Back to the Garden
And lo, it is time to ask Sadie to marry me. I take her to our favorite restaurant, where the city meets the sea, a cozy place tucked into the ground floor of a majestic glass skyscraper. It’s real swanky — white tablecloths, candles, plush red carpeting. I’ve reserved the table that gives us a view of the mandated twenty-five feet of protected coastline and the sun setting over the offshore oil rigs. It is autumn but still warm. The sunlight slants golden through the window, hitting Sadie’s mane of red hair, making it glow like a halo. She looks like an angel.
The waitron rolls up and we stick our fingers in the menu meter for a reading. I rate out with a slab of prime rib, a baked potato, and some deep fried zucchini strips. Sadie’s reading comes up with a Cesar salad and a glass of water. A flicker of annoyance crosses Sadie’s lovely face but she doesn’t say anything. She simply takes her napkin from the water glass and places it demurely on her lap. Sadie is beautiful but her pale skin does look a little dimply. With her body type, she is sure to spread a little and look a bit matronly in her middle years. The New Revised Homeland Bible says that a sturdy wife implies a strong marital union but a fat wife
implies sloppy discipline. Sadie could be the type to slide from sturdy to sloppy. She knows better than to fight with a menu meter.
In my jacket pocket, nestled next to the diamond engagement ring in its velvet box (.25 carat, no more than three stones, set in gold, and equal in value to 1.75 of a month’s salary, as suggested in the Bible) are two pamphlets from our church — “Is She Marriage Material?” and “Is He Marriage Material?” I have taken the liberty of filling them out for both of us. I, apparently, am quite a catch. Sadie is one lucky woman. Sadie, however, has scored low in the obedience and self-regulation areas. I will need to use a stern hand. I am prepared to show these pamphlets to Sadie if necessary. There is something about her that the questionnaire has highlighted, something too available, something almost carnal. My friends and business associates say not worry — that will change after marriage.
I take a breath. This is it. I smile, readying myself for the purported cold, dry feel of a female’s skin, and reach across the table to touch her hand for the very first time.
That’s when I see them. Two Organics are outside, walking on the beach. They are some distance away and yet I can clearly see that they are holding hands. They are walking that way that Organics do, loosey-goosey and unfettered, sans undergarments, swinging their arms freely and stopping occasionally to point at something at the water’s edge.
“Uh,” I say to Sadie. I am sure she has never seen an Organic before though certainly she must have heard of them. They usually stay in their own sector. It is awkward viewing Organics in the company of someone you hold in the highest regard, someone you are about to ask to enter into the covenant of holy matrimony.
Sadie stares out the window as the Organics stroll leisurely along. The woman is eating something with her free hand. Whatever it is, I know that she has not used a meter to determine whether it is the correct food her body requires. Organics do not care about things like that. They just stuff their faces with whatever is available. I have even heard that they grow their own food. Now this is America; it isn’t against the law to grow your own food or traipse around without underwear outside of your sector, not yet, but golly, it’s unseemly.
The waitron brings us our food. His eye lenses zoom in on the Organics outside and a little light on the top of his dome blinks yellow. As he places my plate in front of me, he whispers discreetly in my ear. “Would you like me to draw the blind, sir?”
“No,” Sadie says, startled, then she adds meekly, “the sunset is so lovely.”
The waitron ignores her. I shake my head. Technically, Biblically, Sadie is not the one to make that sort of decision. But I decide to let it go. The Organics are moving slowly, but they are moving and soon they will be farther up the beach and out of our sight. I don’t want to lose the sunlight on Sadie’s hair. Truly, she is an angel.
The waitron’s light resumes a steady green as he rolls away from the table. I reach again for Sadie’s hand, careful not to drag my cuffs through the sour cream mounded on my baked potato. “Sadie,” I begin.
Sadie doesn’t take my hand. Instead, she gazes out the window. The Organics have stopped walking. They are standing at the water’s edge, staring in the window, back at us, back at Sadie and me. They take a dozen steps closer, then a couple more, then another and then the woman’s chest presses and flattens against the glass. I can clearly see the outline of her brown nipples under her white shirt. There’s a small brown mole just to the right of her lower lip. Any normal, God-fearing woman would have that kind of disgusting blemish removed. Meanwhile, the man pushes himself against the window next to her, the lump in his shorts just inches away from Sadie’s face, the hair on his thighs mashed down onto his skin. Sadie gasps.
“Don’t look at them,” I say, picking up my fork and diving into my potato.
Sadie looks down at her salad. “What do they want?”
