Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.
Day Two Hundred Sixty
She kept seeing him. Every time was like the first. His eyes were wide, with an open seeking look, like an antelope searching the plains for some predator approaching. There was something almost feminine about them, a contrast to the rest of his face, which featured hard lines and angularity. She could not look away.
He was alone when she first came across him, sitting on the shores of the Glover’s Lake. He had just returned from a swim and his pants and shirt still clung in places to his damp skin. She was having lunch with her cousins from those parts in the Quarter. The whole community came out there on summer Sundays after church, swimming and picnicking.
No one she asked knew his name, though they all seemed familiar with him. Hardly a surprise, he was there at the lake every Sunday. Some said he had taken over the homestead at the Gilbert’s place, others that he was some cousin of the Dradfort’s who had come out to look after their place in the hills following their misfortune. He talked little of himself when he was there, they all agreed, remaining aloof, offering little in the way of talk and only when pressed. They mostly left him to himself, which he seemed to prefer.
Every Sunday that summer she went to the Glover’s Lake with her cousins and every Sunday he was there seated upon the grass, looking, not at the lake, but out at the surrounding sweep of the prairies. Always his eyes found hers, as if she was the only thing that could draw his gaze away from the horizon. She finally summoned the courage to speak with him by one of the shacks by the lake’s edge where folks changed their clothes. What exactly they said to each other she has long forgotten. Even in the moment she knew it was unimportant, a few hasty words of introduction, things that had to be said to get them to what really mattered.
They walked together to the far side of the lake, which was thick with trees, hidden from all the others. There they held each other while the shadows grew long and the sun found its way through the leaves to their faces. She imagined running with him across the vast plains of the Quarter, across fields and pastures and all of it. They were not people in this imagining, but something else. Antelope galloping, dust stirring with the electric drumbeat of their hooves.
She returned home in the fall and it was not until school was out at the end of May of the next year that she was able to return to the Quarter. Waiting until Sunday when they would go to the Glover’s Lake for the picnic was a sweet kind of agony, imagining him sitting there, still and watchful, those wide eyes finding their way to hers.
Sunday came and there was no sign of him along the lake shore. He was not splashing in the waters or getting changed in the shacks, not sitting alone or with any of the other families gathered there. When she asked no one seemed to remember him and people looked at her uneasily as she insisted he had been there and she had spoken with him. She waited all through the summer, and the ones that followed, hoping that he would somehow find his way back to that part of the Quarter, but he never did. As she grew older she stopped going there during summers and eventually forgot the ways, life pulling her in other directions.
She never forgot him though, even as part of her wondered if she had imagined him entirely. When she closed her eyes she could still see him sitting there and eventually his eyes would find hers. And she told herself that someday, when life allowed, she would return to the Quarter and find him.