In the beginning, God created Adam and Eve, and, as the story goes, Eve got them both kicked out of Eden because she let a serpent talk her into doing something she didn’t want to do.

Angela used to be a lot like that version of Eve – beautiful, naïve, spineless. Growing up she was the type who studied hard because she didn’t want to let people down, and she succumbed easily to peer pressure because she was afraid of losing friends. In college she slept with boys because she felt guilty not sleeping with them. They complained to her about blue balls, or they asked her come on, how long were they supposed to wait? She conceded because she didn’t want to disappoint them. She said yes because she didn’t know how to say no.

When Angela graduated from college, she got a job offer in Florida, and her mother suggested she take it so that someone in the family would be close to Grandma, who had been living down there since Grandpa died years ago. So Angela moved to Florida, mostly to please her mother. Grandma, a tough old biddy who spoke her mind and didn’t let anyone tell her what to do, died a few months later, leaving Angela all alone in the southern phallus of America.

It was summertime, and Florida was wet and steamy-hot like the primordial forest where Eve fell from grace. The air was thick as fog, and when Angela walked outside it broke into beads of moisture on her face. Near the ocean, the air smelled salty and tasted of sardines, and further inland, the sun steamed the plants into a stew of rotting flowers and wilting palms so that the air had the sick-sweet smell over overripe fruit.

Angela lived a few miles from the beach, where the sweet and salty air combined, on the top floor of an old, seven-story apartment building called The Tower. Instead of taking the creaking elevator, she often sprinted up the echoing concrete stairwell and, once inside her apartment, collapsed onto the scratchy brown carpet, breathing heavily and stretching out her long legs.

The women at Angela’s office were jealous of those long legs and nice tan. The Tower had a swimming pool, and on weekends Angela spent hours laying out in a plastic chair, reading and occasionally dipping herself into the water to cool off. The men in the apartment complex sat underneath the umbrellas in Hawaiian-print swim trunks their wives had bought for them and peeked over their newspapers at Angela’s golden body, shimmering with sunscreen. When she emerged from a quick swim and ascended the pool ladder like Aphrodite stepping from the sea, they shifted uncomfortably, trying to hide the stiffness in their shorts. They drank her in greedily from behind their dark shades: the slicked-back blond hair, the droplets of water shining between her breasts, the fingers sliding under a pink bikini bottom to snap the elastic back in place. Angela didn’t like them watching her, but she didn’t think there was anything she could do about it.

*          *          *

Angela had made friends easily in college, but she found it difficult to meet people now that she was out of the self-contained community of campus life. She sometimes attended Friday happy hour with the people from her office, but she felt left out when the conversations turned, as they always did, to husbands, children, home repairs, mortgages. She felt young and stupid and out of place, and she often went home after one cranberry-vodka and watched television until she fell asleep on her little white couch.

Now that her grandmother was dead and didn’t need visiting, the weekends were long and empty, and besides lying out at the pool, Angela spent a lot of time alone in her apartment doing chores that didn’t really need to be done, like rearranging her few pieces of furniture, or coordinating the clothes in her closet by color and length. She wrote long emails to her college friends and tried to teach herself Spanish with cds she checked out from the library.

One Saturday in July, Angela woke to the sound of rain tapping on the roof above her. She sat up and glanced out the window by her bed at the pool below. Raindrops mottled the surface of the water, and the umbrellas were dripping. She sighed. She spent the morning cleaning the kitchen and bathroom, and after lunch, she sat down on her bed with her jewelry box, thinking she would organize its contents. Outside, dull, gray clouds had settled over the city, making it dim inside her normally sunny room. She reached over to turn on the lamp beside her bed, and its shade glowed pink like the inside of a conch shell.

She turned her jewelry box over onto the bed and began to pull apart the knotted chains. Everything was hopelessly intertwined, so after a few moments of prying at the links with her fingernails, she dropped the necklaces and picked up her new ring: a real gold band with a circular diamond in the center. Her grandmother had worn the ring on her right hand and would never say where it had come from. Angela could remember, in those last few months at the nursing home, the flashes of light on her grandmother’s old, spotted finger. She had given the ring to Angela before she died, saying “I think you need this.”

