Scott Rahin's Lament

A field of barley, my ass.

Russo Realty, Smith St., Brooklyn

Poets and lyricists, or Sting, find it romantic to lay a girl down in a field of barley or corn or rye. This bugs me. A roll in the hay, coming through the rye. Too many poems are stupid, but sound nice, like Sarah McLachlan. Have you ever tried to lay a girl down in a corn field? No, you haven't. I did. I found myself out under a suspicious-looking moon and everything moved around in the wind and scared me to death.

My clothes got dirty. I had put a piece of paper on my tongue a few hours before and drank a case. I was in bad shape. We snuck out into the corn field behind my friend James' father's place and got drunk and then I took Adina's hand and we walked off, all the bodies filtering away from the keg into the field, our drunken voices replaced by the shhh of the stalks in late fall wind.

The pesticides smelled sharp and burnt my arms. Adina was missing a tooth and like me had a limp. She was 17 and sick-drunk. She apologized for walking so slow with a sick meek smile and asked if I liked her even though she's “crooked.” I like her. We got to a quiet place. It was then, and then, and then, the sound of skins louder than the corn, then the breeze taking over, amplifying the nerve sensation of wet dirt and grit. She began to cry. Her sweater was wrapped around my head. The elbows of the sweater were filthy. She told me she had to get home.

We got lost getting out. I was in bad shape. She kept apologizing for how slow she was, a whole life of shame. I was furious with her suddenly, her cloying need to be told she was beautiful even though she limped. I tried to follow the moon out of the field, even though the moon lead nowhere. She told me she loved me. I kept her hand and didn't lose her. We came out behind their garage. Someone was there leaning against a car, drinking beer out of a brown bottle. We all had uncut hair touching our collars. There were bugs either in my head or on my skin. I should not have moved here.

I drove her home, weaving the car around the dashed yellow, driving up hills to her directions until my ears popped. I remembered how my grandfather used to say, “Don't date girls in hill country, because they walk all lopsided from running the ridges,” and I was taking this girl home. She asked if I'd call. I said I would, then because I didn't want to call, at all, I felt entirely ashamed, completely sure that I was little more than a rapist of this poor girl. A florid shame came over me. I had fallen down in a cornfield with a gaptoothed clubfoot girl two years younger.

She begged me to slow down, and I did, and she told me to pull over at a crossing. She leaned out the side of the car and vomited, then said “I should go. Daddy's waiting.” I remember exactly her face lit in the car's overhead light, her bangs lightly feathered, dark eyes, pretty face, those two words - “Daddy's waiting. I should go now. I should go. Daddy's waiting.” I didn't know what to say. She got out of the car and loped quickly in front of the headlights and out into the dark of the sidewalk. When she was lost into the trees I drove away fast, past her house, where a man sat perfectly still on a porch with the living room light silhouetting him.

I woke consumed with guilt and confusion. I had only slept with one woman before. Adina had confessed to a friend the next morning. My friends came by the restaurant to check that it was true. I told them it was and shrugged my shoulders. Adina didn't call me. A rash, probably from the pesticides bloomed, lightly, on my face on the second day, then faded on the third. I felt marked. I learned that she had a boyfriend and my guilt transformed into a sort of vague fear and ugly triumph; I no longer was the corruptor, but a usurper.

On the third afternoon as I walked to work a 28-year-old man stopped his pickup, jumped out, ran over and punched me in the face, knocking me on my ass. I was stunned and cowered and yelled something. He said loudly: “keep back from my guffren, Jew, or I kill you.” He ran off; I rose up and moved quickly away from others, because I was moving brown packages in my Ford up and down 17 between the restaurant and two colleges, and I didn't want anyone to see me, to notice me. I could keep out of jail by being invisible, I thought; you can't arrest gray men.




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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


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