Because it is in the high 70’s and late in the day, sitting on a bench, sun facing and street side, is the only place to be.
A young French couple on a seat nearby lets their toddler wander shirtless. The little girl has two balloons- one lavender, one cloudy pink.
The parents don’t seem to mind how far she gets away from them, letting her walk the curved path behind a row of carefully planted trees. When she comes back into view her face is changed by the tears on it. She is holding only one balloon.
To this her mother laughs, to communicate something about loss being easy perhaps. Or maybe in France, this is a game children play with their parents.
I look up from my book and there you are. Both hands in your pockets, gazing downward and coming closer.
“I got your message.” You say.
“I’m impressed you found me.”
“Your instructions were pretty clear.”
Why, I ask myself, am I always the first one to smile?
“What were you like as a teenager?” you ask me. We had moved to a blanket on the grass and for a moment I can’t remember if I was asleep or not.
“As a teenager I was exactly the same.”
“Meaning I would sit in parks with a stack of books, trying to look interesting, hoping someone would come find me.”
“When I was a teenager I’d spend a lot of time looking for pretty girls reading in parks.” You say.
“Too bad we weren’t friends then, you could have been part of one of my childhood fantasies.”
“Why do you think girls are always coming up with stories?”
“I don’t know, because a story makes life more romantic in a way reality isn’t. Don’t guys like being drawn into a fantasy? All you guys have your fantasies too.”
“I’m not all guys” you say, “Have you ever heard the saying, beautiful girls are raised to be loved?”
I hadn’t heard it.
“What would your fantasy have been about me?” You ask, a little while later.
“You mean, if we were still in high school and already knew each other, and it was a day like this?” You nod. “Well, first I would tell myself that I was going to your house, but you wouldn’t know that, of course. I would spend a lot of time picking out which clothes to wear. I would walk to where you live, even if it was far, listening to music, songs that I would later associate with this walk. They might even have been decided ahead of time. I would stop somewhere on the way just to wait, to build up desire and frustration. But I couldn’t take it. I’d have waited too long. So I’d run, I’d run the rest of the way. You’d see me from the window and wave. You’d come meet me at the door and offer me a glass of water. Since I’d been running, I’d ask to use your shower. You would be in your bedroom waiting, and I’d come in, wrapped in a towel. Silently you’d come toward me, or you’d just stand up not moving at all and I’d come toward you. When I got close, I’d let the towel fall, everything I was holding too, and I’d lift your shirt over your head. Then I’d press my body onto your chest, into your chest. I’d say, ‘let me make you feel so good.’ With the back of your hand you’d sweep the hair away from my shoulders and you’d kiss me and kiss me and kiss me.”
I must have been picking at the grass while I was talking because a pile of lawn tips is in a heap on my lap. I look at your face, looking away and I cannot tell if you are afraid or very, very sad.