I took a job in a mid-sized city some distance from home when the mine where I worked closed. There were no other opportunities nearby for an electrical engineer. I was in my late twenties and still single. I had a fiancé. It looked like we were beginning to build a life together. But she decided she didn’t want to relocate with me despite receiving lucrative offers from the three hospitals in and near the city where I now lived. I didn’t want to relocate either. I had no choice if I wanted to avoid poverty.

Initially, I knew nobody outside of the people at work. I was fortunate in some respects though. The new job paid well, better than the one I’d lost. My new city had an active arts and music community, a technical community college, a small, prestigious liberal arts university, and a large branch campus of the state university.

My new employer provided a cash payment to help defray the cost of relocation, rather than covering moving expenses. I brought only my clothing, music collection, and some personal items. Everything fit into my mid-sized SUV, so I made out much better than if a relocation package covered moving expenses. The check was enough to put a sizable down-payment on a house or condo, but I didn’t want to buy anything until I was established, knew my way around, and was sure I was staying.

I found a nice furnished two-bedroom apartment above a three-car garage. My new landlord, Stephanie, was an early fifties widow that worked as a flight attendant on international routes. Her husband built the apartment to rent to university students. But after several successive student tenants proved problematic, she left it empty. She finally decided to rent again because she wanted someone responsible around when she was away from home. In return for an absurdly low rent, I kept the grass cut and monitored the house during her frequent, extended absences. The state university golf course was across the street.

My new colleagues at work were nice folks. I quickly felt at home and soon gained respect for improvements I made in the manufacturing process. But most employees were married with families. And I was one of the youngest employees. I found little opportunity for socializing through work. My family wasn’t religious, so I had no desire to get involved with a church. I decided to take a course or two in the evening division of the state university the next school year. Perhaps pursue an MBA. Maybe I could meet some people there.

Like any college town, there were lots of bars. I wasn’t then, and still am not, much of a drinker so I was reluctant to start crawling pubs to socialize. I did occasionally frequent a few clubs that featured live entertainment and met some people, but none progressed beyond being casual acquaintances. I played softball for the company team. I played in a recreational basketball league. But outside of these activities, I spent most of my time alone.

After a few months, I began having trouble sleeping. I often went for a walk when I couldn’t sleep. On several occasions, my presence on a deserted street at 1:00AM on a weeknight attracted the attention of a police patrol. These never amounted to more than a casual inquiry along the lines of ‘Are you alright?’ or ‘We received a call that someone was prowling the neighborhood.’ In every instance, an explanation that I was out for a walk because I couldn’t sleep and proving I lived nearby sufficed. But they were a nuisance. And I worried that an interaction with a cop might one night escalate because of some unrelated incident, such as an assault on a female student.

To avoid dealing with the police, I decided to explore walking the golf course at night. The university course was open to the public. Though a good athlete, my name and good golfer were never used in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence. On my best days, I might hit a handful of good shots a round. I played the course a few times to learn the layout. It was a challenging course, far above my meager skills.

Once confident I could walk the course in the dark without stumbling into a ditch, I started frequenting it nights when I couldn’t sleep. It was convenient. It was quiet. I was always alone. I could relax with my thoughts. There was no chance of being stopped by the city police. Campus security didn’t patrol it. If I avoided wandering close to campus where I had run into students a few times, I’d have no trouble.

The students I’d encountered at night on the course were typical of the friends I had when I was in school. Groups at night were usually a small group of guys not far from campus, either stoned or a little drunk. Sometimes a little loud but otherwise harmless. When I had run into students, they usually offered a friendly greeting or cracked a joke. Sometimes they offered a beer or a toke. But they were also likely to attract the attention of campus security.

I typically walked the twelfth hole, a long par-five uphill dogleg. It was close to home and distant from campus. When you crested the hill, there was a wide gully. The hill continued to the right, turning into rough. A paved cart path through the rough led to the backside of the green and then to the thirteenth tee. From the top of the hill, you looked down on the green, across the gully to the left. The green was elevated about fifteen feet above the bottom of the gully, up a nearly vertical incline with several bunkers at the base. The bottom of the gully was fairway. But you didn’t want to be down there. The way to play the hole was to get to the top of the hill with your second shot and hit a short iron onto the green. But knowing how to play it and being able to execute are very different things. My best score on the hole was a triple-bogey.

