[This story is an experience in my life, written in the third person.]
It had been an hour drive out to the barrens. The one car was left at their destination to take back to the other car left at the beginning of the rowing trip. As they prepared, she noticed how her employer’s husband regarded her frequently with a smile on his face. He stood six foot tall, was very muscular, very strong, a military officer. Despite his frequent regard and joking with her, her boss did not seem the least bit aware of or concerned about her husband’s activities.
She was the wife of a graduate student who was so out of it that he was reading a city planning publication as they started to set the canoes in water. It seemed a wonder that he had even come along. He did not intend to row and she took an oar and the canoe was shoved into the rivulet.
She sat behind the officer. It just worked out that way. He continued to talk to her about this and that as he rowed, his mighty arm muscles in his dark, sleeveless t-shirt gripping and flexing with each stroke. Occasionally he looked back at her over his shoulder. His face was handsome and very rugged. There was something about him which was very appealing, so much a contrast from the husband who sat behind her reading the publication, who seemed like dead weight. She wondered if he would be invited the next time if they were going canoeing and she were invited along.
As she rowed, she began to think more about the man in front of her, his witty remarks about politics, his deft stroking, his sly regard over his left shoulder. His wife was in the second canoe. She wondered how they could be a married couple. They seemed so diametrically opposed. It was true that her boss was reticent but she was very friendly. It had been her idea to invite the young couple on the rowing trip. However, she kept wondering what in the world was this handsome, dynamic man doing with the pleasant but boring hausfrau and librarian at the University.
She had had her times of complete desperation with her husband, still reading his magazine behind her. Whereas he had started out such an artist and intellectual, he had now turned into a computerized bookworm. Most every night was spent after the exquisite suppers she produced to please him, in the computer lab, straggling packets of perforated sheets along with him wherever he might go. His days, not spent in classes, were spent at his lonely desk at home, with a light on and several piles of books.
Whereas he had been dashing, stimulating, he was now merely tolerable as he changed from being an architect to a city planner. She could not compete with the stack of books and those strange packets of perforated sheets that he hugged to himself like a religious noviciate hugged the Bible. There didn’t seem to be any room any longer in his world for her. She was left on the sidelines, neglected and abandonned.
Yet the man in front of her wasn’t abandoning her, as he looked once again over his shoulder at her and this time winked. What was she doing, she wondered, to bring such a response from the man? She was only being herself. She wasn’t coming onto him. However there he was talking away at her, telling jokes and looking back to see their impression. She must have blushed. She blushed easily with her fair coloring. Then she must have blushed more, being aware that she might have been blushing.
She thought of her husband coiled up with his magazine and she told herself, “Enough!’ Determined, she took her oar and forced it into and through the water, following his lead. She wondered what it might be like to have such an ideal man as her husband. What would it be like to wake up each morning with him in bed with her? She would not get out of bed, she was sure, and the evening would simply continue itself into morning.
His strong arms stroking the water, his strong arms stroking her body. Each movement through the water would be each movement through her. She grimaced. Would she be enough to keep up with him?
She followed and met his movements. She felt a warm vigour in her body. The backward thrust. Her backward thrust. Then he looked over his shoulder with a look that told her he realized.
By Karan Henley Haugh, Ph. D.