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The man who would sleep with his angel
Short story

August 6, 2001
The Iranian

He only had a glimpse of her in the mirror of his car as she crossed the road in the rain and disappeared almost instantaneously beyond the opaque crystal sheet of water that coated his car's windshield; the red clay road was soaked with the rain, and the water ran down the hill, exposing stones of different sizes as the current washed the mud to the river below. He had driven over the stones, the cushion of air in the tires barely holding the car precariously in balance.

He was surprised to find anyone walking in that rain without an umbrella, but the woman had wrapped herself inside one of those bright-yellow plastic rain-coats that after a long period of use turn to many shades of brown and greenish-yellow, proving the wearer unafraid of rain water or, old age. But she did not appear old in that rare glimpse of that beautiful woman. She was slim and short, very short, as a matter of fact, almost the size of a tall, little girl, but she was definitely a woman, robust, with determined stride and purposeful body movements.

He drove a few yards, straining to locate the woman from behind the car, from behind the sheet of water that was pouring from the sky-now, beyond a blessing. Far away, unbearably far away, he could almost make out the outline of her body -- it was the yellow rain-coat that shimmered even in the rain, giving away the location of the woman's walk; otherwise, he would have missed her from behind the two major barriers: the rain and his confused mind. What puzzled him was that she had already put a respectable distance between herself and the car, an impossible task even for a man with longer stride and more determined purpose in life. Of course, she could have been just a mirage; that kind of mountain rain can easily distort the vision!

The car glided over the stones and ruts as he leaned on the gas pedal and lurched forward down the hill towards the river, now roaring with the mountainous waves of water and run-away boulders the size of a big room. "Hell!" he muttered, momentarily afraid to lose control and plunge into the river. A city folk driving through a country road, unaware that the danger was inside him, not in the river, he panicked and shifted to reverse. His car spun half a turn and was now facing the river, but not in it yet.

The woman must have heard the screeching of the breaks because, before he could decide what he should do next, she was tapping at his side window. Frightened by the sudden knocking, he turned: A shockingly beautiful woman was peering through the glass, her left hand on her forehead to see better the darker interior. With large, green eyes, complexion of a Celt that shimmered between olive and milk-white, she was saying something he could not understand.

"What!?" he shouted from the inside, too confused to open the door and invite her in from the rain.

"Are you afraid?" she was saying. "Open the door!"

"What?" he repeated, now feeling anxious. It was not just the sound of the rain that made him deaf: The woman's face was beautiful beyond his imagination. "I don't... I can't hear you...!"

She brought her hand down to the level of his sight and, imitating the motion of a crank, gyrated it as she was shouting, "Open the door!"

"Oh!" He responded, suddenly realizing that the woman was soaking wet for his sake. "Yes -- of course!"

He cranked the window open, still oblivious to her predicament; it was enough that he could see her without the barriers, and he was staring at her with the boldness of a young man trying to pick up a woman in a city street-corner. But there was something intimidating about her; she was not an ordinary country girl, he immediately decided, walking aimlessly in the rain. Her body was hidden under the raincoat, but he could still see her jet-black hair protruding like a black halo from underneath her rain cap. He stared, and light was again playing tricks on him; she could be twenty-one or eighty-two, he could not tell. Her face seemed to change with the diffusion of the light at the mercy and the rhythm of the rain-drop, but her eyes, her dark, green eyes seemed to dare him to look deep and wrench out her thoughts from her mind.

"Are you going to ask me in -- or, something!?" she asked with a smile, but the smile alarmed the man. She could easily be a stalker, someone who would lure him to a remote place and her accomplice. "Are you afraid?" she asked, interrupting his thoughts.

"Why... no!" He replied as he was opening the door. "I was just thinking..."

"About me walking alone in this rain?"

"Yes... exactly! Do you live near by?"

"Just around the bend -- in the trailer by the pond."

"Do you want me to drive you to your place... I mean, I'll be glad to take... "

"You could, but I came to help you! You're lost!"

"Not lost in its ordinary sense!" he replied enigmatically. "I'm lost in all sorts of strange ways!"

"You sound terrible -- woman problem?"

"Yeah! How could you tell!?"

"Who else will leave the town in this rain to travel dirt roads in the country? It must be mighty painful to leave someone and head to the wilderness!"

