They stood on the steps of the old library at UNC-Chapel Hill, the fall of her sophomore year. They were on the top step, having emerged from the stacks blinking, blinded in the day's light. Her backpack was heavy on her back. She was wearing a Mexican-inspired red ruffled skirt with desert boots, an ensemble that she imagined bohemian in otherwise preppy 1982. He put a hand on her shoulder, and she felt his dry palm through the thin cotton of her shirt. The same bumps on her skin rose at his touch as do when she stepped 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 her shoulder, so that she couldn't move.
She heard his voice, low, in her 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 her feet were hard, wide and shallow. She was stuck under his hand and couldn't open her mouth. She felt his fingers on her throat, cool and dry. Blinded, she saw spots, little black dots and at the bottom of the steps, the world, bare and primitive, stripped.