Alone at last-Part 3

She sat staring at me like I was a god descended from the heavens. Suddenly I was no longer an undergrad student she had lectured to nor was I some guy to chat with on a lonely Friday night but an incredibly valuable resource. I told her about being a student at VCU and working for Turnbull.

“Yeah—I’m just an undergrad.” I said, “but I get around and I read a lot. While I was in the Army I took classes at the University of Alaska. Ask me sometime about Tlingit hunting songs.”

“I want you…” she said, then blushed and caught herself, “I mean I would like for you to talk about these things with me. Since you knew and worked with Turnbull I could cite you as a source.” She hesitated a second looking a bit like a little girl wanting a second helping of ice cream. “Do you have the paper?” she said shyly.

“No,” I said, “But I can get a copy for you. I know who has a copy and can have her send it. And if you like I can get copies of Mason-Carter’s field notes on the Mbo interactions with the Mbuti from her and her husband’s 1957 visit to Zaire. It seems the Mbo had a ceremonial trumpet similar to the Molimo at one time in their history. It appears they stopped using it sometime in the mid 1800s—some sort of influence by Christian missionaries. Mason-Carter taped an interview with an elder who related the entire oral tradition of the Mbo to her and mentioned what we could call a Molimo—except they called it Nmilom.

Tears were streaming down her cheeks she looked at me with utter disbelief. She mumbled she didn’t even know about the Mbo “Molimo.” I gave her my vulnerable “little boy,” smile.

It was humbling and at the same time I got a guilty thrill out of having this much power over this beautiful woman who I so admired—the tables had been turned. There was in her eyes that look all men hope for—the hunger-wanting look. She was looking at me as an authority and—more importantly to me in that moment—as a man. I didn’t want to overplay my hand—didn’t want to seem opportunistic or obvious.

“Sally,” I said, “I have to go—someone is fixing me supper tonight and I don’t want to keep them waiting. But I have tomorrow afternoon free if you want to get together and talk more. I know a beautiful, quiet place—it’s kind of special to me—a great place to talk, think or just be at peace. I mean—if you’d…”

“Yes—yes,” she interrupted. Her eyes were wide, fixed on me and she was almost salivating.

***

Around ten the next morning I met her at the front entrance to the old dormitory on old campus. Built shortly after World War One, it was a sober, brownstone Victorian structure that had been renovated and turned into apartments for faculty who were single or just young and not needing anything except a place to sleep.

I had told her to dress casual and warm. She came out wearing jeans that looked like they’d been sprayed on and an incredibly cute peasant blouse that sort of clung to her breasts and accented them.

“Hi Jim,” she giggled—knowing full well my name. After that I was, “Jim,”—our first “private joke.”

Once again—the morning weather was crisp, bright, sunny but clouds moving in by early afternoon with the likelihood of snow by late afternoon. As she walked down the front steps smiling at me I noticed she was carrying a small backpack—not a purse.

On the drive to the haystack I told her I had been in touch with the archives secretary for the VCU Anthropology Dept at who remembered me and would mail the papers and a copy of the Mason-Carter tape to me in the next few days. Sally was very pleased.

She sat on the bench seat of my car half way between the door and me. Once we were out of town traffic and into the countryside I reached over and put my arm around her—she immediately scooted over and snuggled up next to me. Crossing the plains headed west the land around us grew open and vast under a timeless sky stretching to the horizons—a patient emptiness waiting to enclose and embrace us. As we sped toward the mountains I would stroke the nape of Sally’s neck with my right hand while driving with the other.

We crossed the new concrete bridge over the Cache la Poudre River, ten minutes later we crossed the South Platte—both rivers broad and flat winding between banks braided with Narrow leaf Cottonwood and Quaking Aspen. Ahead of us the ragged snow-capped Rockies  rose higher and higher into the western sky now starting to change from blue to a wispy gray.

End part three

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