When I asked her what her name was she cocked her head to one side and lifted her right eyebrow as if she was fascinated I would even bother to ask. She looked at me, like someone who had gotten to a restaurant just before they closed, and what was left on the buffet table was picked over and rejected by hours’ worth of patrons. She wasn’t half wrong because it was very late on a Saturday night and how it got that late so fast was a product of a pool tournament and a lot of free beer. I wasn’t the best pool player in the bar but I was the best drunk pool player left in the bar, and the one hundred dollar prize rested firmly in my back pocket. But it was very late and I had been drinking far too much.
“My name is Angel,” she told me, “why do you ask?” Angel learned back against the bar and looked at me as if she couldn’t believe I was approaching her at all. She was a little older than I was and unlike many women, the grey streaks in her formerly dark hair didn’t bother her. I had seen her around a few times, jogging, or walking with friends, but I couldn’t remember seeing her in this bar before.
“You look good in dark blue,” I said, “and when you’re out running you always wear dark blue, like you are tonight.”
“I’ll be damned,” Angel smiled at me, “something different.”
So Angel asked me if I wanted to go for a walk and I was all for it. We walked the circumference of the local college twice, made fun of a drunk who had fallen into a creek and muddied himself and the water trying to get out, and I realized that she was walking with me in public, one, or make sure I wasn’t a serial killer, and two, to see if I could actually walk. Angel kept laughing at my attempts to get to know her better and deflected personal questions by saying, “Not yet, not yet, you’re doing fine, don’t rush it.” And so I finally just went with the flow. I liked how the long walk didn’t tire her at all and it wasn’t hurting me.
“Do you want a chance to show me what you can do with your hands, Mike?” Angel asked suddenly. And of course I was all for that. She grabbed my hand and we walked towards a local cemetery. We were just a couple of blocks from where I lived so it seemed promising. We were holding hands and she led me through the dark to a place she apparently knew very well.
Okay, first off, I have no fear or even a belief in the supernatural. The dead are dead. They don’t come back to haunt other people. Vampire, werewolves, ghosts, and restless spirits don’t faze me, not even the ones I live with. So Angel, and I thought the name suddenly appropriate, takes me to this vault.
“Here are the rules,” she whispered to me, “you cannot touch any part of my body but my hands and you cannot speak. But if you can tell me what you want I’ll give it to you.” Then she kissed me. She pushed me away and took my right hand and placed it on the side of the vault. There was writing there, raised writing, and she slowly placed my hand on the beginning of the incising. It was nearly impossible to figure out what it said but with Angel standing beside me, holding my hand, guiding my fingers, I realized she was forming a word by having me touch the letters. She had memorized the writing, of course, and I finally got it.
“Water” I said and she shushed me, but also rewarded me with a kiss.
I very slowly found her name, all five letters of it, cheating by using capitals, and realized that in the dark the sense of touch was heightened.
“Angel” I whispered and she kissed me again.
Angel turned inside of my arms facing the tomb as I was, and I took her fingers and very slowly found enough letter to form my name. She giggled and whispered, “About time” and allowed me to kiss her, hard.
“Okay, go.” Angel whispered and I felt for letters or words. Her hands guided me, a little, but not so much that I could tell what was there, only a general sense. Finally, I figured how why here, and why this stone, and grabbed her hand and led her fingers to the letters. Four in one, two in the other and she turned around and kissed me as I lifted her feet off the ground.
There was an open area with very nice grass and there was a canopy of tree overhead. The alcohol, the moment, the coolness of the night, and the fact that somehow, she and I had spoken to one another through words neither of us could see, had electrified us. We were definitely going to have to go to my place now if for no other reason that access to both a washing machine and a shower.
“So water was the first word that Helen Keller learned.” I said and Angel’s head turned quickly.
“Damn, I am impressed.” She said. The woman looked like an angel now. The shower sent clouds of steam up and around her. Her eyes were dark blue even if her hair had begun to fade. “How did you know that?”
“I read a lot.” I replied. “I love her story.
“That’s what made me want to study speech,” Angel replied. “So how did you know I would respond to ‘Love Me?”
“You set me up.” I said and I grabbed her. “’Love’ was already there and the next two letter were ‘Me’.”
“Guilty, but you still had to work for it,” she said, “but let’s get out of the water before we wrinkle.”
We went to breakfast and she told me straight up that in two weeks she was flying to Spain. Language Studies Program that she had worked her ass of getting into and she’s be gone for at least a year, maybe two. I had fourteen days to spend with her and she wanted to have a good time. I was up to that, too.
