The curtain separating my real life from my daydream life was as thin as Bible paper, almost like I could hear the shh-crinkle when I pulled it back. My real life was coffee, traffic, work, dinner, drinks, TV, sleep. My daydream life revolved around Abe Forrest, wildlife biologist and host of my favorite nature documentary show, Forrest Ranger. I watched it every night before bed and I loved him. I was enraptured by everything he did—how he moved, his white work truck, his hands touching things. I dreamt of morning mimosas with Abe Forrest, lunch with Abe Forrest, dinner with Abe Forrest, bed and life with Abe Forrest. Abraham. He tagged and tracked animals like deer and coywolves. He looked at me through my television and said words like crepuscular and wilderness and predator. Sometimes I talked back.
I love you, Abe Forrest. Marry me, Abe Forrest.
I got his email address from the website and sent him a something and practically nothing email.
Abe. Abraham. I'm Lacey. I don't know what crepuscular means and I don't want to look it up. I want you to tell me. I only want to hear it from you. It's more special. So do it. Go on. Tell me.
Two days later he wrote me back. Frisson sparked my shoulders and warmed my cheeks, the top of my head. I got the email when I was at work so I left my desk and went to the bathroom to read it on my phone.
Hi Lacey. I talked about it in more detail in another episode, but simply put, crepuscular refers to an animal that is active primarily at dusk/twilight and dawn/early morning–an animal that is most active on the edges, when the day pages are just turning. Thanks so much for your question and for watching. Best, Abe.
I wrote him back. Three words. Made it holy.
Are you crepuscular?
And two more words in the follow-up email: I am.
That night, Abe's show was a rerun. He was discussing coywolves and he used words like coyote and bones and feast and young. I sat there on my bed in my long sleeve Forrest Ranger shirt and flowery underwear, watching him. He was wearing the army green pocket T-shirt he always wore, the same chunky black watch. No wedding ring.
I loved his hands and his fingers. I loved his short fingernails, each with their own little pale crescent moon. I watched his arms, his hands as he lifted the tranquilized coywolf pup, as he gently tagged its ear and placed it back into the little dirt hole he'd pulled it out of. This way we'll be able to track its growth, he said—quietly, as if he didn't want to wake a sleeping baby. He was on one knee saying the word hybrid when my phone buzzed with his email reply.
Ha! Yes, I am crepuscular too.
Abe was talking and talking, his voice coming from my television as I typed out: We should be crepuscular together sometime. Love, Lacey.
I wondered if he'd notice the Love. It was true. I loved his compass, his Leatherman, his Swiss Army Knife, his headlamp and folding saw. His brown cargo pants, how careful he was around the sleeping baby animals. How wide-eyed he got when he stumbled upon something unexpected. Abe Forrest was my magnetic north. Once he was tagging a tiny fawn and he said look at how small and beautiful she is. She has the prettiest markings. He bent down and said hey there girl, in his scratchy, sleepy morning voice. And I wished his voice and those words were crackers so I could eat them.
I attached my favorite picture of me to the email, the picture where I'm wearing a white triangle bikini and sunglasses and my hair all wild and wavy with weather. I was on my brother's boat, drinking a Corona with lime because that's all he had. It was taken last summer and I wanted Abe to know what I looked like, that I wasn't a dude or a kid. I wanted him to think I was pretty, but, even if he didn't, he'd still probably like the picture. Maybe it would remind him of a fun summer he’d had on a boat once or a happy, sexy beer commercial or something.
Is this really you? He wrote back.
Where do you live, Lacey?
About forty-five minutes from you.
How do you know where I live, Lacey?
I know because I Googled it.
And I had. I’d even written down his address on a torn piece of paper and slipped it into my wallet where I kept the cash. I drew a little heart next to Abraham and a little tree next to Forrest. I kissed it and left a sticky-cherry lipstick mark. He lived on a street called Halcyon and it felt like a sign. Halcyons were a kind of bird, and his new bird episode was coming on the next week.
