She’s not struggling anymore. Dawn’s light creeps over the tips of the white oaks and sassafras trees, encouraging the Ozarks to bloom. There is a stillness in the air around this lake. No cicadas, no frogs, no snaps of twigs from bolting deer. If I’m ever lucky enough to know peace, this is surely the closest I’ll ever come.
From my place on the boat in the dead center of the lake, the military-green color of the forest and the glass-like mirror of the still water look the same from every angle. The symmetry would be disorienting were it not for the makeshift dock my grandfather built back in the fifties. The lake sits only a few yards away from my grandfather’s property, a cabin he built himself where I would spend my childhood summers tucked away beneath the trees, but he’s always claimed this lake as his own. Since I was a kid, this has been my favorite time of day to come out here. No one looks for you during this time. No one thinks about bad things happening at four in the morning.
I look over the side of the boat. The water is placid again. The ripples have swelled into oblivion and I see myself staring back from the water. I’ve always liked how I looked, but this reflection would make Narcissus blush. I know women think the same thing when they look at me. They look at me and see beauty, and then their mind starts to build up a fantasy of safety, of protection, of being cared for. God help you if you don’t live up to it. My grandfather had the same problem. Said he never met a woman who wasn’t trouble. I didn’t fully agree with that, but
it does hurt when they scream at you, accuse you of doing things, spiral out of your control. Once they reach that point, you can no longer reason with them. You can’t make them see what you see. A reflection, on the other hand, is always in your control. A reflection never talks back.
A slivered line of red emerges at the water’s surface, stretching across my reflection’s forehead. For a brief, terrifying moment, I recall that scene at the end of Friday the 13th where the heroine wakes up on a boat after a night of terror, the oboes start playing and it seems she has survived the horror movie, only to have little Jason pop up from the lake and grab her. For one moment, I did not breathe, waiting for her to pop back up for one more scare, but adrenaline can make you think crazy thoughts and mine is still running. Neither Jason, nor she, will pop out of the lake. That stuff’s for the movies. I take in the solitude and silence of the lake for a moment longer, then I stab it, my oars slashing into the water’s surface. I dock the boat and retreat to my grandfather’s cabin, hidden in the white oaks.