I know you don’t want to hear it. But I’m gonna say it. She liked me. You didn’t know that, did you? I drove her there. I held her hand in the dark along the trail. We crossed the creek and walked into the willows. The old trees with their skin peeling off, parts of them looking half dead. It was dark but my eyes adjusted. I could still see. She didn’t scream. She never did that. Hell, she laughed at first, she didn’t know. And then that instinct kicks in. An instinct given to all animals. She said no. She said that a number of times, but then she stopped saying that. I was so much bigger than her. She struggled for a short time but then she stopped with that too. Then she knew it. I could see it in her that she knew. There was no reason in me, only other things. Physical things. I held her down and ripped her clothes off. I held her throat with my hand. Held her down hard. Wasn’t much to get her legs apart. And she was young, it didn’t go easy. But it went. Wasn’t much sound. I could hear the creek. And it was like that for a short while. And then came a hissing sound from the back of her throat. The air coming out of her slow and constant almost like she was boiling inside. And that noise. I became angry with it. Bothered by it. So I squeezed harder. And I went harder. And as it was maybe her soul left her body or maybe she died for a while. I saw it in her eyes. She wasn’t there anymore. And I became angry that she wasn’t there. So I went harder. And she wasn’t there. So I went harder. She wasn’t there. I could tell she’d stopped breathing. And then I finished. It didn’t take much time. And there was nothing in it. Nothing at all. I removed myself and I took my hand from her throat. I kneeled back, looking down at her. Nothing at all. But this wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted her there. And that instinct or soul came back like a machine unknown and she started breathing again. Her chest moving up and down. It wasn’t her doing it. I could hear her breathing and I could hear the water from the creek. And there was nothing in all of it. Her face rolled to the side, covered in mud. I could feel the wetness on me getting cold and I knew most of it was blood. I just knew it was. If I’d left her like that. I don’t know. I just don’t. And then it comes. The anger. Building up. I wanted her there. So I moved over her again. Like nothing at all. And I hit her. And I kept hitting her. I hit her as hard as I could. Watching what it was doing to her face like I wasn’t the one doing it. How it changed it. She wasn’t there, none of it was. I stood up and stepped back in the dark. And it was at that time that it seemed like all the air and all the things of the universe was now there, all of it small compared to something else that we’ll never know, and I was the smallest within that. I watched her for a while. She rolled her body over on her belly. Stayed that way for a time. Then she stood up. I don’t know how she did that. She covered what she could of herself. Her figure standing out in the dark. She walked over close to a willow through the thistle and I don’t think she could see. I knew she was bleeding to death. She held on to a branch, just her arm held out very still, holding to a dead willow branch. Like she was holding onto to something kinder than anything that ever was. I left her there. Walked back over the creek and up the trail. Got in my car and drove to the gas station that used to be over on Peck Road. I knew they didn’t keep the bathrooms locked at night and I cleaned myself in the sink. There was this bright fluorescent light. It was so bright it hurt my eyes. It made the blood seem fake. Blood looks different in natural light. When I got home you were up. You were lying on the couch with a glass of whiskey. A tall thin glass with no markings, just a sip left in it. You were watching TV. I don’t remember what was on. If you’d turned around you’d have seen the blood on me. But you didn’t. And I didn’t expect to sleep but I did. Or maybe it wasn’t sleep but my body giving up. The next morning I woke early and I spent most of the day with you. We didn’t talk much. That was the way it was. I drove you around in the pick-up. We went out to Gregg’s Ranch on Wheeler Canyon Road. We set out to do some measurements on a horse. We were drinking the coffee my mother made for us and you were looking out the window, your eyes bloodshot. Later, we had lunch at the airport. I had a burger and you had pork chops and eggs. We didn’t say a word. Nothing. Way it was. Spent the rest of the day in the shop. You were going between a few saddles. I was helping you. Francisco was working on a tree. I remember how he had those little notebooks. The little spiral kind. He was always taking out a pencil and writing things in it. Words he didn’t know. Ideas. Things you said or things I told him about I’d learned at school. He’d be rasping at the fork of a tree and he’d be thinking of something. You could see it working in his head. Then he’d take out the notebook from his pocket and write down whatever it was he was thinking. He must have had hundreds of those books. And I had the strangest thought. It started long ago and it’s a boyish thought to have. It stays with me now and I don’t know why. That those books. That they would somehow have the answers. Answers to all of this. That was the last day I spent with you. I can’t imagine that girl walking out of there. Down the creek as far as she did. I think of her there by the bridge. I wonder if she decided that’s where she’s gonna die. I’ve come to terms with certain things I’ve done and that isn’t one of them. I’m a monster. OK, I got it. I don’t know why I did it. I know it had nothing to do with her. Nothing at all. She was the most innocent thing. Just the most innocent. I didn’t believe in hell until that night. I wonder what that says about hell? I know it doesn’t come after you die. I’ve resigned my life to this. Living like this. I know that on the day I die I won’t be seeing the face of my daughter. I’ll be seeing the face of that girl. And I know that’s the way it should be. I don’t know what will happen next. I get so lost in it. The thoughts of it. For the longest time I thought of you, how I shamed you. But I don’t think about that now. I think about that night. Why it happened. Where’d it come from? I have to ask you. And you can say whatever you want. You can kick me out and I’ll never talk to you again if that’s the way you want it. But I have to ask. It’s the reasons I came here to talk to you. Do you know of it? Could you see it in me? That side. Could you see that in me?