or if to him I sounded more like Charlie Brown’s teacher.
Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah…
If it would’ve done me any good, I would’ve set up a makeshift booth, with a sign proclaiming the doctor was in, offering psychiatric help for 5 cents.
Then again, he’d have to wait in line behind me, while I tried to solve my own psychosis.
But between the two of us we didn’t have two nickels to rub together anyway, so we would just have to make do and I knew from experience hugs were one way to feel better.
Which was soon proven by the tears I felt pooling in my eyes when he returned my hug.
It had been a long time since I’d gotten one.
And I felt more tears form knowing it had been even longer for him.
But when I lost the battle of keeping the tears contained and they leaked out of my eyes onto his chest, Eric pulled away and studied my face, with a look of horror dawning on his.
Wiping them away from my cheeks with his hands, as fast as they could form, he looked alarmed and said, “No!”
“No?” I questioned with a smile and couldn’t resist taunting him with, “You pulled away from me, so you could tell me, no?”
If the pope wasn’t more than likely dead, he could proclaim it a miracle.
I wondered if it was close to Christmas.
Either way I decided the path we were standing in would be named 34th Street to commemorate the day.
“No,” he nodded, looking more at ease now that I was smiling at him. And my smile only grew when he cautiously sounded out, “Wood?”
So he had been paying attention…
To something other than my ass.
“Yes,” I agreed with a small nod and a wider smile.
Today was definitely a day of miracles.
Big and small.