What’s Left #1

The cornfield was the place she wanted to get to.  The corn was higher than her head now, maybe higher than Neal’s head—she wanted to get into the shade of it.  She made her way across the yard with this one thought in mind.  The dogs, thank God, must have been taken inside.

There was no fence.  The cornfield just petered out into the yard.  She walked straight ahead into it, onto the narrow path between two rows.  The leaves flapped in her face and against her arms like streamers of oilcloth.  She had to remove her hat, so they would not knock it off.  Each stalk had its cob, like a baby in a shroud.  There was a strong, almost sickening smell of vegetable growth, of green starch and hot sap.

What she intended to do, once she got in there, was lie down.  But there was no room, and Ginny found the stalks pushed her forward, like the hands of an old woman, crepe-like but strong.  She wondered what beckoned about a cornfield, if the willowing stalks didn’t remind people of a sun-drenched, primordial past. Neal had loved that silly baseball movie, what was its name?  That good looking movie star, Kevin Costner, had built a baseball diamond in the shadow of a cornfield and lured ghosts to play.  Neal teased her that she just didn’t like anything overly sentimental, but Ginny just didn’t like the idea that the dead baseball players would lurk around earth to play baseball, even baseball players must want something new after a lifetime of same.

In the dying heat of the day, the cornfield breathed steam.  Ginny leaned against a stalk and closed her eyes. She was sweating between her legs now, her skirt a dampening shade of blue.  She could smell her dampness, her own mushroomy earth.  The doctor she saw this morning could have been in the movies, not like Kevin Costner, but maybe an antihero or a character actor, despite his shorn hair.  His eyes were dark and commanding; Ginny found herself studying his eyes while he told her the news.  She wondered if this hadn’t been divined by him, an act to calm his patients: “look into my eyes.”  His teeth were straight except for a snaggled canine.  This imperfection gave him character, which, to Ginny, seemed necessary.  Oncologists couldn’t be too good looking, she thought.  No one with cancer would want to hear survival rates from a person good looking enough to be in the movies and smart enough to be an oncologist.  In the schemes of things, that gene pool lottery didn’t seem fair.

Neal had been good looking.  She had always loved men with ponytails.  A rebellious streak quite timid, she considered.  Now, in those rare moments when she studied Neal’s face, she could see through the sun damage, the wrinkles, and the years of them working it out, she could see through to the earnest eyes of the man she married.

She heard the door of the trailer creak open, then a struggle to keep the dogs inside.

“Ginny?”

Neal was checking up on her.  She thought about heading deeper into the cornfield, wedging herself between the stalks, waiting to see Neal’s reaction to her disappearance.  Would he think she had been kidnapped?  She imagined Neal calling the police, tacking up posters with her face on it—angular and sickly; people would mistake her for an oldish, effeminate man.  Her dark hair would look like a helmet in a black and white picture.  Her cheekbones would make her look like a hawk.  She would look like the kind of man who pulled his pants up past his navel and wore a bowtie with a short-sleeved button down shirt.  Ginny held her breath and clenched her muscles and waited.

She heard a man say, “She must have gone into the cornfield to pee.”

At first, Ginny didn’t recognize Matt’s voice, the gregariousness had been replaced by a conspiratorial tone, like he was telling Neal a secret.  Neal had always been able to make fast friends. He did it by sharing what people thought were secrets.  Matt probably knew how Neal had met her, how he’d cheated on her once a long time ago during a rough patch, how Neal had come to earn Ginny’s foregiveness.  It was his singular talent to establish intimacy in a moment, to draw out the depths of people the way others just sketch out the surface.

“Ginny?” Neal called.  “We’re going back inside.  You should come in and have something to eat.  The chili is fantastic.”

There had been a time Neal would have looked for her, even if he thought she was just relieving herself.  There would have been a time he would have found her squatting in the woods, pulled her up, backed her against a tree and fucked her over the trail of her urine.

Even if this were just a cornfield, it seemed to Ginny that she had lost that, too.

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