I think my opening line was I like your shirt. She sat on my favourite bench, the one with my initials carved into the back, jeans covered in patches, head bopping along to a song inside her head and the familiar zig-zags white on black down her chest to her stomach. I even recognised the drum beat, because it was the one I did all the time. Job interviews, before sex, sitting on the toilet with a virus… in times of anxiety I would tap out the same rhythm over and over as the lyrics flowed in and out of my mind like the tides.
She looked up, smiled and shuffled along making space for me.
Oh no, I couldn’t. Don’t want to disturb.
Oh yes you must. It’s fine. Grab a plank.
I sat down. She pulled out a cutthroat razor and carved the letters A E next to her leg. Retracting the blade she brushed the shavings away and put it inside her jacket pocket. I always keep one of these she smiled. You never know when you have to blind someone.
I laughed nervously. Well… I hope you aren’t planning on blinding me…
Give me a good reason.
She smiled and tilted her head so a lock of hair blotted out the sun. One hand reached into her jacket. The grin widened, dimples sinking into her face, the peek of a shiny tooth. I relaxed and turned away from her to look ahead.
Well… because look at all of this….
I looked across to the park. Two young men sat next to their bikes in deep conversation. An old lady watched as her dog pissed against the war memorial. Soundtracking all of this, a lone gardener garishly inconspicuous in florescent safety clothes and hard hat wandered back and forth with a tiny lawnmower that buzzed and dribbled away.
See those two dudes over there? They might look like two ordinary guys. But one of them desperately loves the other. He has these wild fantasies where they get into a big play fight and then as they are grabbing one shoves his hands down the pants of the other and suddenly they are eating each others faces. But his friend… he knows this and he wants him just as much but he’s scared… his Dad would never approve because he has a flag in his front garden and thinks homosexuality is a social construct, and he’d beat the shit out of him if he found out…
She nodded. Go on.
And as for the old lady… letting her dog piss on the stone. She’s trained it to only piss on the one name of this guy who rejected her and then went to war and never returned, and she will never forgive him for that. Not even for the rejection, but because he chose killing over love.
She sat silently.
And him with the lawnmower? I imagine he is someone who loves animals and dreamed of being an architect. But it never worked out for him because he was always distracted by nature. And so, ironically, as a day job all he does is dig up stuff, chop stuff short and kill bugs and mice that he doesn’t see under the blades. He wanted to build castles but instead he just destroys what he loves the most.
So that is why I should keep my eyes…
Removing the hand from inside her jacket she laughed and then stared ahead. The two guys were having a friendly argument, one half shoving as the other tried to grab a wrist, both laughing. The old lady smiled as her small dog finished its business and toddled away. The gardener shut down his mower with a jarring silence and hurled it into the back of his pick up with a resounding clatter.
I’ll let you keep them… even though they are quite strange.
She turned to look at me.
All they see are people who want but cannot have.
I looked down at the carving next to her leg. What is A E? Is that your name?
She sighed, slightly exasperated, and looking straight into my eyes, the drum beat tapped out from her fingers again.