She is looking at him when he wakes up with a detached curiosity, like his waking was an expected ordeal. She, on the other hand, was not what he had expected at all. She did not look like him. She didn’t look like anything he’d ever seen.
“How long have you been there?” he says.
“I’ve always been here.”
“No, you haven’t. You’re new.”
“New,” she repeats, tasting the word. She discovers that she agrees with him even as she says it, and the word falls newly from her lips into a garden in which many things were just so. She pulls her knees up to her and rests her chin on them, wrapping her arms around her legs. He thinks her movements odd, but he cannot stop watching.
They sit in the earth, with trees waving about them like hands to God. It is morning, and the garden is bursting with chatter. Creatures acquainted only with life and nothing else. The world green and naked and wild.
“What are you?” he asks. She thinks on this, and then asks him the same question.
“I am two things,” he says. “Stars and dust.”
“I think that is what I am too.”
“Do you know what dust is?”
She thinks for a moment, and then puts her fingers into the earth. She looks at him inquisitively.
“Yes,” he says. “You do not know stars yet, but I will show you.”
“I know stars.”
“Not yet,” he says.
“No,” and her face inclines. She arches her back and points skyward and he is again transfixed. “They are there. They sing beautifully.”
He had not known that, but he finds a strange feeling in himself—a willingness to accept her words. An urge to seem like he understood. For her benefit? For her approval? He did not know.
“They sing beautifully,” he said.
When she stood, it was like water washing off a rock. She was more like him than he had thought, but less too. She called to mind a number of creatures he had seen, and none of them. She was smaller, yes, but she seemed greater—as if imbued with purposes beyond him. It reminded him of the ocean, which he had seen but did not think he could cross.
Her face was familiar, although its only hair was on the top of her head. Below her neck were her breasts, which filled him with fire. Her stomach was a maze of lines and muscles leading down to some chaotic business between her legs, which he did not understand at all.
But she was right, he knew. There were stars in her. And dust. And his own bones and flesh.
“What do you do here?” she asks.
“I name things.”
“Oh!” she says, her eyes flashing. “What would you name me?”
“I don’t know. What would you name you?”
She puzzles over this, and looks around, as if a name will drop from a tree.
“What have you named other things?”
He thinks back. There have been so many.
“I named myself man.”
“That is a good name,” she says. “But I will need a different one.”
“What do you do?” he asked.
“Everything,” she said. “I can do everything you can do.”
“You can name creatures?”
“I can. I think—” she stops, and feels herself. “I can also make them. More like me. Like you too, I think.”
“No,” he says. “We can name them. We cannot make them.”
“I can,” she says, simple and small. “I can.”
He feels small again. She has stars and dust in her, but also life and God knows what else. “So you make things,” he says.
“I can do everything,” she says again. “And also make things.”
“You are like man, but you are not man.”
“So I am not man.”
“Woman,” he says.
She repeats it, it falling new off her lips and into the world.
“When will I see Him?” she asks.
“You are,” he says. “He is here.”
“I don’t see Him.”
“He is here. Sometimes you see Him. Sometimes you don’t. But He is here.”
“Does He have stars and dust in Him?”
“I don’t think so,” he says. “I think dust and stars have a little of Him in them.”
“You did not name Him.”
He shook his head emphatically. “He named me. He showed me how to name.”
“What is He like?”
“He is like everything.”
“I don’t understand.”
“He is like everything and nothing.”
“What would you name Him if you could?”
“But if you could.”
“He just is,” he says. “It’s not a name. He just is.”
She came closer to him and knelt, putting her face close to his. He realized she was wild. He was not accustomed to her yet, but he did not flinch.
“Do you think He would be angry,” she said. “If I touched you?”
His heart drummed in his chest and he leaned his head forward so that their heads touched.
“I do not think he would be angry about this,” he said. She took her hands and pressed them on his shoulders. They felt like lightning on him. He put his hands on the knobs of her hips. Her eyes met his and he felt he had seen her before—perhaps that he had always known her. And they stayed like that, at rest but with their insides thundering, while the dew of the new earth settled and slicked them.
“We may do anything,” he said.
“We may touch?” she said.
“We may say anything?” she said.
“We may eat anything?” she said. And his face darkened.
“Nearly,” he said. “Nearly. There is—”
“Tell me later,” she said. “There will be time later.”
And there, in the garden, he drew her close.
And there was evening and morning, the sixth day.
[Ed Note: I saw someone (I forget who) say of the Ham/Nye debate that “Something doesn’t have to be literal for it to be true,” which inspired this.]