[The woman of the colored mice]
I arrived to the park much earlier than we had agreed to, so I was prepared for him not to be there. I sat down on a bench, fancying some peaceful time in which not to do anything at all, and let the void be the center of me.
I was sure he would appear, but I didn’t have any expectations beyond a pleasant conversation, some lively remarks, and a productive transfer of ideas. I was convinced he would deliver on that latter front.
I didn’t see him coming. He arrived and said hello as I was paying attention to the movements of some pigeons. I looked up and he was smiling. He had made an effort to look smart, although his bowtie was crooked and his ragged jacket declared the limitations of his means. Not his fault. Mostly enduring. It definitely met with my approval.
“Do you like San Francisco?” I asked after he sat down next to me.
“It’s not a bad city, but I don’t feel I belong here, somehow.”
“I think I know what you mean,” I said.
“There are some good and interesting people here, though,” he said, overextending a smile when I looked at him.
I asked him what books he had been carrying when we ran into each other at the library. The titles and authors didn’t tickle my interest. Boring-sounding stuff on civil engineering, something of the sort. Books for his studies, not for pleasure.
I liked him. Although there was a diffuse shroud of sadness about him, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. More lethargy than sadness, perhaps. As if the excitement and hopefulness that one would expect in a man of his age had been washed away, and now he was just going through the motions, one step after another along a path he was determined to trudge through, without his sight on any target.
“What do you want to do?” I asked him, being vague on purpose. I wanted to know if there was a mountain he desired to climb or any other aspiration. Maybe a special or inspiring target after all.
“What do you want to do?” A polite answer, but tiring and disappointing.
“I like solitude,” I said.
“San Francisco ain’t the place to find that.” Another weak remark, but he made me smile.
“You don’t like San Francisco?” he added.
“San Francisco is a good place. Who wouldn’t love its vitality, and its myriad of opportunities. But I prefer open spaces, that’s all. Standing on a prairie that stretches for miles in all directions, and nobody to be seen between you and the horizon all around you.” He nodded, seeming to understand.
We talked for a while. At some point our conversation got stiff and our silences took over in several ocassions. “Do you want to go and see the sea?” he asked. He was really trying, I appreciated that.
“Yes, let’s go. I will show you a good spot to see some seals.”
I felt comfortable around him. There was a sense of peace and simplicity in his actions. I could trust his words, and that was better than hearing the baroque soliloquy of a gifted mind.
Our first kiss happened that evening. A short and simple thing. Delicate but powerful, as I would have expected it to be. Meaningful only for the two of us. Nothing that special or consequential to anyone else. Why would anyone else care? They didn’t know about the island we had just created for the two of us. They would sail right by our shore without noticing the existence of our island. Perfect. Finally.