One warm, clear mid-Spring night, I was walking the edge of the twelfth fairway, along the tree line that separated the course from the road where I lived. The moon had been full a few nights earlier. When I got to the crest of the hill, I saw someone lying on a blanket spread out on the green. There was a something else on the blanket that looked like a pile of clothes. Though I was still more than fifty yards away, I could see there was a naked woman was lying on the blanket.

I dawdled, unsure what to do. I should have quietly turned around and gone back the way I came. But my curiosity kept me where I stood. Instead of leaving, I couldn’t resist moving closer. Her head was toward the cart path. Unless I made noise, she’d never know I was there. I stayed close to the tree line and on the grass until I reached an area where the cart path was behind some trees, moving silently. Before long, I was to her right, close enough to see her more clearly.

I had managed to get within sixty feet without being detected. I stood close to a tree and remained motionless while I watched. Color perception was poor in the moonlight. I could see her hair was dark, black or brunette, maybe a dark shade of red. Her body was slender. Her breasts were flattened because she was on her back. She didn’t look either flat-chested or buxom.

Her legs were bent, knees spread apart. One hand was kneading a breast and pinching the nipple. The other was positioned down the front of her torso. The hand between her legs moved steadily. I felt the pressure in my groin as I grew hard watching her, listening to the soft hum of a vibrator moving in and out of her. Its buzz was barely discernable between soft moans and whimpers.

Despite the erection uncomfortably tenting my pants, I didn’t do anything about it. I just watched as she reached an orgasm, crying out softly. After taking a few minutes to catch her breath, she began again. This time the vibrator hum was higher-pitched, running through a series of short bursts, followed by a single long, intense burst, before repeating the pattern.

I watched her hips writhe as her excitement grew. My own arousal grew with hers. It was difficult to resist relieving the pressure in my groin, but I was afraid she would hear me. I didn’t want to frighten her. Or know I was watching. This was something new for me. Though my fiancé and I had an active sex life before we split, there were some things she’d never do. Masturbating while I watched was one of them. She wouldn’t even talk about whether she ever had.

I enjoyed watching the woman, though I had reservations about it. She was panting rapidly, taking short breaths. She sighed and trembled as she continued to work the vibrator in and out. Finally, she let out a strangled cry. It may as well have been a full-throated scream in the dead of night. Her body arched, shoulders and feet on the ground, hips high. Her whole body shook as her orgasm short-circuited her nervous system. She pumped her hips up and down several times, rolled onto her side, and curled into a fetal position facing my direction. Her shoulders shuddered. Her torso jerked and twitched as her nervous system rebooted.

She stayed on her side for a few minutes, completely still. She whimpered softly a few times then rolled onto her back. When she stood, she looked around. I finally got a look at her face as she turned around several times with her arms out-stretched. Her features looked pleasant, though it was impossible to see her face clearly in the moonlight. When she stopped turning around, she was facing my direction. I stiffened but remained still, hoping she couldn’t see me. Her breasts were perfect for her tall, slender, athletic build, not the huge mounds of an adolescent male fantasy.

She bent down, picked up her panties and stepped into them. She pulled on a top. Apparently, she hadn’t worn a bra. She stepped into loose-fitting slacks and cinched the belt. She stepped into what looked like deck shoes, picked up a knapsack, dropped the vibrator into it and then stuffed in the blanket. After slinging the knapsack on her left shoulder, she walked straight at me!

I nearly panicked. I stood still, frozen in fear. Terrified she would catch me. As she got closer, I held my breath. But she veered to her right and walked right by, within ten feet of me. Nothing about her stride or demeanor suggested she suspected anyone was near. I’d chosen my vantage point poorly. Logically, she took the same path that I had taken. I could only conclude my brain was addled by an inadequate blood supply.