"It's not that -- but let me take you to your trailer first..."

"Oh, yes-do! I'll fix us some hot coffee: We both need something hot and balmy! I make the best coffee this side of the mountain -- of course, I am the only one this side of the mountain."

"You're an angle!" he retorted with a chuckle.

"How could you tell?" she answered, and they both laughed. She had not closed the car door yet, and the old mat on the floor was soaking in the rain, emitting old smells hidden in the worn fabric.

"You better close that door before we take off!" he suggested gently.

"Yeah!" she replied and slammed the door shut. "Be careful, Mister; you'll spin your car into the river..."

"Not to worry! I've been driving for thirty years!"

"That's what scares me -- thirty years of driving has made you cocky!"

"Wait and see!" He said and gunned the car as he was removing his foot from the clutch ever so carefully. The car rattled and shook, but instead of going forward, it rolled back, almost to the edge of the road, from where he could see the rage of the river in full view. He jammed on the break and the car held. "Boy! That was close!"

"I told you!"

"You didn't have to say that!"

"No, but you had the gear in reverse," she said and fell silent.

The man re-started the car and carefully put the gear in forward; slowly the car moved away from the peril, but he could not get angry at the woman who had questioned his driving skills. He was, he thought... he was... somehow... he couldn't complete his thoughts or, would not allow himself to admit to his strange, troubling feelings.

"A penny for your thoughts, Mister! What is it?" she asked bluntly. But how could he translate his feelings into words and, in front of a stranger, a spooky country-woman, who wasn't smart enough to know that she should not be in a car with a stranger in a deserted country road. Could he tell her, "Woman, I've got a hard on for you; I want my body to lie next to your skin and let my skin drink your life from your body!" That would never do; he was not the kind of man to give-in into his emotions readily, thoughtlessly. But the undeniable urge was there, and he wanted to embrace the stranger, smell her breath as he gently caressed her lips with the tip of his tongue.

"I want... I was just thinking," he started to say but did not finish his words. The thought horrified him -- not that he had any moral compunctions; he had slept with his share of women since the sexual liberation days. He had even married one, from whom he was running away now: Fifteen years of marriage had produced three children and a life full of dissatisfactions. Nevertheless, he was horrified because the urge to sleep with the woman was so terribly powerful even in the face of the threatening rain and the river bellow: It was absurd, ridiculous. "Damn!" he muttered under his breath. The woman turned and smiled, and he immediately knew that she had read his mind and was ridiculing him with her smile; however it was, she remained stubbornly silent, docile, obviously daring him to continue his thoughts, to make a pass, to break the silence -- the ice -- but instead, he grabbed the steering wheel tightly with both hands to prevent the car from sliding into the river and again muttered, "Damn! Damn!"

"Are you damning me?" the woman asked with a kinder voice, unoffended. "You can't, you know... I cannot be damned! But if you're just cursing yourself, you have no say there either! God doesn't grant that kind of wish, but you don't know that, do you?"

"What do you know of my thoughts!" he said playfully. "If you could only read my mind... then, I wouldn't have to say 'damn'!"

Before she could answer, they had arrived at the trailer, and he knew exactly where to park the car, as if he had been there before; but the puzzling thing was, he had no memory of how he had arrived there: One minute he was struggling to keep the car steady and prevent it from tumbling down into the raging river, and the next he was safely at the trailer, the rain still mercilessly beating on his car. Yet, there was a change; the water was not threatening any longer; it had become a gentler shower, reaffirming, even to the city man, that the water was necessary for the regeneration of the earth, destroying and creating at the same breath.

She put a pot of water on the gas stove and searched for the coffee can. "Sorry!" she said. "Tea will have to do; I'm out of coffee."

"Tea will do just fine," he replied. "Do you live alone?"

"No!" she answered as she was setting two heavy cups on the counter. "I live with myself... and I'm not married, if that's what you're thinking!"

The man turned away from her and watched the large drops of rain splashing against the window panes. Now, he was speechless, and the woman was picking up on his frustration. "I was wondering," he finally stammered, "I was wondering if I could find a motel near by... some place to... to stay for the night!"

"Nope! No motels within fifty miles, and the bridge is washed off; you could stay here for the night," she said in a monotone.

"Here?!" the man asked, both surprised the delighted. "With you?!"