Anglea slipped the ring on her right finger. It was a little loose, but it looked good sparkling on her hand. Outside the rain still fell in a slow, monotonous rhythm, and as Anglea stared into the ring’s round, twinkling eye, she had the sudden desire to get away from the apartment and go out into the world. She scooped up the silver and gold tangles from her bed and dropped them hastily into her jewelry box. She jumped off her bed and put on her raincoat and a pair of rubber flip-flops. The ring flashed on her finger as she turned the key to lock her apartment and headed down the seven flights of stairs.

*          *          *

After Eve’s “mistake,” she and Adam were homeless, booted out of the garden to wander the Earth. And of course, displeasing God is just one of the many reasons why a person might become homeless. Schizophrenics, drug addicts, those just down on their luck. Then there are the few who choose it. Rich kids, perhaps, who are ashamed of what they were born into and want to prove something. Want to transform themselves into something different.

Philip was this type. He was homeless because he wanted to distance himself from his wealthy, conservative family and snub his nose at society. He did the snubbing by refusing to get a real job, doing lots of drugs, and misquoting Jack Kerouac. He had dropped out of college a few years ago to follow a band down the coast, and when he got to Florida, he decided to stay. It was warm all year, so it would be a perfect place for him to live outside and reject society for as long as he felt like it. He met an old bohemian couple named Joe and Tiger Lilly who let him pitch his tent in their backyard, and he spent his days sitting on street corners downtown, playing his guitar for money, which he then spent on hamburgers and pot.

Philip felt like his life was great, except he wasn’t getting laid as much as he had in college. There was a group of hippy girls who hung around downtown playing drums and doing hula hoop dances in long skirts, and he’d brought a few of them back to his tent over the past year, but lately he wasn’t as turned on by their prickly legs and spicy sweat. He missed the smooth, clean bodies and sweet-smelling hair of preppy college girls.

That’s why, when Philip saw Angela, his small penis immediately began to harden. It was the rain-all-day type of day that made him wish he didn’t live in a tent in an overgrown back yard. He was sitting on the damp sidewalk underneath a dripping awning downtown, halfheartedly playing the Prince song, “Raspberry Beret.”

Philip stopped singing when he saw her. She was across the street, walking down the sidewalk in a blue rain jacket. He couldn’t see her face very well because the hood of the jacket was pulled up, but he noticed her long, tan legs. At the corner, she stepped over a pool of water in the gutter and began to cross the street towards him. Now Philip could see her bright eyes and golden hair.

Angela had no particular agenda. She had decided to walk around downtown and go into all the cute shops. Across the street, near the boy with the guitar, was an antique store filled with old chandeliers and animal statues. That was where she was headed. She was halfway across the street when a large fly buzzed in front of her face. It whined loudly, and she tried to swat it away, but it came closer, bumping against her nose and flying towards her eyes. She stopped in the middle of the street, waving her hands frantically. Philip watched her from the sidewalk and noticed something sparkling on one of her fingers. Suddenly, with a particularly violent wave, the sparkling thing flew from her hand arced through the air, tumbled onto the wet pavement, and rolled down into the storm drain on Phillip’s side of the street.

Angela ran towards the spot and stood in the gutter, staring at the gaping hole where her ring had fallen. She knelt down and looked into the darkness, but she could see nothing. When she stood up, Philip was standing in front of her on the sidewalk. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

It didn’t even occur to Angela that Philip might be hitting on her. To her, he was practically a different species. He had longish brown hair that hung in tangles around his wide face. His eyes were large and blue, set far apart, and his mouth was large, too, with red, wet lips. He wore a green army jacket that seemed to be held together by strips of silver duct tape, and he smelled like sweat and sour beer.

“My ring fell down the drain!” Angela said, her voice stretched high with panic. “It was my grandmother’s!”

Philip leapt into the puddle where Angela stood and crouched down to peer into the drain. “I could go down there and look for it,” he said, and Anglea noticed that he was quite short and scrawny and could probably fit.

“Would you?!” Angela asked. It had stopped raining except for an occasional spitting drop, and she pulled back the hood of her coat. The air was hot and humid, curling the wisps of blond hair around her forehead.