We were out in the Okefenokee, on a very cool day, drifting in a canoe, and Angel was rejecting my various suggestions as to what we could do or not do in a canoe, but she would laugh with each suggestions and then require me to explain how implementing the plan would not result in an overturned canoe. This was how that woman loved to flirt; give her idea that might work, she would reject them, but leave open the possibility that some part of the plan might, just maybe, have some validity to it. Meanwhile, we drifted in the sun, enjoying the sound of nothing but laughter. Angel began to warm up in more ways than one and asked if we slipped off the canoe path how would we be able to find our way back? It was a very serious question and not one lightly dismissed. I explained that the sun was heading west. The river was west of us. The two canoe trails ran east and west but the river ran north and South. No matter how far we went in, as long as we headed due west towards the river, or South, towards the trail we were on, we could get lost.
“Okay, let’s test your theory.” Angel said and we paddled into the Swamp. Two minutes, no seriously, two minutes later we could not see the trail. Angel slipped her top off and leaned back in the canoe. “Slowly, Mike, very, very slowly, I’m going to ease towards the center of the boat and you ease towards me.”
Later, as we were trying to reestablish normal sitting positions, I quoted a very old song, “Don’t Rock The Boat” and Angel looked at me very strangely. She went silent and I told her to look at where the sun was, now much lower in the sky, and head left, which would be were South was. It was an odd feeling. Angel was poised to say something, started to speak, and then just nodded her head and began to smoothly paddle the canoe, gently pushing a Cypress here or there out of the way. Two minutes later we popped back onto the trail.
“Tell me about that song, Mike” Angel said but she didn’t look back.
“It’s an old song.” I replied. “I was just a teenager. I don’t remember any of it but the don’t rock the boat baby part.”
“It was 1973,” Angel began as we headed back to the river down the canoe trail, “and I had just turned nineteen. I was in my mom’s car, a station wagon of immense proportions, and this guy got into the passenger side of the car and pointed a gun at me.”
“Damn” I said.
“He told me to drive, to take a left at the light, and we headed away from where I wanted to go and you always tell yourself if something like that happens you’ll do something and you won’t get taken but when he said to drive I drove and in my mind, I knew that something was going to happen to me but I kept lying to myself and saying that maybe all he wanted was a ride. Then he told me that, like he was reading my mind, ‘I need a ride, Baby Girl, I have to get somewhere quick and you’ll be okay, just don’t rock the boat, don’t rock the boat baby, don’t rock the boat, don’t tip the boat over’ and he just sang that over and over again for about ten minutes.”
“That’s plenty damn weird” I said and I feared the rest of the story. I didn’t want to think Angel had been raped but it’s not nearly as rare as most people believe.
Angel reached out and grabbed a limb, causing the canoe to stop. She took a deep breath and turned around to face me, “Mike, that song wouldn’t come out for another year. I nearly freaked out the first time I heard it. I lost it right there in the middle of a pizza place. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My friends thought I was nuts.”
“The guy that sang that song kidnaped you?” I was stunned.
“No,” Angel paused, “and it get even more stranger. He made me stop on this side road and turn the car off. It felt like being touched by a Nazi prison guard or something like that but he took a pen and wrote a phone number on my hand, like you’d do if you just asked someone out.”
“The guy gave you his number?” I was more than a little freaked out by that.
“Later I gave it to the cops and they said that it wasn’t a working number in our area code and they never found him.” Angel told me. “The number was 8675309” that song came out in 1982, nine years after I was taken.”
“What?” I couldn’t believe it. Someone who knew the musical future had kidnapped a teenage?
“So here’s the thing, Mike.” Angel looked at me as if she didn’t really expect me to believe her. “There was one more thing he did. He made me sing with him. I can’t remember the exact words but it was something like, ‘Hello, you fool, I love you, Come on join the joyride, Join the joyride’ It’s a song I’ve never heard but…” Angel stopped speaking. I started breathing again.
“I’ve never heard those lyrics, but we have to move, the sun is going down, okay?” And we had to paddle hard to make it back to the landing by dark, but we did. We didn’t speak all the way back and it was just too strange for her to by lying about it. I mean, who would make up something like that? We got back to the car and as I reached for the knob on the radio we both looked at one another.
“Do it” Angel said.
But it was Aerosmith and nothing more.
One her last day we went back to the cemetery. There on one side of the monument was this inscription: “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
“The man loved birds” Angel explained. “There’s a water fountain for them on the other side.” And on the other side it read, “Albert Walling Love
Father, Son, Brother and
Servant of Goodness.
Husband to Martha
Edwards Love, Meet
Me In Heaven.”
“So, you think that’s where we’ll meet, Angel, in heaven?” I asked.
“Yeah, Yeah, I do believe that, Mike, we’ll see each other again, but I don’t think it will be in this life.” Angel said and then she kissed me goodbye.
This song came out about two months later.