"Yes -- why not? I won't charge you for the bed, and you can keep me company for the payment!"

What was she telling him, he wondered! Was she propositioning him? The thought was delicious, and he could barely control his urge to kiss her passionately, but he did not dare; he was not sure if that was what she had in mind. "Yes, of course!" he replied. "I can do chores around the trailer!"

"In this weather!"

From where he was sitting, he could see the slim and firm body of the woman moving in the kitchen, her breasts gently swaying from side to side, her nipples brushing against her loose blouse as she moved her upper body to pick up a plate or put a bag in the tea cup. The invitation had been made, and all he had to do was to initiate a move. If he had been twenty years younger, the urge to make love to the stranger would have been natural, but at forty-eight he was overwhelmed by the desire. "God help me!" he thought with a sad smile. "What am I getting myself into?"

He decided to wait for more cues from the woman. "If she wants me, she can openly ask for it!" he thought, but that had a vague referent. He was stalling for time -- for time to pass and for him to leave without sleeping with the woman.

"I've only one bed!" she suddenly said without looking up, as if she had already read his mind. "You can sleep with me in the bed -- or, in the rocking chair; pick your choice. In old movies strangers slept in the bath tub, but I don't have a bath tub."

There was no hesitation in her voice; she knew exactly what she was doing, and he decided that he had received the final signal. He stood up and took the five steps from his chair to the kitchen, not resolutely, but with wavering steps. He was going forward although he felt he should be going back. On fire with his sexual energies, he was yet checked by a nagging voice inside his head, and caught in that paradox of wanting and not wanting, in desiring and not desiring; he felt anger, animosity towards the woman. He felt trapped by the devil himself into the arms of a she-devil. "I don't want to do this," he thought, but he went forward until he was upon the woman.

"The tea's just about ready," the woman announced, angering him further. She was playing with him all right, but he still did not dare to touch her. There was something forbidden about the woman that ordered his hands to stay away. "I'll get us some cookies, pecan crunch cookies I made this week," she said as she was slipping away from him. When she returned, she had a plateful of cookies in her hand, but he had not moved, and she bumped to him hard.

"Sit down, Mister. I'll get us our tea."

Grudgingly, he retreated to his chair and sat down politely, chastised and contrite. "Damn!" He thought. "I know her game! I'll leave after the tea!" But he knew that it would be impossible to leave until he had slept with the stranger woman, whose name he had never learned. "I'm David," he tried to introduce himself.

Before he could finish his introduction, she was putting down his cup of tea and the cookies on a side table. "Goodness me!" she giggled. "We haven't been introduced! I am Mary Ruth." That was all. She closed the conversation: no need for surnames; she was Mary Ruth, and he was David.

Of course, she wouldn't give her full name, he decided. Nothing is messy that way. You know each other for a night and out you go -- no complications, no identities to remember or try to reach later out of a whim or a desire to recreate the night.

He was now physically agitated, which she noticed without acknowledging it. They spent the rest of the day watching each other. He had become so angry by the time Mary Ruth turned the lights on, that he would have left if the bridge had not been washed off. He was not being honest either. He was too transfixed to venture out and willfully escape her grip on him, and that was the final rub: He was unable to escape.

Mary Ruth prepared a simple dinner of canned beef and mashed potatoes; they ate the dinner in silence until she cleared the table and was serving more tea. "You don't talk much!" She said.

"I do! But I don't feel..."

"I know what you want, but you can't."

"How do you know what I want?"

"I can see it in your eyes! You look at me like I was the first woman in the world to cross your way in ten years!"

David dropped his eyes, avoiding any unintentional communication with Mary Ruth; he was now puzzled and ashamed, unable to force the issue or leave the trailer. "And, how did you figure that out?" he asked.

"Ever since I saw you by the river I knew you wanted me, but you mustn't..."

Since she had brought the subject up, David did not see any reason to hesitate any further. "I'm a man and you're a woman... why not? That's the most natural thing in the world!" he said but without much conviction.

