I awoke to gun shots.
Shooting upright, my breath caught as pain exploded throughout my bruised body. Where was I? Who is getting shot at? What the flip was I doing in this curious little hovel? I stared down at the faded quilt covering my legs, my eyes tracing the hand-quilted stitches which ran headlong through patches of every possible color and design. If only I could trace the circumstances that led me to this ratty couch, hurting like I’d been run over.
I pushed the quilt aside and found my legs wrapped in white fabric. My thoughts were far from coherent, running on the main like: Whhaaaaat? Huh? Where?
A shadow fell across my legs and I screamed.
Seeing that crazy hippy’s smile brought it back, after I’d made her jump with my undignified shriek. It took a minute to register that she had some dead animals in one hand and a rifle in the other. She followed my gaze, smiled, and shrugged, saying, “I thought you might wake up today and be hungry”.
Did she say wake up today? As in, I’d been sleeping for more than a few hours? I asked her as much.
“Why, yes, dear one, you slept two days through. Your body was healing. Did you know you snore?” She winked. She laid the gun on the coffee table and sought out a knife from the kitchen.
With calm precision she split the animals, which I could now see were two squirrels, right open. I stopped watching the gruesome spectacle. I don’t even like buying whole chickens at the grocery store…too much visible animal-ness for my taste. Give me chicken nuggets or give me death.
“Why are my legs wrapped in this?” I croaked, clearly my voice hadn’t been used for a while.
“There are healing poultices on your wounds. The flannel keeps them covered and in place. I’ll remove them in a minute so you can move about”. And here she paused in her dissection and dipped a tin cup in a bucket and brought it to me to drink. Dare I mention that she left a squirrel blood streak on the rim? Dare I drink?
I found myself chugging it back and asking for more. I didn’t seem to have my normal mastery-over-all-circumstances that had garnered me such respect in my world. I had cut more than one Starbucks barista down to size for far less flagrant offenses against hygienic practice. I knew my rights.
She came then and unwound the long strips of cloth from my legs, clumps of herbs falling out as she did so. My borderline OCD tendencies were having an inner freak-out as the herbs plopped on to the quilt, the floor, and her lap. She didn’t seem to notice. Her eyes were on my scrapes and gashes and ever-darkening bruises.
I hadn’t even known my legs were this hashed up; I had thought only of my head. As I lifted my hand to check on that wound, I saw the same white material on my arms. I really must have been out of it after I fell.
All the wounds looked surprisingly good. How this was possible considering the less-than-pristine surroundings I was in eluded me. She proceeded to tend to my arms, more herbs dropping like mad. Apparently even my head was wrapped and I got a good shot of her hairy armpits while she un-mummified me. What a strange woman.
Herbs tumbled down my face and her smile widened.
“This is healing very well”, she said, pride evident as she viewed her handiwork. She handed me a small mirror to see for myself. I was astonished. The gash had been every bit three inches long with ragged edges. A candidate for stitches and a few rounds of cosmetic surgery for sure. But the wound was closed and only an angry red line remained.
“Take off your clothing and go bathe in the creek”, she ordered, “It will revitalize you and remove the herbs and oils.” She handed me a linen towel (does she only use linen???) and a chunk of strange soap. This was not the french triple milled lavender soap that I used at home. This looked like it’s ugly cousin.
I swung my feet to the floor and slowly stood, my body protesting every vertical inch. I shuffled out the door, down the uneven steps (with no handrail? The lawsuits that could be filed on this lady!). I hobbled over to the stream and stripped off my reeking $120 trail running shirt which it’s matching $139 wicking shorts. Why the prices were flitting through my brain I couldn’t tell. Off came the expensive bra and panties and the $20 sport socks. Stop it. I stepped into the cool water, naked as the day I was born and with unusual spontaneity, I laid back fully into the water and let the current ripple right down and over me. I felt like a flag in the wind, undulating at the mercy of the stream. I laughed.
My eyes went wide. Why had I laughed? I’m becoming as crazy as that hippy. My conscience stung; I hadn’t even asked her name, hadn’t even thanked her. I sat up and grabbed the monstrous, primitive-looking soap and worked up a surprisingly workable lather. My mind was clearing as the dirt, herbs, and dried blood washed downstream.
There I sat, naked and clean, and for the first time in many years, simply enjoyed the feel of the water hitting my back and caressing down my legs. Enjoyed the bird calls and the way the moss cradled water droplets like small mirrors. I’d always loved nature…as a medium to exploit…a trail to have under my feet, a peripheral beauty to the goal I was running down; fitness, health, success, success, success. I wondered if I’d ever loved it for it’s own sake.
I wondered why I was thinking like a pot-smoking tree-hugger and sitting with a numb derriere in a creek. Time to move. See what stillness gets you? Weirdness.
She turned from the bubbling soup pot to see me dripping and clutching the towel awkwardly around myself. Why did she always smile at me like she was reading my thoughts and laughing at them? Annoying.
“You look like you’re ready to get out of here”, she smirked.
She moved up a ladder made of branches to a loft bedroom. Why was I so distracted by her hairy armpits? Lady, there is such a thing as razors, and also electricity, and also sanity. She came down with a simple linen (for the love, lady!!!) dress for me. Basically a flared tube of linen with shoulder straps. How mortifying…I’ve never worn anything in my life that didn’t loudly proclaim my level of education, my pedigree, and my savvy sense of haute couture. Putting on such a thing would be the equivalent of selling my million-dollar apartment and moving into a yurt. I put it on anyways.
“The soap you washed with will wash your clothes too if you want to get them ready.”
The woman assumes that I’ve ever done laundry by hand. In a creek. With jurassic soap. Whatever. She handed me a board with grooves on it saying, “This will help get the dirt out”. Right.
I took my stinking heap of expensive threads to the creek, muttering under my breath about never ever trail running again ever. I had the clothes in one hand the soap in the other and the board beside me. How did I combine these in an effective way? I had no idea.
I worked a lather in my hands, grabbed the shirt and patted it daintily all over the fabric. Now what? Oh, the board. I laid the shirt over a rock and smacked it with the board. Surely that would loosen the dirt, right? Upon inspection I realized that I’d neatly punched pin holes right through my shirt from the rock behind it. Groan.
She came up just then in my fit of frustrated grief. She gently took the shirt from me, rubbed the soap right into the cloth and then scrubbed it up and down the ridged board and down into the flowing water and up again. I saw the dirt travel away downstream and turned and she was gone, off somewhere not shaving her armpits I guess. I took the shorts and did them her way. They actually got clean. I laughed.
I need to stop doing that.
to be continued….