How infuriating! After all this time, all those promises. After I was there for him when his dad died and how I let him cry on my shoulder. How I so foolishly believed that he loved me, would do anything for me. I’ve been tolerating you? Gawd, he really has some nerve.
I took a sharp left and made my way through the park. I noticed things as I power walked by, like the roses blooming in the flower garden that me and Michael first kissed in. I thought back to that day and wondered how we got to this point. How I thought maybe Michael was “the one.” I wanted to help. I wanted to understand. But he’s been shutting me out since the accident, and I can’t handle it anymore. He’s been driving me insane.
Maybe I’ve been tolerating him. Ha! That’s rich. Wait until Thomas hears about this. He’ll go insane. I hope he kicks Michael’s ass. Seriously, he would deserve it at this point. He can only play the dead father card for so long.
What am I thinking? His dad died. And not just died, but was killed. Blown up. Fighting for something he believed in. I stopped walking. I started to take in the things around me. The blooming roses, their deep reds and pure whites. The sugary scent that drifted through the air took me back to that magical moment when Michael and I first touched lips. Only our second date. The stars twinkled brighter and the full moon cast romantic shadows across the sidewalk, witnesses to the blossoming love. Even thinking about it now, I know it was all a little cliché. But it didn’t change how I felt at the time, the sheer emotions that pulsed through my veins and the way I felt Michael’s heart beating out of his chest when he held me.
Thomas didn’t even know about us then. We had both been too afraid to tell him, maybe even too afraid to admit to ourselves what was happening. We were falling in love. We did fall in love. We still are in love.
I hoped it wasn’t too late as I ran back to the fountain. Damn flip-flops. I kicked them off and ran barefoot across the grass, praying that Michael was still there, that I could tell him I’m sorry and I loved him and I understood. Or at least I wanted to understand.
I saw the top of the fountain first, and as the rest of the ivory monument came into view I only saw a girl with pigtails, tossing a penny into the water. I kept running anyway, grasping on to some hope that Michael would see me and come back. When I reached the fountain I doubled over, breathing hard and grasping my side that felt like it was being stabbed with a dull spoon. Each breath compounded the annoying pain, but it slowly subsided. I rested with my hands on my knees, still taking deep breathes not because I needed to but because I was trying not to cry.
“Are you okay?” A tiny voice squeaked in front of me. I looked up and saw two pigtails protruding from a small round head. The little girl’s blonde hair glimmered in the sun. She looked about seven years old, and she tilted her head at me the way a puppy tilts its head when you try to speak to it.
“I’m fine,” I said, and repeated it again. “I’m fine. I’m fine.” The mantra was more for me than the little girl. I stood up and looked at the sky, hands on my hips. I just didn’t want to cry. I looked around and saw a group of guys walking away with a bright green Frisbee. A woman was crouching down in the grass petting her dog. A young couple sat on a park bench and their faces grew nearer. They kissed.
I wanted to march over and tear the girl away from the boy. Tell her it’s not worth it, not to go down that road. Because once you do there is no turning back. Once you’re in love, it’s not the beginning but the end. You could lose him forever.
“Why aren’t you wearing shoes?” I looked down and the pigtails were now pointed down and, following suit, her finger pointed down to my bare feet. I wiggled my toes and laughed, and I could feel a pair of curious 7-year-old eyes on me.
“I guess I lost them,” I said. I couldn’t fathom explaining to this child what love makes a person do. How it makes them act. I barely understand, just a 23-year-old young woman who barely knows her own self.
“Well you should find them. My mom says you’re not supposed to walk around the park with your shoes off,” PigTails scolded me. Her “supposed to” sounded more like “sposta” and she rocked back and forth on her heels as she spoke. “You could step on a needle and then you’ll have itchy feet.” I mused over this statement for a moment, guessing Mom had said HIV and her seven-year-old daughter heard ‘itchy feet.’ I squatted down so Pigtails was at my eye-level.
“We wouldn’t want that would we? Don’t worry, I’ll find my shoes and be careful not to step on a needle,” I assured her. “Did you throw a penny into the fountain? What did you wish for?”
“I can’t tell! It won’t come true!”
“Okay, okay! You’re right.” I tried to calm her hysteria. “I just hope it was for something good.” I smiled and her eyes lit with excitement.
“It was. I hope it works, because I don’t want you to be mad anymore.” She turned and ran back to her mom, probably to tell her the crazy girl that was yelling and screaming earlier isn’t wearing any shoes, but she promises not to get itchy feet. I wondered what she had wished for, about me. She didn’t want me to be mad anymore. If only she could understand. Anger didn’t make that monster inside me surface—love did. I watched her as she reached her mother, and tilted my head the way a puppy tilts its head when you try to speak to it.