To the woman who appeared next to me at my chicken tractor Thursday morning, I am so profoundly sorry. I cannot believe I did what I did. I know it’s too late, but I feel like I need to explain what happened and why I acted the way I did.
First, it was 5:30 AM, which is my usual time for morning chores. But that morning I’d overslept. That isn’t why I was still dressed in my pajamas; I always wear pajamas when doing my chores. Being dressed in sleepwear helps me maintain the delusion that I’m really not up yet. No, oversleeping means I hadn’t yet had my first cup of tea for the day. That’s never a good thing.
Even worse, Thursday morning was warmer than Wednesday morning had been. It was cool enough Wednesday morning that I’d put on my robe for Wednesday morning chores. I waffled over wearing it on Thursday, ultimately deciding to leave it in the house. I like to think that had I been wearing it, what occurred would have taken a very different course.
Those notes aside, I’m assuming you were drawn to me because you heard me talking. You couldn’t have known that I was talking to my ducks and meat chickens. It’s the same conversation every day, me berating the ducks for having not yet given me the four eggs I demand from them before they’re allowed out of their coop for the day. While I was doing that, I was bent over, filling the water trough for the meat birds in their mobile coop. Between that conversation and me being bent over I didn’t notice you as you approached. I did, however, catch the sound of your voice as you spoke to me, however I didn’t hear what you said because I, now being elderly, am beginning to go deaf.
My partial deafness is why when I straightened I turned toward the house and not you. I mean, in my mind there was nowhere else that a human voice could have been coming from at that hour of the morning. Needless to say, there was no one calling to me from the house, male or female. I did notice that the dogs had left the porch and were racing in my direction.
That’s when you spoke again. I have no recall of what you said to me because your words coming from directly behind me startled me so badly that I jumped and cried out before I turned to face you. And then I saw you. All of you. The moment I realized you were wearing nothing but tattoos, every rational atom of my brain evaporated.
This is something I didn’t think possible. I’m a post-panicker, the sort of person who falls apart after the crisis is over. As an example, not long ago a workman at the house had an accident with his knife and cut the artery near his wrist. Despite that blood was spurting from the wound, I calmly snapped one of those thick rubber bands that they use for broccoli around his arm and drove him to the fire station without breaking a sweat.
But you! Honestly, you might has well have been an alien stepping out of the door of your UFO.
Not that I had any time to think about your state of dress. By then the dogs had reached you. As I’m sure you will never forget, they were thrilled to discover that they had access to portions of the human anatomy they generally never get to push their noses into. I recall those few moments as a flurry of motion and snarled commands on my part as I struggled to drive them away from you. When they finally relented and backed off, I stood facing you, only to discover that I was completely discombobulated.
My mouth opened but nothing came out. At last, I stuttered, “Are you trying to get to the road?”
Seriously?! As if naked women frequently cross my property on their way to the road!
I believe I asked you this because it’s the question I ask most of strangers who wander up from the creek and onto the farm. This is because 1) our fence has a number of gates in it and looks accessible and 2) because of that, a lot of frustrated kayakers pass through our gates to get up to the road, where someone picks them up, saving them from dragging their kayaks any farther along the creek bed.
I don’t recall your answer because, frankly, my head was still spinning, so I spewed, “Why are you here?”
“I, um,” you said, slightly uncrossing your arms so you could aim a finger across the creek, “I um, um, am staying there.”
As my gaze followed your aimed finger, my spinning thoughts begin to steady, just a little. Something coherent leapt to the fore. I knew what you were talking about!
“Oh, you’re staying with Puma,” I more asked than said. I had to use the first name of the owner of the spa/healing retreat that is sort of directly across the creek from the farm because for the life of me in that moment I couldn’t remember the name of their retreat.
“Yes,” you nodded. “That’s where I’m staying.”
“And you want to get back there?” I asked.
Well, duh. But I was beginning to feel the ground beneath my feet again.
“Yes, I need to get back,” you replied.
“That’s easy,” I told you and turned toward the exterior fence to point at the creek. “There’s an easy place to cross the creek right there. Once you’re across, keeping walking straight and you walk right into it.”
“Okay,” you replied, then followed me to the small gate that leads down to the creekside pasture.
“But wait!” I said as I opened the gate. “You don’t have any shoes on.” Or anything else, but our conversation had gone beyond that fact at this point. “There are a lot of burrs down there.”
“Oh, I’m okay with that,” you told me as you went through the gate and started down toward the creek.
Still flabbergasted, I closed the gate and returned to my morning chores. It wasn’t until two hours later that my thoughts finally settled enough that I realized what I’d done. I want you to know that I was truly aghast with myself. What was wrong with me? Why hadn’t I taken you up to the house, put my robe on you, given you a cup of tea, then driven you back to the spa? What kind of a person sends a naked woman on a hike over rough, burr-sprinkled terrain?
If you happen to read this, please know that I’m mortified by my behavior. I’m so very, very sorry. Really, I’m usually better than that.