…I am ten years old, on the island in July. One night, I sneak out to meet my neighboring friends, each of us clutching a pillow and blanket. We cut through the woods, clamber into the loft of a neighboring barn, and bunk down, giggling, in the hay. Above, in the rafters, sleepy swallows stir.
…I am eighteen. I perch in the dark with my fellow summer stock actors under ancient, rustling beech trees on the steps leading down from the dressing rooms behind the theatre. We smell of greasepaint and sweaty costumes that have been ripped at the seams and resewn again and again for each new cast of ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ or ‘Carousel’, ‘Ruddigore’ or ‘The Merry Widow’. We wait for the stage manager to give us a cue. Stub out a cigarette. Leave off that hopeless flirtation with the fabulously handsome gay tenor. Mirror check. Take places in the wings. All summer we create and dissolve a stardust world, rehearsing next week’s show during the day and performing the current production for audiences at night. The beech trees continue to watch, as they have for a century or more, warm nights’ pleasures and folly.
Tonight. I lie in bed. It is after midnight. A northwest wind stirs the front maple tree. Though it is August, the wind brings autumnal excitement. I remember going to school in new clothes, the air so crisp I wear a sweater. Drowsy beach-filled, boat-filled, ballet-filled, theatre-filled summer days with dogs barking in the surf and sandy towels and toes are banished by socks and boots, corridors crammed with schoolmates, lockers slamming, book covers made from brown paper bags, and sitting on the yellow school bus holding hands with the minister’s son in the first flower of love. Bustle and purpose eclipse serendipitous magic in an uptempo, upsy-downsy river of doing.
Tonight there is an odd shift in me. The memories fade to thin snapshots. Dusty, bygone. They perch on a glittery cement island and I am moving away. From the stern of a boat I didn’t know I was on, I see them diminish. Now they blink on the horizon. Now they are gone.
Night laps around me, rustles around me. The wind stirs my heart, pricks a tiny seed there. I bump into the shore. A new land. Or is old? I pass into the forest. Primordiality spreads velvet around me, not timeless but easefully timed. What is this? The wind waters a sensation.
The full moon rose slowly, slowly behind an inky maple in the glen. A scent of loam crept. Her skin molted into shadow, sprouting languid vines and night blooming flowers, gleaming with sparks of moonlight, sliding loose from her flesh to fold and sigh like a satin cloak. Her hair hackled around her head. The tips touched the edge of the wood, invisible to her day eyes. She ran her feelers along luscious black blades of grass that bowed and sprang up as the wolf stepped with its bending paws oh so quietly.
They meet. Her hair touches the wolf’s fur. The wolf is a bit hungry, as he always is at this time of night, but not so hungry he can’t stop and pass a moment in the tranquil damp dark. He smelled her long before he entered the wood. He might have passed by unnoticed, as he usually does, had she not been waiting tonight in the moon bath. He keeps track of her. She knows this. But what can she do if he doesn’t care to be seen? A faint breeze ruffles his fur, her hair, and a frisson passes into each. The far edge of a kiss too light to press or feel warmth or mean anything, as if they have been brushed accidentally against one another, are surprised, but do not instantly pull away.
Something is coming. Sweet, shocking, subtle. It feels like—though I don’t quite know as yet—that I’ve slid into an inner meaning of incarnation, kept secret from me until, who knows why, tonight.
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