“You’ll owe me.” Philip smiled.

“Like…?” Angela glanced at his guitar case, which lay open on the sidewalk a few feet away. There were a few crumpled dollars inside of it.

“Oh, you don’t have to give me money.” Philip thought for a moment. He was so close to her he could smell her damp hair, sweet as fresh-cut flowers. “See, the thing is, I live in a tent, and I don’t have a regular bathroom. If I find your ring, maybe you’d let me come over to your place and take a shower?” He was lying. Joe and Tiger Lily had a shower he was allowed to use whenever he wanted. He just chose not to use it most of the time.

“Um…” Angela hesitated. She knew it was a bad idea to let strangers into her house, but this guy seemed small and harmless, and besides, she was desperate to get her ring back. “Yeah, OK,” she agreed.

“Would it be OK with your boyfriend or your roommates or whoever?” Philip asked.

“It’ll be fine. I live by myself.”

He grinned. “It’s a deal then.” He stuck his legs into the drain and, very slowly, eased himself down into the dank, echoing chamber. Inside he could hear rushing water and plinking drips. He waited in the darkness for his eyes to adjust to the light and congratulated himself. He had managed to invite himself over to an apartment where a pretty blond girl lived all by herself. He imagined clean sheets on the bed, the girl lying on them in white cotton underwear, her long legs spread.

After a moment, the faint light filtering through the gap above was enough for him to see his immediate surroundings. He scanned the concrete floor, which was scattered with twigs and the mushy pulp of decomposing leaves. He crouched down and began to run his hand through the compost. Then he saw it, somehow still sparkling in the darkness. He snatched up the ring and closed his hand tightly around it. “I found it!” he shouted up to her.

“Really!?” Her eager face appeared above him. “Hand it to me!”

“OK, but you have to help me get out of here.”
“Of course!” Angela reached out a hand, and he pressed the ring into her palm. She stuffed the ring into her zippered jacket pocket for safe-keeping.

Philip then reached both of his hands up towards the drainage hole, and Angela took them. He squeezed his fingers around hers and scaled the concrete wall with his shoes, jumping and scrambling to get out of the sewer.

*          *          *

Philip didn’t have a car, so he packed up his guitar and followed Angela to the street where she had parked. His sneakers squelched with water, and he smelled even worse now – like mold and urine. Angela winced a little as she watched him get into the passenger side of her car. His clothes were covered in mud, and his hair was dripping. There were wet brown leaves stuck to the bottoms of his shoes. She told herself she needed to clean the car anyway.

“So, you live in a tent?” Angela asked as they drove back to The Tower.

“Yeah.” Philip shook the wet hair out of his face like a dog.

“Why?”

“Because I refuse to follow the rules society has written for me.” His voice took on the self-important tone that his father, a lawyer, often had when he was making a point. “Great things aren’t accomplished by people who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.”

“Is that a quote?” Angela stopped at a traffic light. The red light reflected in the pools on the pavement.

“Kerouac,” Philip said.

“So what great things are you accomplishing?” The light turned green.

“You know, playing my music and living my life without the burdens of conformity.” Despite his appearance, Philip still carried a rich kid’s sense of entitlement.

“So you just do whatever you want?” Angela asked.

“Pretty much.”

“What do your parents think?”

“Who cares what they think? Why does it matter?”

“Wow.” Angela pulled the car into the parking lot of The Tower. She couldn’t imagine going through life not caring about other people, not trying desperately to please them. “Here we are,” she said, turning off the engine.

They took the elevator and moments later stood in the living room of Angela’s apartment. Philip set his beat-up guitar case on the floor and dropped his backpack next to it.

“Would you mind taking off your shoes?” Angela glanced at his swollen sneakers.

“Sure.” Philip kicked off his shoes and threw them towards his other things. He did not take off his socks, however, which were gray and damp. Philip never took off his socks in front of people because in between each of his toes was a thin, fleshy membrane of skin. When he was younger, the kids at the country club pool had made fun of him, calling him Donald Duck or Frog Boy. He hadn’t been swimming at a pool since he was in middle school, and no one had seen his bare feet since then either.

