Suddenly she spied a fine young man,
He’s standing by a tree.
He says, “How dare you pull them branches down
Without the leave of me, my dear,
Without the leave of me?”
A.L. Lloyd, 1972
She knew what she wanted. But it was on the very top shelf in a special collection. She grabbed a chair and stood on her top toes. It was just a little out of reach.
“Let me help you,” she heard a voice behind her say. Then she felt two strong hands around her waist lifting her up. She grabbed the book. She felt her feet settling back down not on the chair but the floor.
She looked back at the boy who had been so forward, touching her that way. She knew enough that he had handed her the first score in the game; the question was the dark-haired boy stupid or bold.
“Thanks,” she said letting out a breath, “But you didn’t have to do that.”
“Well, it’s kind of my territory,” he started to explain. “I help out my dad sometimes. He’s in charge of this archive.”
“I know who he is,” she said. “And I don’t need your permission. My mother is a professor here.”
She turned and walked back toward the pile of books she’d built.
“May I ask who she is?”
“Of course, you may ask anything,” she answered. “But I don’t have to tell you.”
Now he was interested. This girl was surrounded by a pile of rare books. He folded his arms as the girl opened the book he helped her retrieve to its table of contents.
“Ok,” he said. “That’s fair. May I ask what book you pulled down?”
“The Clarke papers,” she said looking through the book. She looked up at him. “You know, General Monck’s secretary. The English Civil War and all that.”
Now he figured this was a set up. A prank. Send in a really cute girl with a bunch of memorized stuff from his thesis. He almost wanted to look for the hidden cameras.
“Wait,” he said. “Is it alright if I sit down for a minute.”
“Hey,” she said. “It’s still a free country — sort of. You can sit wherever you want.”
He pulled a chair out and watched the girl’s green eyes reading the text in front of her.
“Ummm, well,” he started. “My thesis is on 17th century England, especially the Civil War.”
“Oh,” she said. “What a coincidence. What’s your thesis?” She pushed a path in the books so she could see his face.
He paused. Even if she was an idiot and his dad or friends were setting him up, he felt a sting, like he had to persuade her he wasn’t a liar.
“Well,” he started, “It’s a complicated period, but in spite of the foment there was ultimately a conservative outcome.”
“That sounds like Christopher Hill,” she said looking down her nose. “I love Christopher Hill, but you’re not saying anything new there.” She turned back to her book.
He drew in his breath to say something but she spoke first.
“Fuck,” she said rolling her eyes, “Sounds like something my dad would say.”
“Is your dad a professor too?”
“Worse,” she said. “A politician. You ask a lot of questions. Do you have any answers?”
“I’m a little confused,” he said.
“I can see that,” she said. “What do you know about the Diggers?”
“Proto communists that…”
“Now, see,” she said, “That’s what’s wrong with college these days. They were Christian Anarchists.”
“God created a perfect world with no bosses and no ownership and then people committed the original sin: taking land for themselves and making others work on it.”
“That’s accurate but..”
“Winstanley said, “as Cain lifted up himself and killed his brother Abel, and so did one branch did steal and kill away the comfortable use of the earth from another.’”
He was losing his patience for this joke.
“How do you know all this?” he said. “I’ve never seen you before. Where are you from?”
“Well, let’s see,” she said. “I know how to read. That’s a start. And I’m from right here,” she pointed out the window.
“But,” he stammered.
“I’m just a girl, right.”
“I didn’t say that,” he said holding up his hands. “It’s just I can hardly talk about this stuff with anyone and you’re an encyclopedia.”
“And I’m cute,” she said. “Look, if you take me to lunch, I’ll help you with your thesis.”
He was still stunned a bit. And he knew this was somehow going to end with him being humiliated. But he couldn’t resist.
As they left, he locked the door to the room. She noted that silently and decided it would be useful later.
As they walked along and talked, he did the best he could to recover.
“Not many people find the 17th century interesting.”
“Not many people are me.”
“If you thought about it for a minute,” she said. “It’s about land, ownership.”
They found a place to sit by the duck pond.
“Have you heard of Las Gorras Blancas?”
“No,” he said. “The white caps?”
“They were Diggers,” she said. “Right here in New Mexico. The gringos started to enclose the land just like the upper classes did in England.”
“When was this?”
“Late 19th century,” she said. “See, my thesis is that we ought to look at Las Gorras Blancas just like that, like Diggers.”
“I need to know more.”
“You do,” she said. “But right here in the last century we’ve seen New Mexicans rise up to take back land stolen for private ownership for the commons.”
“But you’re white.”
“When they ask you on forms what box do you check?” she asked.
“And race? Do you check ‘White?’”
“I usually pick, ‘Some other race.’”
“That’s who we are, Some Other Race,” she said pointedly. “You and me have that in common. We are fucking transformers. Each generation we’re something different, mestizo, mulato, lobo, albarazado, tenteen el aire.”
“If you learn about where we’re from, you’ll know we came out of this ground.”
“That’s real poetic but it doesn’t make the US Census happy.”
“Fuck the Census,” she said. “We’re a million sunsets on the Sandias. It’s the dirt, the gravel, the soil. It always changes, and so do we. You and me have that in common. Transformation.”
“And that our parents work here at UNM.”
“Good for you,” she said. “You’re following the plot.”
“I mean, you’re not in college here, what do you do?”
“Well, Columbo,” she said leaning close to him, “Maybe if you stop asking so many questions, you’ll figure it out.”
He was excited and perplexed.
“Take me back to the library, silly,” she said, leaning toward him with a kiss.
He was giddy and worried as he held her hand and walked up the back stairs. It was about closing time. He wondered exactly when this joke would end. Or was it real?
When they arrived at the door where they started, she asked for the key. He only hesitated for a moment. He handed it to her, she turned it and then walked in. Then she locked the door.
“I’ve given you my ideas,” she said. “Now you give me something.”
She was wearing a girlish blue dress, and she pulled down her underwear and handed it to him and climbed on the table where her pile of books still stood.
He reached for his belt and undid it. And she helped him struggle a bit then laid back on the table. As he thrust into her and kissed her, pulling her hair, the books tumbled to the chair and floor.
And the very last thing they changed him into
Was like any naked man.
She flung her mantle over him,
She cried, “Me love I’ve won, I’ve won, “
Oh, she cried, “Me love I’ve won.”
Anne Briggs, 1971