We walk on the narrow dusty trail along the river. It’s still plenty hot, even though it’s nearly October, hottest summer on record. The occasional poplar is going yellow, but mostly the forest is green. And dry. Davy walks ahead, swinging his machete at the vines and brush blocking the way. He sharpened it with a file before we left. I’m dragging a black plastic trash bag and a pointy stick. I think he needs one of those grabbers like my grandmother had for picking things up from her wheelchair, but I don’t say anything. There isn’t much trash, anyway.
I watch Davy walk, admiring the breadth of his shoulders and his narrow waist as he makes his way through the high forest. He’s handsome I’ll give him that. The river is mucky-looking and seems to be still. It’s covered with leaves in places and I wonder why the water is so high and not moving, something to do with the dam, maybe. Davy stops suddenly and raises that big dark knife. I jerk to a stop and then have to back up, flinching as he whacks savagely at a patch of goldenrod. I wasn’t that close, really, but still. I know that thing is sharp enough to take your arm off.
Davy catches my movement and stops whacking.
“You scared I’m gone hit ya?” He half turns to me, no expression on his face. His voice is oddly flat, as if he is speaking a foreign language and doesn’t understand what he’s saying.
“No,” I say, and I mean it, sort of. I mean, I’m not worried about him hitting me on purpose. I’m just worried about accidents. I worry a lot. I know it’s stupid, but I can’t help it. My ex used to give me a hard time about it. Made him crazy. He would say, “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it’s due,” or some bullshit. Made me crazy right back. Thank goodness I got rid of him. So I’m not worried about Davy, in spite of the fact that we’ve only known each other for a month.
Davy keeps hacking at the brush and I keep my distance and look for trash. Back at the parking lot, there were some really scary looking grocery sacks squirming inside with maggots. We got a whiff long before we saw them. The smell was terrible, but not unbearable, maybe because it was contained in the bags. I stood there, looking at them, wondering if I was expected to get them out of there and marveling over all those maggots. Each bag was so full of writhing maggots you couldn’t even see what was in them. It looked as if they might get up and crawl away if they could, bags and all.
Davy came over and leaned an elbow on my shoulder.
“What would you do if you suspected there might be human remains in there?” He asked me, not moving. That time his voice sounded more normal, just sort of conversational.
I knew that bodies were frequently found in this river, particularly in this poor black neighborhood. In fact, last week Davy told me he had to go the long way around to get home because of a police roadblock. They told him about finding another body. The paper said natural causes. Yeah, right.
Since there seemed to be no answer to his question, other than the obvious one, I didn’t answer. We just watched the wiggly bugs and breathed through our mouths.
Finally, Davy said, “Leave it. It’s not worth it,” and we went on down the trail.
We didn’t talk as we walked, because of the distance. Davy wasn’t much for talking anyway. I was real nervous about dating again so soon after the divorce, but my friend Rhonda encouraged me. Davy found me online. I didn’t really see it going anywhere, but it was nice to have something to do on the weekends. Sitting home alone was pretty depressing. I’m not much for the out-of-doors, but I did my best to enjoy it. At least the bugs were not too bad, just a few pesky gnats. I can’t stand those biting things, deerflies and mosquitoes.
The trail was mostly clear, so we were walking along at a good pace when Davy stopped and in slow motion turned and raised the machete over his head. His eyes were unfocused, his expression blank. He touched my neck with it and I felt a prick. I put my hand to the place and felt it wet. The smell hit my stomach and I stumbled back. It was quick I’ll give him that. The forest began to spin, green and yellow sun, dark trunks, the river swirly brown. The light began to fade at the edges of my vision and the only clear thought I had was “tunnel vision.” So this is what that means.
The strange thing is that just as my vision went completely dark, it began to clear. My eyes were wide open and I saw everything at once. I saw the sheen of a leaf, a tiny ant making its way somewhere and the amazing color of the sunlight. I heard Davy’s feet on the leaf litter, stepping around me. He hacked at my body like it was a weed blocking the path. It didn’t hurt, which was odd, but I was just part of the forest then, like the trees growing roots in the cool ground. I felt proud to be giving them my blood and body. I would live here now, planted by the river. I thought about how my molecules would wash down to the river, to the lake, to the sea. It was a pleasant thought. I loved the beach. Now I could be there all the time and here too. I saw through Davy’s eyes and felt his satisfaction along with the mindless business of fish. It’s true, I thought, we are all just one.