The man seemed out of place, standing by the water in a frayed sweater, well-worn shoes, an impressive attaché. I had noticed him there every day for the past week. Inexplicably, on this day I followed him, was actually close enough to reach out and touch his shoulder. He turned towards me and smiled, his eyes were deep set, the pupils wide portals that gathered the autumn colors, dilated pits of shadow even in the midday sun centered in glacial irises that softened when he smiled. Sepia outlines against the landscape we stood together watching a swan, graceful ballerina, glaze the water slowly leaving no sign of a wake. So intrigued by this fated figure I could not resist sitting beside him. He reached into the briefcase and offered me an apple, barely suppressing my smile at the irony, I took the apple though I was not hungry. I fought the temptation to arrange his unkempt hair and run my fingers over his unshaven cheek. I had the unsettling suspicion that he knew what I was thinking. We talked about how quickly summer had passed and the beauty of the fall leaves. Suddenly serious he confided that he came to the park to kill time, that he had lost his job and his lover had fallen to the irresistible lure of the black dog. As though I were listening in on a private conversation I felt overwhelmed, resisting the urge to take his hand. I sensed the danger and instinctively pulled away and unceremoniously stood up to leave. He asked me if I would return. With no intention to do so I told him I would come back.
Haunted by the unorthodox stranger and somehow sensing impending peril I was unable to sleep, finally giving into sleeping pills with a sip of water. Eventually falling into a state of suspended consciousness only to waken drenched from an erotic dream. I cursed softly and found my way to the bathroom in the dark to avoid disturbing his sound sleep. At dinner I considered telling him about the man, even going so far as to mention how inexplicably drawn I felt but refrained, bewildered at its significance; not wanting to explain it. In the bathroom I stood under the shower, letting the cool water spill softly over my face and down my throat, cupping my breasts, imagining his elegant hands upon my body. Back in bed, I closed my eyes tasting the salty tears that slid from them. Drifting off I promised myself I would forget about the encounter at the park, never go back there.
From the window that overlooked the rolling slopes across the way, I saw him, his hair tousled in the breeze. I tried to look away but was compelled to observe his every move outlined against the grass, the long stride along the path leading to the lake, I settled my view on his silhouette and the glow of sun on his tanned face. Tossing my sweater across my shoulders I hurried along the path toward him. His eyes lit when he caught sight of me, gleaming as brightly as the clear blue sky. We sat on the bench beneath the large birch tree that came alive with bird song. We were destined, surely as the sea meets the shore and my subconscious began to vibrate for him and that for a smear of time kept him sane and grounded, loves tender sentiment. Retrospectively I knew exactly when he began to slip away and there was no way to hold it back.
Since our death I haven’t been the same. Washing pills with cognac, my world a void of absence. He is at a loss, doing all he can to bring me back, feeling I may dissipate like card ice. I have fallen out of love but haven’t the heart to tell him. How angry he would be if he knew of the man in the park, of the very marrow of life that we shared without shame. I must be ashamed, my face feels hot whenever I think of him and when I allow myself to wake, I am a whirl wind of wild emotion sinking back into drug induced amnesia where my shell remains a possession of suffering.
The earth is stripped of its color. Where is the sun that burned liked fire? The park is blanketed with ice, brittle branches offer bleak shelter to the silent birds, their wings pulled sharply against their skeletons. A woman tugs her coat against the wind, its rough threads guarding a lifeless heart. Her eyes are dead things, no longer vibrant, reflecting the grey clouds. She is caught in the shadow of the park where a sparrow falls lifeless to the snow. She is lost, unable to find her way among the snow banks. Somehow she welcomes the sorrow, the pain that reminds her she is still alive.
A winter park bench. © Colline Kook-Chun