This will be my final recollection from that fateful family trip to the Atlantic Ocean and back. The following incident took place in Massachusetts, when I was 11 years old.
After the episode where we almost got lost at sea, my parents were pretty much done with traveling anywhere. They decided that we would spend the rest of our trip in Massachusetts, and then drive nonstop back to Michigan when they had sufficiently recovered enough to begin the trek home.
Because of our ill-fated lighthouse adventure, my fair-skinned brother was badly sunburned. My parents concluded that further exposure on the beach would probably be a bad idea, so we spent a few days touring around the city. Cape Cod was a pleasant area, and we enjoyed the ocean breeze which seemed to follow us wherever we went. The tang of salt water invigorated our spirits, and we regained our good natures quickly.
One day, my stepdad decided that he was going to take my brother and me to a park nearby that he had seen while out getting provisions. The park was in a wooded area, and it had a nicely maintained playground. A small herd of children flowed around the play structure without pattern. The light filtered in through the trees as we passed the hours engaged in effortless play with the other children we encountered.
Eventually my stepdad decided that he wanted to check out the trails which ran into the woods from the park area. They looked well-kept and there were wood chips indicating that it was more official than the previous trail we had come across in our travels. The park had a nice assortment of families enjoying the facilities, so it seemed like a pretty safe area for us to take a short walk.
We had only been walking on the path for a minute or two before we could no longer hear the noises of children at play. We had completely left behind the park and were deep in the coppice a mere five minutes later. The walk was peaceful, and my stepdad was relieved to see that we did not come across any unwholesome activities taking place. He relaxed a little too early, however.
As we rounded a bend in the woods, a bizarre sight came into view. A young woman clad only in a black tank top and violet underwear was pouring a jug of water over her head. Her chocolate-hued tresses glistened with droplets as the sun boldly illuminated this peculiar vignette. Speedily we passed by, not speaking a word.
I felt like a trespasser in a forbidden copse, surreptitiously viewing the huntress Diana performing her ablutions. Surely at any moment she would turn to face me, and I would meet my demise. My stepdad was less romantic in his interpretation of the event. After we passed the woman by, we did not talk about the encounter.
My stepdad decreed that we should carry on forward, as he was certain the path circled round the park and emptied back out at the playground we had left from. As we continued on our way, I reflected silently on the peculiar female. I realized that the woman was probably not a modern day Greek goddess protecting the woodland creatures of New England but in actuality a mentally imbalanced homeless person.
No sooner had I arrived at this conclusion than we chanced upon the lady again. Her scanty attire had not changed. The tank top and underwear were still the outermost layers of fabric coating her willowy frame. However, she had now added a balaclava to her outfit. As I watched this outlandish woman wearing an ebony ski-mask and no pants travel nonchalantly through the woods of Massachusetts, I could not help but feel that I would never understand the situation fully.
And I don’t think I ever will.