I'd just spent the night in Williamsburg, and a fairly boring night it was. I fail to see how Williamsburg can support a college. There are no cheap pizza joints, no local clubs, not even a mini-mart within three miles of the campus, just a mile-long strip of harsh colonial buildings in viciously bright light. The style agitates me, makes me uneasy, but I can now see that colonial painting is far more realistic than I'd ever imagined. The costumed shopkeepers in their thick coats and voluminous dresses walk, clicking, along the streets, a living museum of colonial America occasionally sliced by evening joggers from the college in black lycra and sweats.
I left the tourist center behind and drove out of town along US60, stopping at one of the nameless pancake houses that line most highways in this country. The hostess was about my age and had a lovely round face with large, bottomless brown eyes that she directed right into mine. She handed me the menu and we joked, her deep voice a tickle to my ears. I was reminded of a woman I'd met in Michigan while walking along a trail. We had approached each other with the skew glances of two people meeting on a long, straight trail, alone in the woods. She was carrying an immense pack, her thick legs planting slowly in front of her. As we got within normal conversational range, she spoke -- a smile creeping up the left side of her face -- in a voice so thick and syrupy with sweaty southern drawl and open sexuality it sounded as if she were squirming in her seat: "How's it goin'?" Slow and lazy, like she could linger on the sensation of every little bead of sweat that ran down her belly to nestle in her pubic hair. I smiled and kept walking, legs getting sloppy, way too high to think of any appropriate response.
I sat, reading my morning paper and wondering if that cute waitress with the powerful eyes would come talk to me again. On cue, she stepped around the potted plant and stood in front of me. "I know this sounds strange," she said, "but I like the way you smell." The voltage between us jumped, sparks arcing the scant three feet. I stifled a laugh, thinking that for once in the last week I could claim to having showered that morning. She trailed on, a little flushed: "I mean, what do wash your clothes in..." "Well, actually, I haven't washed these clothes in quite some time," I explained. "I've been doing a lot of camping." I neglected to explain to her that what she was smelling was in fact just my old sweat, my body, my sexual hormones suffused into my clothes after a week of sleeping, lazing, and masturbating in the nest of my truck. Our conversation dispersed into a pleasant smile and another deep stare.
I spent the rest of the meal in a heightened state, wondering, palpitating, lingering over my crossword. Silly, efficient me placed the total and tip on the table, hoping to catch her as I stood. She was not positioned correctly and I walked a few steps towards the door. She said she'd take me up front in just a minute, then, noticing the correct amount on the table, said, "Oh, OK. Thank you." I should have gathered up my money, I should have made some excuse to get change, to spend a few pregnant moments over the totem of the cash register. I should have come right out and asked her when she got off work. But I am inexperienced and prone to retreat.
Our social contract evaporated, I walked dazed through the door. I pulled into traffic, rationalizing, rationalizing. It was a warm, surreal morning, the colors bright and solid. Steve Miller, my musical icon for such days, came on the radio and filled me with visions of green turf, fish-eye lenses, and thin, lazy women in tiny cut-offs. "I went from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, Philadelphia, Atlanta, LA. Northern California where the girls are warm so I can be with my sweet baby, yeah." Rationalize, rationalize. Whap, whap, whap.
No Simple Highway:
Last modified: Wed Feb 18 21:26:09 1998
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