That summer, Carrie’s father teaches her how to fish and how to swear. It’s not the swearing that follows the fishing (when nothing bites and the backs of their necks turn red), it’s the fishing which is the excuse to get into the boat.
Late in the day, she throws a pike back (after holding it, squirming, wet, sharp and fighting) and the edge of a scale catches her thumb on the flop down and it’s blood, following the fish into the water.
“Fuck,” Carrie says, the word fresh and bright and beautiful, for the first time used in full context of her life.
“Just not in front of your mother or your teachers,” her father says and presses his thumb to the broken open part of hers.
It’s the same year Maggie refuses to be Clark. Carrie has their suede, embroidered bags full with water, trail mix, the old compass from their grandfather, a notebook for pressing flowers and leaves, colored pencils and sunscreen. She throws Maggie’s bag to her and Maggie doesn’t reach to catch it.
Carrie looks at the fallen bag. Maggie flips her hair over her shoulder and says she’s too old to play in the woods. Their mother slides a hand around the back of Carrie’s head, tells her they’ll all go for a walk later.
They don’t, because Maggie says she’s tired (even though all she’s done that day is sit on the porch and paint her nails) and that night Maggie refuses to sleep in the tent. Carrie wants to push her sister into the dirt of the driveway, remind her of the mud fights and the bug bites and the run-in with the raccoon the summer before and how she loved it all and whatever she’s doing now, no matter how grown up she feels, she’s just being a fucking bitch. She digs her fingernails into her palms instead and then fills in the marks with a pen, makes faces and waves.
Her father tells her it will be better in the morning and Carrie rolls over in the sleeping bag on the cabin floor and doesn’t believe it. She dreams about a fish swallowing everyone whole and misses the smell of the earth when sunrise wakes her.
There are pancakes for breakfast and their mother talks about the day her girls are going to spend in the woods, exploring. Maggie nods and Carrie smiles and once their mother has returned to the stove, Maggie leans over and says, “I hate you.” It’s her smirk, after, like she’s won something, which unsticks new words from Carrie’s throat.
“You should stop being such a fucking bitch,” Carries says, now.
Maggie’s mouth drops open and their mother yells Carrie’s full name, sharp into the soft, morning air, but Carrie doesn’t wait for the rest. She doesn’t wait for her father to come in from the porch where he is trying to find a moment of peace in a World War II novel. She has her bag in one hand and her boots in the other and she runs.
That is the summer Carrie learns for sure that she can’t get lost.
She stops behind a rock after running hard for seven and a half minutes and switches out her flip-flops for the boots. She runs for fifteen minutes more and expects to be, well, lost. But she knows the lake is to her left and the waterfall then must be northeast of that and she wants to check, but that will be the first place they look, so she goes east instead. A straight line away from the lake. She hits the road right when she expects to. She takes a deep breath, looks both ways and crosses it.
Carrie has never been in this part of the woods before, but the sun still travels west and moss still grows north and her body won’t let her forget where she came from.
She and Maggie always used map and compass, to and from the waterfall, but today she learns it’s just part of the game of pretending they don’t know where the path turns, where it gets steep, where they find the river. It’s all an exercise in making every time the first time.
Carrie closes her eyes in the mid-afternoon and imagines the slow shrinking down of this state. The ocean is east. The plains, west. She expands out the entire world from this rock (Africa across one ocean, China across the other) and doesn’t, for a second, feel small.
A sheriff’s car is parked in the driveway. Carrie takes off her shoes on the front steps and her mother gasps when she opens the door.
“I was hiking,” Carrie tells the deputy when he asks why she ran away. “I don’t run away.”
It’s that summer, too, when their father disappears for two days. Late in August, just a week before school starts, he drives into town after dinner. Their mother sends them both to bed, laughing that he must have run into a neighbor and had a drink or two.
Carrie wakes her mother up the next morning; she is still sitting at the kitchen table. They all know there is no car in the driveway, but no one says it for the next twelve hours. It’s past dinner when Maggie looks to the window and Carrie can see the shiver and she doesn’t finish the question before the answer–“We’ll go into town tomorrow”–quiets her.
They borrow a car from the neighbors two houses down and how unnecessary her mother makes it seem is but a prequel to the high-wire act of town. Not once does this seem like anything more than Mrs. Mathison buying groceries or light bulbs or just saying hello and then hanging around for a conversation because it’s not too hot today and yes, they should drive up for a few weekends in September.
Carrie listens to every word, but doesn’t put the pieces together until they are back in the car and heading out of town the opposite way they arrived.
“The cabin is the other way, Mom,” Maggie says.
“Your father is this way,” she replies.
Maggie asks how she knows, but doesn’t get an answer until it stumbles from Carrie.
“He went to see Bill,” she says.
Her mother stops the car and turns around to look at Carrie. Carrie sees someone very tired, someone who has never smiled quite the way other people do (with their whole faces) and that doesn’t change now, but it reaches to her eyes, the second before she turns around.