“Hey, would you mind if I threw my clothes in the wash?” Philip asked. “I’d hate to shower and then have to put this stuff back on.”

“Sure.” Angela hesitated. “Do you, um…” she trailed off.

“I have a t-shirt and boxers in here that I can wear while I wait.” Philip picked up his backpack and slung it on one shoulder.

“I guess I’ll show you where the bathroom is.” Angela walked through the kitchen and Philip followed her. He watched as her ass shifted behind the pockets of her jean skirt. Angela stopped in front of the bathroom door. She realized that Philip was the first person she’d had over to her apartment since her parents had helped her move in. She wondered what he thought of it. She opened the linen closet and pulled out a towel. “Here you go.”

Philip took the towel and headed into the bathroom. “I’ll just hand you out my dirty clothes and you can stick them in the wash for me,” he said, closing the door.

Angela stood, waiting in front of the white door. A moment later it opened a crack, and Philip’s arms emerged, dangling a sopping pile of clothing.

Angela took the pile and held it away from her body. He hadn’t given her any money for the washing machine, but it seemed petty of her to ask. She walked into the kitchen and deposited the clothes into a plastic grocery bag. She picked some quarters out of her change jar, grabbed a bottle of detergent from the top of the refrigerator, and headed out the door, just as the pipes squealed and the water sprang out into the shower where web-footed Philip stood, fondling himself and thinking of Angela.

*          *          *

When Angela got back from the laundry room, Philip was still in the shower, so she made them both ham and cheese sandwiches and cut some apple slices. She was pouring two glasses of lemonade when Philip emerged from the steamy bathroom in a green t-shirt, smiley-face boxers, and a pair of dry socks that had a slightly less grayish tinge than the wet pair. Now that he wasn’t wearing pants, she noticed that he was bow-legged, and his skinny white legs were surprisingly hairless, considering the mass of hair on his head. He had not attempted to comb through the tangles, but his wet hair was slicked back, revealing his big, blue eyes. “You made us dinner?” he asked.

“I thought you might be hungry,” Angela said.

After they ate, Angela showed him things in her apartment, even though there really wasn’t much to see. She wasn’t sure what to make of Philip. He lived in a tent and apparently had no job, and yet he seemed smart and confident, and, in a way, very similar to the boys she had known in college. He commented on books from her shelf and picked up the framed pictures, staring with flattering curiosity at her friends and family members. “That’s you?” he asked of one picture. “You were such a cute kid!” Angela was beginning to feel almost comfortable around him, and it was nice to have company in her apartment, even if it wasn’t the company she would have chosen.

When she showed him her bedroom, he looked around eagerly and bounced onto her bed. “What a great bed!” he said, lying back for a moment. His wet hair left a dark mark on her comforter. “I haven’t slept in a real bed in over a year, you know.”

“Your clothes are probably ready to go in the dryer,” Angela said.

“Do you mind doing that for me? I don’t want to run around your apartment building in my boxers.”

“Sure. I’ll be right back.” Angela left him sitting cross-legged in the middle of her bed, looking outside at the rain falling from the darkening sky.

When she returned from the laundry room, he was sitting on the couch in the living room with the remote in his hand. “I thought we could watch a movie while we wait for my clothes to dry,” he said. “Lord of the Rings?” He waved the DVD box at her. “I haven’t seen this one yet.” That was a lie. He was only suggesting it because the movie was three and a half hours long and would give him plenty of time to cozy up to Angela.

“OK…” Angela hesitated for a moment. “I guess we can do that.”

“Do you have anything to drink?” Philip asked. “Beer would be great if you have it.” He squatted in front of the DVD player and pressed the power button.

Angela did have a six-pack of Blue Moon she’d bought months ago, just to have on hand, but she’d never felt the desire to drink alone. She went to the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles.

Then she and Philip sat on opposite ends of the couch, drinking beer and watching the hobbits try to overcome evil. After a while Philip stood. “I’m going to get another. You want one?”

“Sure.” Angela shrugged. The beer was making her feel relaxed.

When Philip returned with two more bottles he sat a little closer to her than he had before. After a while he shifted and stretched out his legs towards her. “I hope it stops raining soon. When the grass is really wet, water gets into my tent.”

