Out we went, across the bit of bare lawn, and into the woods. We were both barefoot, avoiding stepping on the same pine cones, but he seemed better at it than me. I walked by his side and neither of us spoke. It occurred to me that I did not know his name, and had not asked it. I'm bad at that. I usually wait for other people to ask me my name first. And then half the time I'll be coy and not tell them what it is. He said he knew who I was already, so I figured he must have known my name. I didn't want to pry into how he knew me just yet.
"Say, I forgot to ask. What is your name?"
"I don't think I have one." He glanced at me sheepishly. "Well, I may have one, but I do not know what it is."
I grunted in stoic acknowledgment, and walked on.
I wonder how other girls may have approached this situation. Many would have long ago phoned the police, and surely many people would believe me a fool for not having done so myself. It wasn't an option in my mind. I know a lot of people are keen on sniffing out danger, and I am aware of the popular concepts of what makes a dangerous sign, but I don't agree with all those notions.
I wasn't afraid of this fellow, even if he didn't have a name. I was wary of him, but I'm wary of little old ladies I've known all my life, too. You never know who might go mad and savagely rip out your throat with their teeth, and in my eyes, it was just as likely to be my own granny as a loner who has lost his mind. I had no desire to involve the police in my personal affairs, and I took this as my own personal affair. I just don't much love the cops, or the social workers, or whoever authority I would have to deal with in the case of the amnesiac weirdo in my vicinity.
Call me reckless, call me villainous, it makes no nevermind to me. I wasn't going to get pushy and demanding with information. I liked his feel, and that was good enough to keep my hostile attacks at bay.
He moved smoothly in the forest, gliding right past the snatching branches and twigs that caught my face and hair. He stopped in a spot, turned to me and put his hands on his hips. "Here we are," he said, looking at me with happy expectancy. "Do you see?"
I didn't know what I was supposed to be seeing, but I wasn't seeing it. The area seemed familiar, but lots of places in my woods are familiar to me. There did seem to be something somehow off about the place, something amiss, but I could not place what it was. "What am I looking for?" I asked.
"It's gone, don't you see!" He grabbed my hand and pulled me toward a cluster of small trees. There was indeed an odd barrenness about them, like something that should have been there wasn't. He put my hand on the trunk of one of the larger trees. "The brambles. Remember? They are not here anymore."
That was what it was. There had been a big, unruly bush of brambles growing here, wrapped around the bent and stunted trees. Blackberries grew here, and I would come in the summer to pick them. The bush had been huge, accumulated over a few years' healthy proliferation. Not a trace remained, except the faintly whitened marks of the twisting, thorny stems now gone missing from the bark of the trees.