It was time for bed so I turned the TV off and waited for his reply. It wasn't as quick as the others, but it came. Finally.
Well you certainly are easy on the eyes, he said.
I heard his voice in my head saying it, and this too: Look at how small and beautiful she is. She has the prettiest markings. I pictured him gently lifting me from my bed, tagging my ear, tracking me all month. A year, maybe.
Abe Forrest came to my house at dusk, two weeks later. He apologized for not being able to make it sooner, but he was traveling, working. When he showed up, he wasn't wearing his work clothes. He was wearing a thin blue-grey plaid shirt rolled up at the sleeves and dark jeans, brown boots. I was wearing a dress and he said maybe he should've worn a tie, I told him no. I told him ties were just penis arrows.
“These men are walking around everywhere all day with arrows pointing straight down to their penises and they know exactly what they're doing. They do it on purpose but they act like we don't know,” I said, rambling. Abe laughed. I'd never heard his laugh before. He never laughed on his show. His laugh was husky and if it were a color it would be melon-orange. I loved how his forty-something-year-old-eyes crinkled at the corners.
I had on a dress and a belt. I never wore dresses. I got that dress for Abe because I was adorning myself the same way the birds did. Male bowerbirds decorate their nests with trinkets all the same color to impress their mate. My dress was blue, my jewelry too—turquoise thunderbird earrings and a bracelet to match, some chunky-blue rings. I poured the wine from a blue bottle into a blue glass. I'd turned on Joni Mitchell's Blue album before he got there. “Carey” was coming so soft and low from the speakers we could barely hear it. I put blue corn chips and blueberries on a bright blue plate for him.
“There aren't many naturally blue foods,” I laughed.
“I'm not hungry, so this is fine. Impressive, actually,” he said.
“I'm a bowerbird,” I said.
“Oh, I see,” he said, nodding. His voice, flashlight-bright.
I asked him the scientific name for bowerbird. He said Ptilonorhynchidae and it felt like a kiss. I crossed my legs, squeezed my thighs together.
“It's okay if you think I'm crazy,” I said.
“I don't think you're crazy.”
“But it's totally okay if you do,” I said.
“Well, I don't.”
I told him he couldn't leave until the next morning because we were crepuscular, remember? Since he came over at dusk, he couldn't leave until dawn. I told him nothing had to happen. It was okay if it did, but it didn't have to. I told him men were lucky because they didn't have to be scared when a woman got obsessed with them and looked up where they lived and invited them to their house. Men didn't have to be afraid of women the same way women had to be afraid of men.
“I understand. But you invited me over here and you weren't afraid of me,” he said.
“No, but I watch you on TV every night. It's different,” I said, smacking more wine into our glasses.
I told him he could sleep on the couch if he wanted. I told him I had a blue blanket.
“And there's something else I want,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. And I loved that he didn't ask what it was, he just said okay. Joni Mitchell was still singing because the album was on repeat and Abe and I were drinking and drinking wine, eating and eating chips and berries.
“I want you to talk about me like I'm one of the animals. Y'know...follow me around and talk about what I'm doing,” I said.
He pulled his phone from his pocket and at first I thought maybe he was calling the police because he was convinced I was a complete maniac, but then he held up his phone and said okay go.
I picked up the empty blue plate and walked to put it in the sink. I ran some water over it.
“Look. The female bird is cleaning her nest. She is a rare Lacey bird only seen in the western part of the state,” Abe said, using his deep documentary narration voice.
My face was hot, my eyes began to water. I took my hair down.
“It seems as though she is finished hunting for the night. She's fluffing herself,” he said, smiling at me.
I undid my belt. The big horned buckle thunked to the kitchen floor. I looked down, let my hair fall and cover one of my eyes.
“No, wait! Maybe she is still hunting...looking for a mate. If there are any male birds in the area she will know it very soon,” Abe said. He aimed his phone with one hand and leaned against the doorway, stuck his free thumb through his belt loop. He whistled—four snappy, high chirps. I fluffed and fluffed.