“That sucks,” Angela said.

“You know, I’m surprised you don’t have a boyfriend. You’re really pretty.”

Angela sipped her beer and stared at the TV screen. “Thanks.”

By the time the movie ended, they had finished off the entire six-pack of Blue Moon and it was nearly midnight. Angela went downstairs to retrieve Philip’s clothes from the dryer. The three beers made her feel strange and dizzy. She wondered for a moment if she could convince Philip to cut his hair and get a real job. He was obviously smart. And, in an odd sort of way, he was cute, although the thought of actually kissing him turned her stomach sour.

When Angela came back upstairs, Philip was in the bathroom, and she was embarrassed that she could hear his urine splattering into the toilet. She heard a flush, and a moment later he walked through the kitchen towards where she stood in the living room, holding his pile of clothing and trying to pretend like she wasn’t drunk.

He took the clothes from her, looking at her with his luminescent eyes. “Would it be too much of a favor,” he said, “if I asked to spend the night here?”

Angela’s mouth opened slightly, but she said nothing.

“It’s so wet outside, and I don’t want to make you drive me home this late. I could just sleep on your couch or something.”

Angela wasn’t sure what to do. On the one hand, she knew it wasn’t a good idea to let a stranger sleep at her apartment, but on the other hand, he was hardly a stranger anymore – they’d spent the past five hours together. Plus it seemed rude to tell him he had to go sleep outside in the pouring rain. “Um… Okay, sure,” she said finally.

“Great!” He tossed his clean clothes in a heap near his backpack and sat down on the couch. Angela went to the linen closet and came back with an extra pillow and blanket. She put them down next to Philip and shrugged. “This is all I have,” she apologized. “I hope that’s okay.”

In the bathroom, Angela washed her face and brushed her teeth like normal. It was pretty obvious that Philip liked her, and she wondered if he was going to ask her out. Although how would they go on a date? He didn’t have a car or any money. Still, it would be nice to be asked out. She shook her head and frowned at herself in the mirror. Why was she always wishing that boys she didn’t even like would like her? She didn’t actually want to date Philip. All she really wanted right now was a friend.

Angela put on her pajamas and headed into her bedroom. To her surprise, Philip sat in the middle of her bed with his legs crossed.

“Okay, I know this is going to sound like a line,” he said, “but can I sleep with you? Only sleeping, I promise.” His blue eyes were wide. “It’s just that I haven’t gotten to sleep in a real bed in so long.”

“I don’t know.” Angela crossed her arms over her chest. She had taken off her bra, and the fabric of her pajama top was thin.

“Please? Come on. I rescued your ring for you. It’s the least you can do.” Philip grinned like he was joking, but Angela knew there was an element of truth to what he said. She owed him something.

“I guess you can sleep in the bed and I’ll sleep on the couch,” she said.

“No, no! I don’t want to kick you out of your own bed! I just want to sleep in a real bed for once.”

“Umm…”

“I swear, I won’t touch you.” Philip put his palms up to his chest. “Come on. This is a big bed. We can both fit. And you know I’m clean because I just showered.” He turned back the covers and slipped his skinny white legs underneath the sheets. “It’s not that big of a deal, is it?”

Angela felt helpless and tired. “Okay, fine” she said softly. But, thinking about the whole reason Philip was in her apartment in the first place, she hurried to her coat closet, unzipped her rain jacket, and pulled out the ring. She slipped it onto her finger and went back to the bedroom. Philip was already in bed, his head plopped on a pillow, and for a moment she considered ripping the covers off of him and telling him to leave. Instead, she got underneath the sheets and lay on the very edge of the mattress, as far away from him as possible.

“Goodnight,” Philip said. Angela reached over to turn off her lamp, and the ring winked at her as the room dipped into darkness.

*          *          *

Philip fell asleep quickly, and his breathing became slow and heavy, but Angela

couldn’t sleep. She lay motionless on her side of the bed, facing away from Philip, her whole body alert. She stiffened every time he moved, and he was moving a lot, turning and shifting slightly. He gave a low, croaking moan in his sleep, and at one point, he flung an arm towards her, and his fingertips landed on her shoulder. Slowly, she shrugged herself away from his touch.

