What Kind of a Name is That? Part 4

Arazim—Hebrew for “cedars”—was a misnomer. Only pines grew there, and their sharp fragrance filled the outdoor air. Early April was still winter in northern Minnesota. Patches of snow remained on the ground, the lake was still solid, and after dark the temperature fell below freezing. The lodge was cold. As soon as we unpacked we built a fire.

The main room of the lodge was big and high-ceilinged. The walls were paneled in pine, and the tables and benches were pine as well. The room smelled of must, old resin, and wood smoke. We left the lights off. The fire we built and the candles we blessed provided the only light.

After dinner we moved close to the fire. Adam didn’t offer me a spot at his side. Instead, he invited Laura. As they sat by the fire, he began to touch her hair, fondling it as though it was an intimate part of her body. As I watched, I thought of the Song of Songs, and its images seemed more vivid than any reality.

Late at night, sick of Spinoza, I had often dropped the book and imagined Adam’s slender hand touching me. My hair. My face. My naked skin, the places that no one had ever touched. I closed my eyes, suddenly in anguish over my own memories. Adam’s lips on mine. His arms around me. Our two bodies naked, tangling, fused into one. Full of pain, I fled.

I blundered into the room where the boys had thrown their coats and sleeping bags. I recognized Adam’s blue jacket. Feverish, crazy, I pressed it to my face and breathed in the smell of Adam’s body. I was too sick at heart to be ashamed. In torment, I cleaved to the garment as though it were Adam himself.

That night I slept fitfully and woke at dawn, stiff and sore. I wriggled out of my sleeping bag and dressed. I’ll read until someone gets up, I thought. I picked up my copy of Spinoza and walked into the main room.

Before I could find a place to sit I saw the sleeping bag on the floor. Who was sleeping here? I stepped cautiously, not wanting to wake anyone. As I walked by I saw. Laura slept in Adam’s arms.

I turned my face away and slipped out the door. I began to run, away from the lodge, toward the still-frozen lake. I ran as fast as I could, as though I could outrun the tears. I sat on the boat dock and stared over the icy water until my fingers and toes were frostbitten, hoping that the numbness would creep upward to my heart.

When I limped into the lodge, I found Laura dressing in the room I’d slept in. I stared at the full-bosomed body that Adam had embraced the night before. “I have to talk to you,” I said.

Laura hooked her brassiere and asked, “What is it?”

“I saw you and Adam. I know what happened last night.”

She buttoned her blouse. “Is it my fault that he likes me?”

Bitterness tore at my chest. “You knew how I felt about him. How could you do this to me?”

She looked up. I hated her pleased, pretty face. “You never had a relationship with him,” she said, as she zipped up her jeans.

I sat through breakfast in an agony of jealousy. Adam avoided my eyes. Laura chattered. I crumbled toast. After breakfast Laura took Adam aside. I saw her whisper in his ear, and I saw him hug her around the waist. He let her go and came to me.

“You’re upset,” he said, with concern in his voice. “What’s the matter, Adah?”

My eyes stung, as though he meant it. I said, “Talk to me and I’ll tell you.”

He took me to the chapel, where the smell of musty resin was particularly strong. I pressed my back to the pine wall and said, “I saw you and Laura this morning.”

Shame flooded his face. He said, “That has nothing to do with you.”

“How can you say that? Do you have any idea of how I feel about you?”

He shook his head. Anguish made me free to tell him what I really felt. “I thought you cared about me.”

Astonished, he said, “Whatever made you think that?” 

“The way you smiled at me. The way you held my hand. The way you sang to me. Didn’t that mean a thing to you?”

“Oh my God,” he said.

“Have you ever read the Song of Songs? Do you know what it’s about?”

“Adah, please—“

I cried out, “How could you do this to me?”

When he spoke all the beauty left his features. “Laura asked me to be nice to you. I did it as a favor to her. That’s all it ever was. And somehow you got this crazy notion that I was in love with you.”

“I am not crazy,” I whispered.

He backed away. “Just leave me alone, Adah.” He ran from the chapel.

I sank to the floor and made myself small, as though I would hurt less that way. Spinoza! I had spent months trying to read a dead philosopher while Adam and Laura had done everything in the Song of Songs together.