I stuff a forkful of potato into my mouth. I have no idea what they want. Organics are heathens. The man looks as if he hasn’t shaved in years. Even Jesus was able to keep his beard neatly trimmed and that was before scissors were invented. The woman is gazing at me with her lazy, hooded eyes. She is holding an apple. Without breaking eye contact, she leans back slightly, takes a bite of apple, and comes back to lean against the glass. She chews leisurely. A tiny drop of juice glistens on her lip.
My necktie starts to get tighter, so tight, in fact, that I can barely swallow my bit of potato. The necktie is designed to do this, I know that, but the knowledge does not make the discomfort any more tolerable. The necktie is just responding to the rising testosterone levels in my body, in the same way my briefs suddenly pinch and my socks begin to squeeze my ankles.
This hasn’t happened to me since puberty and it is darned embarrassing.
“Oh!” Sadie’s eyes widen in surprise. I can only imagine what her bra and panties and hosiery are doing to protect her. Unfortunately, imagining her bra and panties and hosiery causes my own clothing to squeeze even tighter. “Ghhaaaa!” I gasp. I stand and stagger away from the table.
“Oh!” I hear Sadie say again but Sadie is on her own. I barely make it to the men’s room without being strangled into unconsciousness. Thinking fast, I shove my head into the sink and turn on the cold water. I think pure thoughts. I pray. I think about church. I think that if I die strangled to death by my own chastity clothes, I will surely go to Hell. Pretty soon, my tie loosens a bit and my briefs stop biting into my skin and my socks go back to being just socks.
I dry my hair with a paper towel and check myself out in the mirror. I look bad but not too bad.
When I get back to our table the Organics are gone. Sadie is gone too but her purse is still on the table. After a few minutes, she emerges from the lady’s room. Her hair is mussed but it doesn’t look like she’d had to get it wet. Her face is pale.. She sits and looks wistfully out the window.
I clear my throat. “Are you okay?”
“Fine,” she says, not looking at me. “How about you?”
“I’m fine,” I say. “It was nothing, really. Something went down the wrong pipe, heh, heh.” I pick up my fork once again.
Sadie just sits. She hasn’t touched her salad. “I’m not hungry,” she says. “Can we go?”
“Go?” But it really doesn’t bother me. I’ve lost my appetite too. My evening is shot anyhow. Being almost killed by your own clothing really puts a damper on things.
I signal for the waitron who comes rolling up to the table, wringing his little mechanical claws. His light is blinking yellow again.
“You can’t use the dessert meter until you’ve finished 72% of your entire meal or 100% of your vegetable side plus 20% of your meat slash pasta entrée plus 5% of the carbohydrate of the day.” The waitron’s eye lenses revolve wildly taking in our untouched food.
I open my mouth but before I can speak, Sadie says, “I’d like an apple, please.”
“No, no,” I say, “just the check.” The waitron trundles off muttering, his light alternating between orange and yellow.
“Really, Sadie,” I say. “What’s gotten into you all of a sudden? You know a woman doesn’t speak directly to the wait staff.”
“That apple looked so good, didn’t it?”
“No, it didn’t. It looked disgusting and wormy and wrong.”
“Well, I’d like one.”
“You can’t have an apple unless the menu meter says you can have an apple,” I hiss at her. Sadie is actually arguing with me! I am going to go straight home and update some of the answers on her pamphlet. She isn’t wife material at all. I have almost made a terrible mistake.
And yet, the image of Sadie eating an apple floats unbidden into my brain. Her wet lips part to show her perfect white teeth. I can see her tongue. She bites into the apple as if she was taking a bite out of a piece of flesh, my flesh, the inside of my thigh to be specific. Her eyes roll back as she bites …
My necktie gives an admonishing squeeze. Temptress! Slut! I close my eyes and think of Hell, hellfire, brimstone, pitchforks, etc. until the necktie loosens.
Sadie goes outside for a breath of fresh air while I settle up the bill. The waitron is rather more judgmental than usual for a machine. One of his eye lenses fixes pointedly on our unfinished food while the other lens keeps flicking from my face to Sadie waiting outside at the window where the Organics had been standing minutes before.
“There’s an additional 20% starving children tax if the total weight of your unfinished food exceeds 8 ounces,” the waitron says. If his mouth speaker had an upper lip he would be sneering. I have an overwhelming urge to punch him. Thank goodness my clothing recognizes the difference between bad, lustful testosterone buildup and good, manly testosterone buildup. Still, this is a church sanctioned restaurant and I want to come again, maybe with my next, and better, intended wife.
