Eve at the Pool
Our marriage was in shambles. We didn’t do anything together, but it wasn’t either of our faults: there was nothing to do; the garden was so boring. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a fan of interspecies friendships, but there’s only so long a person can spend watching lions and lambs lick each other’s noses. At least you visited us sometimes; you walked with Adam and me and told us outlandish stories. I think you were trying to see how much you could get Adam to believe: my husband has always been earnest and gullible, though, to be fair, it was hard to tell sometimes if you were joking. (Me out of his rib! Come on, I was about to protest, but you winked at me.) You seemed to like having a captive audience—which, as far as I could tell, was why you made us.
Adam was always naming the animals, and I was about to point out that he had named some twice, when I spotted you, hiding behind a tree, sending animals around in one big circle, like a general trying to make his army look bigger. After that spell was finally over—by which time the mountain lion was also a panther, a puma, a catamount, and a cougar -- I thought Adam might have more time for me, but he moved on from fauna to flora.
One day, as I was poking freshly-named flowers into your beard, you told us, seemingly as an afterthought, not to eat from the tree Adam had just dubbed the “persimmon.” (This was, I’m pretty sure retroactively, the first example of reverse psychology.) It was easy enough not to eat those fruits, or any--we were never hungry. (Meals, one less thing to do together.) Nor were we ever tired. Some nights, when Adam was naming stars—droning “42 Draconis A….PSR B0633+17… π3 Orionis…”--I picked persimmons and stacked them in pyramids. I smelled their skin and wanted to bite it. I smelled Adam’s skin and wanted to bite it. I didn’t know why--there were animals, sure, but none of them multiplied—and the only thing Adam said at such times was “ouch.”
It was the snake wrapping itself around my limbs that made me think twice about my obedience: the way my skin came awake, I felt there could be more to feel. The way its tongue forked out between its teeth, I thought there could be another path: a world outside the garden, its opposite. I had always listened to you, but what if I didn’t? I didn’t know what would happen; all I knew is it would be something that hadn’t happened yet. What the hell; I went for it. Adam was an easy sell.
The fig leaves came later; the persimmon, it turned out, was an aphrodisiac. Bada-bing, and the world started spinning. It must have: there was suddenly wind, which there’d never been before. When you showed up, after a good laugh at our leafy modesty—Adam’s idea--you had a question or two. Adam turned to me, and I gave credit where credit was due. You nodded, patted your friend the snake on his head, as if proud of him for inspiring me. You patted me on the head, as if proud of me for being inspired. “Finally!” You handed me a diploma and opened the gate. “I thought you’d never think for yourself. Off you go.”
I noticed you hadn’t given Adam anything. Except me.
“What do we do now?” he asked pitiably.
Even before the gate swung shut, into my mind were springing deserts and tundras, jungles and oceans, skyscrapers, even. My thoughts were giving birth to thoughts; my thoughts had descendants: I knew just how to get Adam started in business. We took out a loan, got a nice condo, and now look at me go, speeding through every red light between here and the pool in my convertible. Sundays are my cat’s-eye sunglasses, my kerchief fluttering, my two boys in the backseat, the oldest poking his brother in the ribs. I can already tell he takes after me. “Don’t pee in the pool,” I say when we get there, and he just laughs.
I like it at the pool more than the kids do. More than I like hanging with Adam and the guys from his branding office at the bar on the boardwalk: they tease him, and he doesn’t even know it.
The sun, perfectly poised, the light, perfectly warm on so much of my skin…. If I ignore everyone else, the splashing and shrieking, it’s like being back in the garden. In my lawnchair, in my bikini, magazine open to an article about marital loneliness spreadeagled across my chest, my thoughts drift. I wonder now if there was something I missed. Why did you tell the rib story--which made me Adam’s progeny-- if not to kill our chemistry? Why did you keep Adam busy so much of the time, naming, if not to get me on my own? And Adam, concealing me from whom but you with that vegetable outfit—was he trying to say “off-limits”? Did he see something between you and me that I didn’t?
Is it just my longing that has me remembering something longing in your goodbye at the garden gate, something bittersweet, as if you hoped Adam would leave, but I wouldn’t? As if daring me to once again disobey, expecting me to say, “No way, Yahweh. I’m not going anywhere with this lightweight. I’m staying right here with you.”
I miss your tests and tricks, your booming voice, your sense of humor; the two of us, I think, could have found something to do, creatures to make or make believe, could have been happy together. Sometimes my thoughts race: could I have bet on the wrong horse? But then Adam comes home from work and buries his head in his hands, and I know he needs me more.
Amber Burke is a grad of Yale and the JHU Seminars who teaches writing and yoga at the University of New Mexico in Taos. Her creative work has been published in magazines including The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, Quarterly West, X-R-A-Y, and Flyway Journal. She’s also a regular contributor to Yoga International, which published the ebook she co-authored, Yoga for Common Conditions.