She walked in the direction I needed to walk to get home. Down the hill in the fairway, along the tree line. I waited a few moments before I followed. She turned off the fairway and through the trees a few hundred feet past where I lived. I walked to the spot where she turned off and saw her walking down the street, around the corner from my apartment. A street I drove at least twice a day on my work commute. She crossed the street and turned into a house, though I couldn’t tell which it was. She never once looked about.

Later that week, I was on my way home from work when my cell phone rang. My car didn’t have Bluetooth, so I pulled over and parked to take the call. I was just around the corner from my apartment, somewhere near where I’d seen the woman on the green turn to enter her home. I was parked for a few minutes listening to my mother vent about my father stubbornly refusing to allow a party for his sixtieth birthday. A car startled me when it turned into the driveway just past where I was parked. The door on the one-car garage opened and the car moved slowly into the garage.

While half-listening to my mother, I watched an attractive woman about my age come out of the garage, open the trunk and remove two small bags with the logo of a nearby supermarket. She was tall and slender. In the sunlight, her dark brown hair was iridescent with shimmering red highlights as she walked. She looked in my direction with a slight scowl, probably wondering why a strange man was parked in front of her house. I held the phone in view and mouthed, ‘My mother,’ silently with a look of frustration. Her face and its expression disappeared as she turned to go inside.

I listened to my mother for a few more minutes though my mind was elsewhere. While I listened distractedly, I looked at the house. It was small, well-maintained and nicely landscaped. There were no signs of children. I wondered if she was married. I also wondered if she was the woman on the twelfth green.

I continued walking the golf course when I couldn’t sleep but hadn’t seen anyone after that night. About a month later, I was in the driveway rinsing my car after washing it. The woman from the house around the corner walked by and stopped at the end of my driveway. I didn’t notice her until she spoke.

‘You were parked in front of my house a few weeks ago,’ she said.

I knew she was right but chose not to acknowledge that I remembered. ‘I was?’ I asked.

‘Yes, around the corner. When I looked at you, you held your phone out and said something. My mother, maybe.’

‘Oh, yeah. I remember. My mother was bending my ear about my father. She wanted to throw a birthday party for him, but he assured her that he wouldn’t be there if she did. She wasn’t happy and rather than complain to one of her friends, she called me. Sometimes, I wish she could call my sister instead. But Sheila is on a research project in the middle of nowhere. I hope I didn’t frighten you. I just stopped to answer the call.’ ‘That’s okay. There isn’t much traffic on my street. It was just a little odd to see someone I didn’t know parked in front of my house,’ she said. She turned to walk away. She carried a small backpack on her left shoulder, a water bottle in a net pocket on the bag. She was dressed for a hike.

I didn’t want the conversation to end just yet, so I grasped at a topic. ‘If you’d ever like company on a hike, I could join you. I’m new to the area and know almost no one.’ I figured the worst that could happen was she’d either ignore me or tell me she was married. Instead, she stopped and seemed to be appraising me, trying to figure out whether I was trustworthy.

‘Do you have time to join me now?’

‘Do you mind waiting a couple of minutes while I change out of these wet clothes?’ I asked.

‘Sure. I’ll wait here for you,’ she responded.

I turned off the faucet and ran up into my apartment. It only took a few minutes to change into dry clothes, run a comb through my hair, and grab some water. When I returned, she was talking to my landlady. It appeared they already knew each other.

I nodded at Stephanie and waited for them to finish talking. After they were done. My landlady smiled and told us to enjoy our walk as she turned to go inside.

‘Stephanie says she likes you, Dennis. I’m Kiersten,’ she said, extending her hand. ‘I didn’t feel like cooking tonight. I’m going to walk to Angelo’s for an early dinner. Care to join me?’

‘I could eat,’ I said, trying to sound enthusiastic but not too enthusiastic. Angelo’s was a small, family-owned Italian restaurant that served great food. It was cheap. The portions generous. I was a regular. The round trip was a long walk, probably six miles. My enthusiasm level increased. Kiersten had just committed to spending several hours with me after a brief conversation with my landlady. It seemed highly likely she was single. I made a mental note to buy a bottle of wine for Stephanie.