Mary Ruth stood up and went to the kitchen area, busying herself at the sink. David went to her and, without asking, took a towel to dry the dishes as she washed them in the sink. Neither spoke. They had already said what each knew, and there was no need for words. David's pulse raced, his heart pumping faster to spread the adrenaline that his body was producing. His face flushed with blood, he had a hard time breathing the damp mountain air. Frustrated and unsteady with ambivalence, twice he dropped the forks, and twice she rinsed them off. When he could not hold the skillet, and it fell on the kitchen floor with a crashing sound, he let go of the towel, turned to one side, and came face to face within inches of Mary Ruth's face. His hands curved and wrapped around her shoulders, and he put his parched lip on hers, kissing for a long, dry moment, but she did not react; one of her hands held a dripping dish and the other hung limply on her side, covered with suds.

Emboldened, he slowly moved his hand from the small of her back to her chest, gently pressing on her firm breasts, his lips still sealing her mouth. The woman remained passive and did not protest at all, but it was not a yielding; more, she seemed to offer herself as a sacrifice, if that was what he wanted. Unfazed, he led her to the couch in the living area, and she lay limp in his arms, like an over-large rag doll. He laid her on the seat and sat by her side, momentarily moving away to read in her eyes the answer to his question. Nothing had changed; she was the same: passive and tame. That's exactly what angered David: There was no reaction, and he could not read her other thoughts.

"Say something, dammit!" he blurted out. "Don't just sit there like a rag doll!"

"I have said all I could," she answered. "You don't seem to accept my answer."

"Say something... slap me! Kiss me passionately; tell me to go to hell... but say something!" he begged in his angry voice.

"Okay! You want to sleep with me... you can't!"

"Why not?" he asked without thinking. "Aren't you a woman?"

"Very much so... for now."

Was she a lesbian? Impossible, he thought! People in the country did not become lesbians; that was reserved for those in large, sophisticated cities, but what he thought was absurd, and now he had a need to insult her, to make her suffer for her passivity. "Are you different? I mean, sexually" he asked.

"Yes," she answered simply.

"How?"

"You won't believe it!" she said with a smile that he took for coquettishness. "I am your angel."

"My angel!" he murmured to himself without understanding the import of her words. "Yeah! Right... My angel!"

More than ever, he was now determined to possess her, to make love to Mary Ruth, but how was he to proceed? She had put a wedge between them by light-heartedly declaring herself his angel. He did not need an angel; he wanted a hot blooded woman who would rock in the bed like a moving volcano, like the river below. Putting all reserves aside, he launched forward and tried to trap her in his arms before she had time to escape, but Mary Ruth remained fixed in her place and did not move, and he crashed into her face like a rock. He felt pain, but the proximity of her body set him on fire; his lips upon hers, his hands clumsily trying to unbutton her blouse, he felt her breath on his face, and he knew he would undress Mary Ruth in no time.

"Don't... don't tear'em up... my clothes, don't tear'em up!" she could barely say with her incongruently calm voice. "I'll take them off. You want me naked... okay, you'll have me naked."

He was stopped cold by her acquiescence; he had not expected her to yield so readily, so brutally. He moved away to see if she would undress herself, and she did: She removed her blouse and her blue jeans as he watched in awe. She was undressing herself without shame, as if she had expected to make love to him from the very beginning. "She picked me up, didn't she? The lonely," he thought absurdly.

She stood still, comfortably naked, but without shame; the natural state was becoming her. Radiant and full of energy, her small, firm breasts full of life, ready to nurture, her body perfectly sculptured, flawless, and that was the catch: She had no imperfections on her body, not at all; either she was a divine creature, he fancied, or she was chiseled from a piece of flawless marble by a master; either way, she was inaccessible. And he remained seated on the couch, fully clothed, aroused, yet wavering in his resolve to possess that flowing form of art which stood passively, awaiting his desires.

"Well!?" she finally broke the silence.

"I don't know!" all he could answer. "I just don't know!"

Outside, the rain all but gone, the moon was barely breaking through the yellow clouds that aimlessly folded upon themselves as if there was doubt in it, and they could not bear to possess the moon. Down the road, the river still roared in rage, conquering its passage to the ocean.

See author's note about this story

©All rights are reserved by the author.

Author

Reza Ordoubadian holds a Ph.D. degree in English and linguistics. He has held a professorship at Middle Tennessee State University and Visiting Professorship at Umea University (Sweden). He has published numerous pieces of fiction and poetry as well as scholarly articles and books on both sides of the ocean. He was the editor of SECOL Review for 18 years.

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