He’s sitting at the fire pit, a beer in one hand, Bill asleep on the grass nearby. He welcomes them all to the ashes. Only Carrie goes.
The fight is loud and done in three parts. The first wakes Bill and involves the throwing of empty cans. Maggie stays in the car and pretends it’s not happening. Carrie finds a barn cat and makes her purr until she’s ordered back into the borrowed car.
The second is in the kitchen, hushed and fast, and even as Carrie hides outside and listens through the open window, the world doesn’t seem big enough for all of them. Dinner is quiet, except for Maggie’s nervous chatter about starting high school.
The last part happens when their mother packs the car at dawn and their father stands at the bottom of the steps in old shorts and tells his wife nothing she does will make him leave before Sunday, so they might as well all stay. Carrie reaches to unbuckle her seat belt; their mother starts the car and drives away.
Nine years later, she’ll use that summer to say she knew Carrie would turn out the same.
Today, Carrie is exploring.
What she finds is that she wants both to have enough space between them so she could fire that gun and hit irreparable flesh and she wants no space at all, hands and heart confessing. If she sleeps at all that night, she dreams she is with him in the cabin. She knows she’s awake to watch the sun light up Brody’s hair. It’s much more red, here.
The cabin has always done that to her memories. Nothing is ever as green as the trees here and stars never so beautiful. Carrie feels different, too. Even though they’re perfectly findable, even though she never forgets where she is, it’s like the rest of the world could.
He says he finds peace with her and if this felt like walking with the enemy Carrie would understand. She does not trust this man to love his country like he did when he was young and unbroken, but she takes him to the waterfall anyway. Carrie knows how to lie. Maybe not for the machine, but to men. She doesn’t need to tell him how she grew up because he won’t ever know if she was Lewis or Clark, but she gives him more truth than anyone (except, maybe, Saul) and she looks at the rocks in the river and the leaves on the trees and his hands hanging loose at his sides and she could give him even more.
Carrie was never one for playing house and she moves around the kitchen, a bird, wings broken. He’s an anchor, the planet she’s been turning around ever since he was rescued (or set free) and she should never have gotten this close (rules of gravity and all) but now she’s bound by mysteries bigger and older than either of them.
She does not expect, touching his scars, to see his wife’s face, the bruises on her arm. She presses again, to erase. Maybe, before right now, maybe this could have been the weekend. Or the watching. Or the back of her car. Maybe her orbit could have loosened itself, returned to deep, lonely space. But he stops and lives there for a second and Carrie, she lives there, too.
She holds him when he wakes with a name shouted hard and fast like a fist (she doesn’t get bruises, but it still shows) and maybe, later, when it’s light again, this can be about what it means to their country, but now it’s just Brody and some certain ghost.
The problem, Carrie knows, with remembering details, is that she remembers them all. In the kitchen, in the cupboard, there is no Yorkshire Gold, but there is her dead translator. And there are planes, crashing. Meriwether Lewis might be remembered best for where he traveled, but what Carrie has always liked (besides the name) is the people who claim he was murdered and the other people who won’t let his body back above ground to check. Saul will remember her for her mistakes. Maggie, for what she thinks she could have gone different. The girls, for her presents. Her father, less and less. What the CIA remembers depends on how they find her.
It’s a bad lie made worse by retreat, but Carrie needs time to slow her heart. She’s not his wife and so he finds peace with her and maybe they can both keep their secrets. She won’t stop hunting, but she won’t ask him here. And if he could do the same their weekend wouldn’t have to end the way it looks to–with anger and blame and something sharp and unforgiving which is going to look like Brody and speak like Brody, but not be the man whose car she got into.
Brody knows how to be wounded. He could survive her.
What she’s afraid of is not the gun (which he leaves on the table like it can’t kill) and it’s not what he could do to her (because a true long-game wouldn’t even brake for her). It’s that there is a gun on the table and a man who might be turned not three feet from her and she already knows no matter how far away he’s standing, there still wouldn’t be enough space to pull the trigger.
Ask me anything is like a muzzle up against her forehead because he knows she knows how well he lies, but she has to ask.
The story Brody tells is an old one. The body betraying itself for love. For light. She’d tell him she’s studied this, knows all the tricks: how to drive a man towards his enemy is for the enemy to play kind. She'd place a hand on his chest, above the scar that cuts a half moon and she'd turn him back; love for love. But she can’t, in the end, tell him anything, because Carrie may believe in what happened here this weekend, but she also believes in what happened in Baghdad and since he wouldn’t let this be about them, now it’s about everyone else.
Saul’s phone call is telling her she could keep this man and maybe really have him and until Carrie reaches the car, she’s ready to say, It’s Tom Walker, not you (even though it could cost her job) because it would keep him here (and that’s a job, too). What she says instead is because she wants to be enough of a reason.
Hey Carrie (and she has plans for today and tomorrow and–), fuck you (–and she cannot breathe until it brings her to her knees in the dirt and she’s heaving).
Maggie doesn’t ask who left her there.
Truth is, Carrie doesn’t really know.