WHEN ANNIE FELL OFF THE MOUNTAIN
My heart sank. Had we been crossed up again?
No, it was done.
On the way back I asked how it was.
"The office stank to high heaven," she said. "It was filthy."
"Was he a doctor? Did they speak to you nicely? Did it hurt?"
"It's over," she said, pushing air through her nose in a little sneeze to get rid of the stench. "And believe me, I'm fine."
She rested at my apartment, all the while refusing to tell me anything about what had happened. I tried everything I could think of, but despite my best efforts the next morning she packed up her books and records and announced she was leaving. She stood at the door, kissed me goodbye, then turned and left. She lifted her shoulders and let them fall but didn't look back once.
Last month my wife marched in an abortion rights rally in Washington, and I couldn't help but wonder if Annie had been there. She surely had reason to go, though even with all we went through she never became very political. Despite the fury on the surface, the passions that so animated her, nothing seemed to get very deep. But was that really the case? Only decades later when I watched, astonished, as my daughters were born did I realize how significant my experience with Annie had been. Only then did I understand how crucial it was that it was her body everything happened to, not mine. That body seemed different from the one I saw knocking on the door of a party, that I made love to, and that walked out my door with its shoulders rising and falling.
The other body, the one everything happened to, remains invisible, known only to other women, a mystery.
But still, Annie and I were through a lot, some intimate and scary moments, which at the time seemed as intimate and scary as anything life would offer. I wondered - as I kissed my wife goodbye, checked her list for the girls, and saw her drive off with a sign saying, "MY BODY, MY CHOICE" - if Annie had ever married, ever had children, and if she ever thought back to those times in the Village and Long Island and the Jersey City motel and the angry doctor (if he was a doctor) in Washington, and the smelly office in the Bronx. And, most of all, if she remembered when we were hiking deep in the woods and she climbed what seemed to be a mountain, and lost her footing and fell, as I watched in silence from safe, solid ground.