posted on Apr, 17 2009 @ 05:58 AM
– We used to dance here.
Startled I look up from the book I am reading. He is standing directly in front of me. The sun is in his back. I can't see his face, but his voice
tells me that he is old. It is strangely fragile. As though it hasn't been used in a long time.
My own voice is a sharper than I intended. But he is an intruder. My little daughter is sleeping in the baby carriage next to me. This is my free
time. My own time. I go to the park when the weather is nice, I sit on this bench and read a book or a newspaper while my baby is taking her nap. I
don't want this stranger here. I don't want anyone disrupting my break.
̶- On Saturday nights, he continues. – Over there, where those trees are. There used to be a little stage there.
He has moved now, turned away from me to point, and I can see his profile. He is clean shaven, and I detect a faint smell of aftershave. His white
hair looks like it has just been cut. He is also dressed in a dark suit, as though he is dressed for a funeral. Or perhaps a wedding.
And he is so pale. So thin. The suit looks too big for him. In a glimpse I remember my father's face when he was dying of cancer.
I follow the old man's gaze, look at the trees. They have grown tall over the years.
̶- A stage? I ask politely. As an apology for my initial hostility.
̶- Those who knew how to handle a fiddle or accordion took turns playing a tune. So we could dance. All the farm workers gathered here. Some of them
walked for miles to come to the dance.
I am worried that he is so pale. I ask him if he wants to sit down, but he shakes his head.
– No, thank you. His voice is firm now, filled with stubborn pride as he straightens his back. – I may be old, but I can still stand on my two
legs. I was strong as an oxe when I was young, you know. Life as a farm boy did that to you. Out in the fresh air all day long, working in the fields.
A hard life. Hard, but good. Yes, good...
He seems to get lost in his own thoughts and memories. I wait in silence, sensing that I should not disturb.
And then... Then he draws the curtain aside. Paints me a world I never knew excisted. He talks about the big farmhouse where the elementary school
stands now. The vast wheatfields, the long rows of apple trees that blossomed in the spring and then shed their peddles like snowflakes on the ground.
The green pastures where cows grassed, the strong, sturdy horses pulling the plough. The little lake with the frogs and the water lillies where they
used to swim in warm Summer evenings. The cool, dark water soothing sunburned skin, aching muschles...
I listen in amazement. It has never even crossed my mind that something was here before. Before the city spilled over, before the suburb. Before all
these streets and houses. I never knew.
His voice trailes off at last. He looks tired. I want him to sit down next to me, rest for a while, but before I can say something my daughter stirrs
and whimpers beside me. She is about to wake up.
He looks at the carriage. – You have a baby. You are married.
It is a statement, not a question. But I nod. – Yes.
– I never married. Never had children.
I don't know what to say. His face shows no emotion. I just nod again.
– But I fell in love.
His smile is such a suprise. It completely transforms him. I suddenly see him as he must have looked as a young man, the strong, young man who worked
in the fields all day long, who cooled down in the lake on warm Summer evenings.
– I met her here. She danced with me. It took me weeks just to work up the courage to ask her. And she said yes.
He looks over at the group of trees, where the little stage once stood. He is still smiling. To himself. To her?
– We danced. And afterwards she kissed me. She was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. Her hair used to curl in the rain...
My daughter whimpers again, and I grab the handle of the carriage, try rocking her back to sleep. But it is too late. She is awake, impatient, hungry,
soon she will begin to cry. Angry and loud.
For a brief moment I consider picking her up and breastfeed her where I sit, but this man... He is from another time, another generation. He might be
And I can't ruin this moment for him. I understand now. It is because of her. The aftershave. The haircut. The suit and tie. His proud, straightened
I continue rocking the carriage while I get on my feet, pick up my book and tuck it away in the bag hanging from the handle.
– I'm sorry, I have to go... The baby...
– Yes, of course. You must tend to the baby. He turns his head and looks at me for a moment. His smile is filled with such tenderness. – She had
blue eyes. Blue as cornflowers.
The shining love in his smile makes my heart jump. I can't find any words. I just smile back at him before I start walking away with the carriage,
quickly. I must go home with my baby, she is hungry.
Out on the street I look over my shoulder. He is still standing there beside the bench. So straight in his back. Is he talking to her? I wish I knew
what happened. A death? Did he loose her to someone else?
I am halfway down the next street when I realize that my daughter has gone quiet. A quick look confirms that she has fallen asleep again. I stop for a
second, then turn around and hurry back to the park. I want to ask him. I want to know.
But when I get there he is no longer standing beside the bench. I can see him on the other side of the park, the cabdriver is opening the door to the
back seat before gently helping him in. The cab must have been waiting for him.
I start to run over the grass, pushing the carriage in front of me, I lift my arm and wave to them, but they don't notice me. I call out, but it's
too late. The cabdriver is already in the driver's seat. Now he starts the car and they drive away.
I still walk past the park from time to time. Now there are other young mothers sitting on the benches, other babies sleeping in their carriages.
And I think about the old man who came to say goodbye to the girl he fell in love with. The girl he carried in his heart until his death. She had hair
that curled in the rain. Eyes as blue as cornflowers.
I wish I knew what happened. I wish I knew her name.