Polk Place, 1935, Wilson library in background: William Waters, IV
We stood on the steps of the old library at UNC-Chapel Hill, the fall of my sophomore year. We were on the top step, having emerged from the stacks blinking, blinded in the day's light. My backpack was heavy on my back. I was wearing a Mexican-inspired red ruffled skirt with desert boots, an ensemble that I imagined bohemian in otherwise preppy 1982. He put a hand on my shoulder, and I felt his dry palm through the thin cotton of my shirt. The same bumps on my skin rose at his touch as do when I step into sunlight. The bare skin receives warmth and then, shocked, feels a chill, the goosebumps, then the warmth spreads to the tips of the fingers. A sun sneeze. His hand lay there, on my shoulder, so that I couldn't move. I heard his voice, low, in my ear, a whisper. If we lived in Cro-Magnon times, he said, you would never have survived. I would be the wild cat that ate you up. The steps under my feet were hard, wide and shallow. I was stuck under his hand and couldn't open my mouth. I felt his fingers on my throat, cool and dry. Blinded, I saw spots, little black dots and at the bottom of the steps, the world, bare and primitive, stripped.
Small Stone 21 and 22