Kiersten set a brisk pace, but I was in good shape and had no trouble keeping up. We got acquainted while we walked. She was a music teacher and high school orchestra director. She also taught violin out of her home several evenings a week. She was twenty-seven, had never been married and wasn’t seeing anyone. I told her my story, electrical engineer at Blythe Instrument and Control Systems. Relocated to town a few months earlier. Also, never married. And not only not seeing anyone, barely knew anyone in town.

It was late afternoon when we got to Angelo’s, still a bit before the dinner rush. We were the only diners when we entered, though over the course of dinner, the place filled up with a mix of couples of various ages and families with kids.

Angelo’s teenage daughter, Tina, seated us, provided menus, and took our drink orders. Iced tea for me. Chianti for Kiersten. When Tina returned with our drinks and a basket of warm bread, we ordered. Neither of us had looked at the menu. Kiersten ordered an appetizer platter with hot and sweet soppressata, dried salami, and hard cheeses that she offered to split, and zuppa de pesce. I sorely missed my mother’s eggplant parmigiana. Angelo’s was almost as good.

Our conversation over dinner was relaxed, easier than I expected, with none of the awkwardness typical of a first date. I wasn’t sure Kiersten considered it a date. I told her about my sister, an archaeology doctoral candidate working a dig in Central America. My parents were both alive and well, that is if my mother hadn’t strangled my often-cranky father since I’d last spoken with her.

Her two older brothers were both professional musicians, a percussionist with a symphony orchestra and a guitarist working on Broadway and doing session work. Her father was a musician, too, lived nearby and was doing okay. He was legally blind, though he could read large print. Her mother had passed away while she was in college.

Angelo’s meals were big, but Kiersten’s dinner was huge. I was surprised she finished it, along with more than half the basket of bread, three Chiantis, and desert. I skipped dessert. I tried to pick up the tab, but she snatched it away, insisting we each pay our own way. We sparred a little when I wanted to split the appetizer. But she insisted. She ordered it. The appetizer was her responsibility.

With full bellies, the walk back was much more leisurely. Kiersten was friendly, though a little guarded, on our walk to Angelo’s. She was playful and animated on the walk home. As we walked, she would occasionally touch me. It wasn’t sexual or intrusive, more like familiarity between friends. When I made a slightly off-color joke in response to her inadvertent double entendre, she playfully punched my arm and laughing, called me a dog.

We walked to her house. It was still light though the sun would soon set. We talked out front for a few minutes. I hoped she’d invite me in. But instead, she said good night. She had plans, early the next morning.

‘I had fun this afternoon,’ I told her, before asking, ‘Any chance we can do something like this again?’

‘Maybe,’ she said with a smile. ‘What’s your phone number?’ she asked.

I told her the number but also gave her one of my business cards, which had my cell and work numbers. She giggled and mumbled something under her breath that sounded like, ‘Engineers!’, though she wouldn’t repeat it. She looked at my card briefly before putting it in her pocket. She hugged me before she bounded up the sidewalk into the house. There was no kiss, and no opportunity for one.

She hadn’t reciprocated when I asked for her number, telling me, ‘When I know you a little better.’

I hadn’t reached home yet when an incoming text buzzed my phone. I called up the text. It read, ‘I had fun, too. Call me tomorrow night. Any time after six.’ Stephanie was definitely getting a bottle of wine. Maybe flowers, too.

When I got home, Stephanie was sitting on the front porch. We talked briefly. She told me that Kiersten’s mother had been her best friend and that she was very fond of Kiersten. She also admonished me to be nice. I smiled and assured her I wouldn’t dream of treating Kiersten badly. I said goodnight and went up to my apartment to settle in for the evening.

I fell asleep watching a baseball game between two west coast teams. When I woke, it was just after midnight. By the time I’d emptied my bladder, I knew I wasn’t going back to sleep any time soon. I went out for one of my evening walks. The nearly full moon was high in the sky. I took my usual path up the twelfth hole and walked the length of the thirteenth hole, circling the small pond in front of the green and then headed back the way I’d walked. It was quiet. I saw no one while I was out.