First Toby Redheart quoted to me:
“By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining big sea water
Stood the wigwam of Nakomis
Daughter of the Moon, Nakomis.’’
Then he released one drop into the lower flask and the solution turned lavender. It was a titration experiment. At what precise ratio does the pH factor change from acid to base? This last clear drop pierced the surface tension, then was redefined as a lavender drop, sinking down. Like a fet us, it hung suspended in its fluid; the lavender drop, bulbous like the out sized head, the lavender contrail curling after it, a faint umbilical.
“What was that?” I said.
“ ‘Hiawatha,’ Longfellow. I thought it was great stuff when I was the BIA’s little boy.’’
I was thinking of marrying Toby Redheart. I was only thinking of it. Was he thinking of it? After the experiment was over, he told me his father was an alcoholic.
The BIA. The BIA. The Bureau of Indian Affairs.
I told him I had been president of the Birmingham chapter of FSA—Future Scientists of America. I felt I was ashamed of it. I wanted to be ashamed of it.
Should I marry him? We walked across the campus together.
This was a late spring night. It seemed cold to us both, the Iowa spring. He was a Hopi. We were both a long way from home. I wore a turquoise poncho, knitted and fringed by myself. I remember how I had to keep my arms folded across my body under it to keep them warm. Toby put his arm across my shoulders. I felt armless because I hadn’t made any slits or any good way to get my arms out of the poncho. It just had a hole for my head.
“Trixie,” he said, “do you want to travel with me when school’s out?” ,
I stopped like a post.
“What?” I said, ’’What?” I felt horrible.
“Nothing,” he said.
We started walking again.
He was short and had to hustle to keep up with me. I would name you Running Deer, he told me once. He was standing up two steps of the chemistry building. Grad students were streaming by on all sides, our acquaintances. Bright mid-day sun on the concrete steps. On us. He drew a finger wide line down my nose. “I would name you Running Deer, if you were mine.’’