Bigfoot begged me not to say anything.
“I’ll just stay right here,” he said, tugging the leaves back over himself, “You can carry on raking the rest of the yard. This never happened, ma’am. Nothing to see here.”
Before Henry left, I never raked leaves. Henry took care of the yard and I took care of the house and the cars. Henry couldn’t change the oil or unclog a sink, but I wouldn’t know what to do with a lawnmower if you gave me a six-week course in cutting grass. When the leaves fell in the Fall, it was Henry’s job to go out and rake the leaves into neat piles our daughter could jump into over and over again while I snapped photos of her with the Polaroid.
That was back when I had a happy marriage and photos were physical--not digital. That was back when Gretchen loved being outside. Now, she sits at home with her boyfriend and the two of them binge shows about murderers and con artists. They tell me it’s not safe for them to leave their apartment, because New York City is infested with rats and felons. I tell them that the content they’re watching is making them paranoid, but they don’t want to listen. It’s possible I should keep my opinions to myself. After a lifetime spent in the Jersey suburbs, it’s understandable that I wouldn’t be afraid of much. The only scary thing to happen in this neighborhood before my marriage fell apart was that burglary over at the Cutting house, but it turned out to be an insurance scam perpetrated by the Cuttings themselves.
You can’t believe in anything these days--except for Bigfoot.
“Why are you in my yard,” I asked, “You do not belong in my yard. You belong in the forest. You should be trying not to be photographed. You could be photographed in my yard. Everybody has cameras on their phones and people take pictures of strange things all the time. Somebody could decide to take a picture of me raking my leaves just because they feel like it, and your arm could be sticking out or something. Didn’t you think of that?”
Bigfoot looked upset. I felt bad for snapping at him. It wasn’t his fault that he got caught hiding in a pile of leaves. I inquired as to whether this was something he did all the time. He explained that, years ago, Henry had been on one of his hunting trips and had come across Bigfoot in a clearing. Neither seemed to be afraid of the other--Bigfoot because Henry was just a man, and Henry because that man never had the sense to run from anything. We went to Spain to run with the bulls on our anniversary and Henry just stood there as the bulls charged around him. That man was a lump of uncommon sense.
Apparently Henry had told Bigfoot that he could stop by anytime if he got sick of living in the forest, but when Bigfoot showed up one night, Henry and I had just had a row. Henry met Bigfoot at the front door and told him that he was sorry, but tonight wasn’t a good night. Since Bigfoot had come all that way, Henry offered to let him sleep in the yard in one of the leaf piles that Gretchen hadn’t had time to dive into (that was the year she turned eleven and decided jumping into leaves wasn’t her thing anymore, opting for anime and boys named “Rager” instead).
It turns out, Bigfoot found the pile very comfortable, which sparked a tradition of him coming to visit every year in the Fall just so he could lay in our yard. Henry would rake around him, and I suppose I just never noticed that there was always one pile left of leaves that my husband didn’t bother to dispose of--presumably because Henry always left jobs unfinished. He once painted the house only to forget about the garage. The man was infinitely divorceable.
“Henry didn’t tell me he was leaving,” Bigfoot lamented, sipping on the cider I’d brought him as a sign of conciliation for my earlier tone, “How could he not tell me?”
I explained that Henry left in a hurry when he realized he was no longer in love with me. He left behind all his clothes, his ceramic dinosaur collection, his throwing knives, and his mason jar filled with buffalo nickels. I’m sure they’re worth something, but I don’t have the strength to get them appraised. Henry took my strength with him when he left.
“So sorry that happened to you,” Bigfoot said, putting his furry hand (Hand? Paw?) on my knee, “My wife left me several years ago. She was half-Yeti and--Well, you know how they can be. God forbid it doesn’t snow enough during the winter. They get all testy and pretty soon, they’re dying to get themselves to the nearest mountain range.”
He shook his head in disgust. I understood where he was coming from. I’ve never been married to a Yeti or a half-Yeti, but I was married to Henry for nearly thirty years, and he was always gazing out the window looking for something he could die climbing. Last I heard from one of his buddies, he was traveling across America on a scooter. He was telling everybody that he was going to write a book about his adventure, but so far all he had was a knapsack full of napkins with notes on them like “Grand Canyon--Pretty Cool!” and “Mount Rushmore--I’ve Seen Worse!”
“Would you like to come inside,” I asked him, but he shook his head. The daylight was in the midst of saving itself. The carmine sunset was so gorgeous, I almost wished I had my phone on me to take a photo, but that could have caused Bigfoot to panic.
“I think I’ll stay here,” he said, half-asking and half-telling, “Would you like to lay next to me? We could watch the sky go dark together. I think that would be nice. Henry used to do that with me. We always enjoyed watching each star reveal itself in the night.”
It was tempting to say that all those stars revealing themselves were probably planes flying fleeing husbands to parts unknown, but I chose to stay silent instead. Taking him up on his offer, I lay down next to him in the pile of leaves. Any neighbor watching might assume that I’d finally lost it.
Another woman driven mad by divorce. Drowning herself in piles of leaves. So creative how people do away with themselves nowadays, isn’t it? Yes, and more coffee, please. Of course, coming right up.
Next to me, Bigfoot was breathing the breath of the mythic. I was merely mortal. My chest only rose and fell so far. He took my hand in his hand (Hand? Paw?) and together we watched the sun depart. I was sure it would be back tomorrow, but then again, who’s to say?
You never really know what will come back, do you?
“I wish I had a photo of this,” I said.
“Which part,” asked Bigfoot.
“All of it,” I said, “You. Me. This moment with us together. I wish I had a way to set it all inside a Polaroid.”
From beside me, I heard a throaty cough that turned out to be the sound of Bigfoot laughing.
“What’s so funny,” I asked.
Bigfoot let go of my hand and patted me tenderly on the shoulder.
“It’s just that,” he said, “Nobody takes Polaroids anymore.”
This brought about a set of tears, but only one set. Bigfoot let me cry and then offered me some of the cider I’d given to him. I took a sip. We nestled in closer together. Across the street, the Cutting's were finalizing their divorce. Somewhere in New York, my daughter was locking all seven locks on her door. In Texas, Henry was trying to find the Alamo so he could take it in and then write “Not Half Bad!” on a napkin. The moment was happening and it was all too big to photograph. All too big for a white frame and a quick dry.
Meanwhile, the sun took its time setting, but once it did, every star in the world decided to reveal itself to anyone who felt like looking up.