When Angela finally fell asleep, she was plunged immediately into a series of strange dreams in which she and Philip were underwater. He didn’t have any arms or legs, only a head and a short, transparent tail. He was like a little sperm, trying to weasel his way between her legs.

Then Angela was out of the water, sitting beside a small pond with foamy green algae. She looked into the water and saw the tiny, sperm-like Philip, swimming frantically below the surface. Angela turned and found her grandmother sitting next to her by the edge of the water. Grandma’s hair was still white, but her wrinkles and sunspots were gone. Her whole body shimmered with light, and the ring sparkled on her finger as she pointed to Angela and nodded.

Angela felt the grasses by the pond tickling her sides, and suddenly there was a wetness on her neck. Confused, she struggled out of the dream. She was lying on her side, and Philip’s fingers were running up and down her rib cage, sliding into the valley of her waist. His lips were at her neck.

Angela sat up, and Philip jerked away from her, looking surprised. She reached for the lamp switch. “What are you doing?” She was surprised by the volume of her own voice. It seemed to echo against the yellow walls of her bedroom.

“I’m sorry.” Philip’s eyes were half-closed. “I must have been dreaming. I didn’t realize what I was doing.”

“You promised you wouldn’t touch me.” Angela threw back the covers and got out of bed.

“I didn’t mean to, I swear.”

“Oh really?” Angela crossed her arms tightly over her chest and stared at him.

“Come on!” Philip gave a little laugh. “Don’t freak out! So I was kissing you a little bit, it’s not such a big deal, is it? We could cuddle for the rest of the night or something. Just as friends. What do you say?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Oh, come on. Don’t be like that, Angela. I won’t try anything below the waist, I promise. It’s just that I haven’t cuddled with anyone in years.”

Angela hadn’t cuddled with anyone in a long time either. As much as Philip annoyed her, she craved the feeling of arms around her. She looked at his bulging eyes, his large, red mouth. She felt herself about to cave; she felt the sink of an “okay” forming on her lips. But then her grandmother’s ring tightened its grip around her finger, and she realized she didn’t want the arms of just anyone around her, and she certainly didn’t want Philip’s.

“I said no.” She pointed at Philip, and the ring seemed to blind them both for a moment with its light. “No.” The word felt hard and strong inside her mouth, like a diamond, scratching down the surface of a mirror. “NO!”

She ran into the living room and picked up his pile of clothes. She felt possessed with strength she’d never felt before, and she liked it.

She marched back into the bedroom. “Get dressed and get out!” She hurled the clothes and they fell with a soft thump onto the empty bed. She stared in confusion. Philip was gone.

The ring felt hot around her finger, and Angela looked around the room. Nothing had changed, except the window was open. She scrambled onto the bed and looked out into the darkness. The pool glowed an alien blue from the tiny lights set between the tiles. Could he have jumped? For a moment she wondered if Philip had been a dream, but no, here was his green jacket with peeling duct tape.

“Philip?” she called softly out the window. Then she looked around her room. With her heart beating double time, she lowered her head and peeked under the bed. Nothing. She looked out the window again. “Philip?” The cicadas sang a mysterious song. Frowning, she sat on her bed, waiting for something to happen. Finally, she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Sunday morning dawned clear and beautiful. Angela had slept late, and when she woke the sun was already high in a perfect, blue sky. Outside the pool umbrellas were open, the white concrete shimmered, and the water was smooth and blue — a reflection of the sky.

But in the corner of the pool, Angela noticed a fat lily pad with one small, green frog upon it. The frog turned its head towards her, and she could see, from seven floors up, it’s bulging, wide-set eyes. It blinked at her and darted out a long, red tongue. Angela grabbed her phone from the bedside table and called the management office. No one picked up, but the voicemail came on, and she left a message: “Hi, this is Angela Watts from 7C. There seems to be a frog in the pool. Can you please get someone to take care of that right away?”

She got out of bed and changed into her bathing suit. Outside the world had been scrubbed clean from the rain. There were lush palm trees hot pink flowers blooming in the sweet ocean breeze. It was like a new garden of Eden, where Eve lived alone and knew how to say no.