A Public Event

The cabin was November cold. I had never been there before. John used to visit the cabin in summer. To him it represented family as much as to me the cottage built by my great great grandfather. We each had our summer place, our family place. Looking out the front window of the cabin, I felt the lack of the Michigan woods at the cottage and the lake beyond. A wooded creek wandered nearby. The wooded knoll of the cabin gave way to Tennessee farmlands. Perhaps the cottage at Thanksgiving would seem as uninviting to someone who had not known it when pink and white petunias filled the flower box and swimsuits dripped from the clothesline. I wanted to like this place, because of what it meant to John, but it seemed heavy and cramped, overpowered by the massive stones of the fireplace. The bareness reminded me of a pioneer home. But I wanted to like this place, and I wanted him to like me. We were engaged I felt his strangeness, and yet I felt closer to him than to anyone else. Someday we would marry and then we would be free to explore each other fully, I thought. Now there were limits, limits on sharing, limits on touching. John went from room to room in the cabin, as one might inspect a purse that had been lost and then found, to make sure the contents were all there. Water stood in the kitchen sink. The mess of toilet paper in the bathroom made me wonder whether some hobo had stayed over. I began to watch over my shoulder, afraid someone else might be there, maybe even an Indian with a feather headdress and a tomahawk. Here John and I were alone. His embrace, when it finally came, was not enough to warm me. Later, at his aunt's house, she asked me how it had been at the cabin. Cold, I answered, and she laughed. In answer to that question, John had said, “Have to do your courting sometime.”

by Gretchen, 16 April 1987