Once outside I stuff my hands in my jacket pockets and bark at Sadie, “Let’s go.” There’s no need for pretenses. I’m not interested in marrying her anymore. I don’t have to be nice.
“Would you like to walk along the beach?” Sadie says, coyly I think. Seductively, I think.
“Absolutely not.” I don’t have any time to waste walking along the beach with a woman who is not marriage material. I need to get back to church. I might even be able to still make the evening services. My second choice was always Peggy Stevens. I will rush to church, ask Peggy out, and officially start the clock on our required eighteen months of dating. Oh, I should have picked Peggy Stevens to begin with. Peggy Stevens would never inspire lustful thoughts.
Sadie hasn’t taken a step towards leaving. She is just standing there, looking rather sad. Good, I think. She deserves to be miserable. An apple, indeed!
But she does look beautiful standing there. A breeze picks up the edges of her skirt and the hem flutters around her knees. I catch a glimpse of her kneecaps. Her bare kneecaps.
“Adam,” she says as I stare at her knees, “don’t get angry. I couldn’t stand it. I had to take them off.”
“What are you talking about?” I say. The last bit of sun winks out over the horizon and Sadie hugs her arms as if she feels a chill.
“My underwear, Adam,” she says, “I threw my underwear into the trash in the bathroom.”
My socks knock my feet right out from under me and I am suddenly on my knees. I try to get my fingers under my tie but it’s already too late. My levels are too high — so high that even the loose ends of the tie go berserk and wrap themselves around my neck twice. I try to gasp for breath and at the same time my briefs squeeze me so hard that I fall over sideways onto the sand.
“Adam!” Sadie rushes over to me.
“Get away!” I try to say but all that comes out is a croaking sound. I stop trying to pry my tie from around my neck to bat her hands away.
“Help!” Sadie screams. “Somebody help us!”
Great, there’ll be more witnesses to my humiliation. This can’t be happening to me. I’m the one who follows all the rules. I vote the way the church tells me to, I watch my weight, support our troops, use crosswalks, buckle my seatbelt. I’m good. I’m virtuous. I’m one of God’s favorite people. I know. I once filled out a church pamphlet called “Are You One of God’s Favorite People?” and I had a perfect score.
Thinking about God helps a little. I am in the process of getting up on my hands and knees when I feel Sadie’s fingers on the back of my neck. Her touch is surprisingly warm. Her skin is soft. There is a pleasant melting feeling in the pit of my stomach and then my necktie becomes a vice. My briefs nearly cut me in half.
I fall helplessly onto my back as my life squeezes away. Everything seems to slow down. My world is airless, silent. Sadie is on her knees beside me, bent over, working feverishly to loosen my tie. It’s useless, I know. Even if she does manage to work it free, my briefs have surely rendered me unable to beget. My seed, my legacy to this earth is no more. My ankles are probably broken as well.
My eyes bulge as I stare into Sadie’s face. She’s saying something but what I hear is the pounding of my heart, beating slower and slower with each passing second. There are more faces behind hers, big hairy faces, the Organics I think. I don’t care. I can feel hands pulling and pushing on my clothes but my body is numb, anesthetized. I’m having a difficult time focusing. All I can see clearly is Sadie’s face hovering above me, Sadie’s lovely face. She is more than just Sadie. She’s Sadie and my mother. I see my mother’s face.
Here’s my mother’s face. I haven’t seen or spoken to my mother in years, not since that time she told me she had some doubts about whether God’s will was the same as the state’s will. She tried to apologize. But once doubts are introduced there is no going back so I had to make her dead to me. That’s what the Bible said to do. No matter how many times she called. No matter how much she cried. No matter that she was my mother. But here she is now, smiling down on me as if nothing has ever come between us. As if everything is fresh and new.
Here’s my wonderful, wonderful mother. Her hair is a halo around her face. She looks like an angel. She’s leaning over me blocking out the sun. We’re in the garden. I love the garden, the warm outside air, the tickle of grass beneath my bare back. Because I am naked. Naked, naked, naked. Naked and warm and loved because I’m me. I smell the sweet, powdery scent of my mother’s perfume. She smiles and smiles and I pump my little arms and legs. I laugh. It feels good to laugh. Wait…she’s saying something to me. Her lips are moving but I can’t make out what she’s saying. My mother’s face moves closer, closer and then she blows a loud wet raspberry onto my bare tummy. I have never felt anything as wonderful as her warm lips on my skin. I am so happy, I could die.