Today’s the day I change.
I whisper this into my mirror so David won’t hear me. It’s been a month since the dog attack. My wounds are mostly healed, but he is still treating me like an invalid.
If he suggests therapy one more time, I will shriek. I don’t have PTSD, I told him. I have OBAVS… Over Being A Victim Syndrome. I .think he was hurt by this, since he’s been my ‘rescuer’ for so long… saving me from being poor, pulling me out of my parent’s clutches.
I think he senses something is wrong, but I haven’t been ready to have the conversation before tonight.
I head down to the kitchen.
David is wiping the counter. He whistles at me.
“I love that lipstick, honey. Sexy!”
"Is supper ready?" I ask.
He serves me a delicious perfectly cooked rare steak, a salad, and French bread, my favourite meal. I enjoy it thoroughly, but I am also annoyed. I want to focus on the conversation to come. Gratitude is an emotion that interferes with that.
“Let’s go for a walk,” I say. I pull on my wool jacket as he runs around, tossing laundry in the dryer before we head out.
“Hurry up, David. God. Housework can wait.”
We head out down the block. I guide us to the entry to the Redwood Hills hiking trail, which leads out of our neighborhood into the forest at the edge of town.
"Sure you don't want to walk to the Silver Spoon, get some cheesecake for dessert?"
"No, I want to walk into the woods."
"That's usually my line!" He is thrilled.
David comments on the sunset, stops to take a photo of it. Then he wants to take a photo of me, then a selfie.
“Quit goofing around. Can we just walk?”
“Sure,” he says happily. He’s got boundless energy. He loves walking and I often don’t want to join him, so he is delighted to be out together.
He reaches out and holds my hand, smiling at me. “I love you!”
“I know,” I force a smile and stick my tongue out at him. Divert. Change the subject. It’s not yet time.
We walk into the trees, the light fading through dusk to dark.
"Work was good today. Had two meetings, got through each without getting action items! At lunch I was reading the Times and did you see the latest thing the Texas courts have said?"
David chats on, tells me more about his day at work, about something he read on a news website, about a new meme. I nod, laugh where appropriate.
He is less bouncy now. The shadows are deep, and the path dark. He watches the ground carefully for roots so he doesn’t trip.
“Are you okay, honey? I mean, after the dog attack… I didn’t think you’d be back in these woods so soon.” His voice is solicitous and barely tinged with fear.
During the daytime, David tramps through these woods with confidence, runs the trails, feeds the squirrels. Now that the sun has set, he is clearly more nervous.
I flash back to the attack. I was cutting through the edge of the woods coming back from the store. I was clutching the bag of snacks and beer, looking carefully at the ground, listening for rapists and muggers. I had taken my keys out, held them through my fingers like a hedgehog. Always prepared for self defense. Always so scared.
My scar is a warm bump of flesh I caress on the side of my neck.
The dog came out of nowhere, hurling itself at my throat, knocking me down. My head hit a root, and after that I don't remember anything. I woke up to David, panicking, holding his scarf to my neck, barking into his cell phone at 9-1-1.
“I’m fine, David. It was a fluke. I’m not afraid.”
When I first got the stitches I was semi-conscious for days. I had panic attacks for the next three weeks. But this last week, everything was better. The wound healed up. My mind cleared. My fear disappeared.
David is quieter. Pale in the light of the barely risen-moon.
“Lou, what’s going on? I get the sense something is different. Has something changed?”
I take a deep breath. I can smell his concern.
“Yes, David. You’ve changed.”
“What?” He stops, pulls back.
“When we first moved in together, you were more exciting. More interesting. I mean, maybe it was just because I didn’t know you very well.”
This clearly hurt him, muscles in his face shifted and his pupils contracted.
“You know what I mean.” I lick my lips, look around.
“I’m not sure. You got to know me and now I’m boring, is that it?”
His voice is colder. “Sure, great, Lou. I clean up after you, cook for you, do your laundry for a full year, hold you through a month of nightmares... and now you’re done with me? Cool.”
A howl erupts in the distance, raising the hackles on my neck and the hair on my arms.
He can’t help himself. “It’s the dogs that attacked you! Lou, we should go home and discuss this.”
He has changed so much. He thinks that the house will change my mind. That I care about our stuff.
The moon has risen, and a ray cuts through the leaves above us. He looks deeply into my eyes, his mouth forming my name, but then, he sees.
He really sees me.
I throw back my head and howl, and he falls backward over a root.
“David. I loved you. Now I need more!” I cry out, and then I tear off my wool jacket and lope off into the trees.
My pack awaits.
I feel life coursing through me, smell the loam of the woods floor, squirrels sleeping exhalations, small fungal roots. I hear the sighs of wind in the trees, the tiny squeaks of nocturnal rodents.
Behind me, David calls out, his voice shaky, "Lou!"
“The moon only lasts three nights. I’ll be home. Waiting.”