They didn’t know I was there. I crouched down next to a bush, among a scattering of leaves and twigs, and watched her sit cross-legged on the ground with her sketchbook in her lap while the boy sat across from her, resting against a tree. I saw the boy slumped forward, grinding his boots into the dirt. I saw her dark hair spilling down her back.
She started drawing him. I leaned forward to rest my elbows on a stump and watched. I was very still and quiet. The boy said something to her, but I couldn’t hear what he said. He had not taken off his clothes, though I imagined he did. And I imagined she did, too, so that they were both naked and alone, unaware of any other presence.
In that space of time, while she drew, I entered both her and the boy and allowed them to move the way I wanted them to. I moved his body to meet hers. His body was spindly and pale. Her skin was dark against his. He crouched down to kiss her navel and she laughed. And I, too, laughed as they collapsed to the ground in the gray, suffusing light of the cold afternoon. The cold never bothered them.
And I heard their unmistakably human cries, full of pleasure, thin in the dusty sky. I heard her voice, full of wonder, strange and mysterious, as it rang out to the branches. I thought about this for what seemed like a long time, sitting there resting my elbows on the stump. Strangely, I both turned away and desired her. I could not contain myself from the dizzy exhaustion.
I slipped quietly away.
The next day I walked back into the woods to the spot where she drew him. I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to be there or what I hoped would happen. I wanted to remove my clothes and be an animal in the wilderness. I pulled off my shirt and got down on my knees. The wind swelled, snails crawled, and branches all around me trembled.
Brandon Hobson has won a Pushcart Prize, and his novel, Where the Dead Sit Talking, is forthcoming from Soho Press in 2018. He is also the author of Deep Ellum, Desolation of Avenues Untold, and The Levitationist. His writing has appeared in such places as Conjunctions, NOON, The Paris Review Daily, The Believer, Post Road, and elsewhere.