No one was supposed to know about their love. But I know.
Anyone who lives in the west end of the city has seen her around. She gets from place to place on an unusual, old-fashioned scooter-thing. It’s hard to tell how old she is because she dresses in old-fashioned clothes - long dresses and a bonnet. She’s Old Order Mennonite, I think. Maybe Amish or Quaker. I don’t know. I’d guess she’s in her mid-to-late-20s.
A few weeks ago I went out for a walk to find some lunch. On my way back home, I stumbled on a little hidden park I’d never seen before. 2:30 on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and the park was completely empty. No signs of life. No litter. The benches were pristine. No teenage graffiti. I decided to set down on a bench tucked away in a corner to enjoy my sandwich.
I was there a few minutes when she came into the park. She settled on a bench on the opposite side from where I was. She didn’t see me. I recognized her by her scooter. I might not have known it was her otherwise. She wasn’t in her usual old-fashioned clothes. She was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and her hair was down. Her hair was very long. Her shorts were loose-fitting and came to her knees. She sat on a bench and looked around nervously. Clearly, she was waiting for someone.
He arrived five minutes later. When she first spotted him, she clenched her hands together and tucked them under her chin. Her smile made the flowers grow. His joy was slightly more muted. Cautious. But you could hear his bells ringing too. He looked liked a heavy metal musician: hair as long as hers, black leather everything.
When he sat down on the bench next to her, they didn’t embrace. There was a foot of space between them. They just studied each other’s smiles. When they did speak to each other, it was in whispers, so I couldn’t hear what was being said. They were the most beautiful people in the world to each other. Her god was watching them. She had vowed to live a chaste life.
I turned my attention back to my lunch and the birds serenading in the trees until I saw the couple move over to some playground equipment. He pushed her on the swings. Somehow, with the intensity of their obvious desire for one another, the mere touching of her back seemed to be the most erotic of acts to them both.
After several minutes of the pretense of swinging, they moved over to the monkey bars. They were too high for her to reach. In approximation of proposing, he dropped to one knee and invited her to use his other as a step. She obliged and then dangled for a few moments. He stood guard, hands raised to her in worship and worry.
They played like that for another five minutes or so, until it was time for their secret rendezvous to end. They stood facing each other, about two feet apart, and whispered their goodbyes. Then after a moment of desperate telepathy, they leaned forward into each other, colliding in an A-frame hug. The agony.
The whole encounter lasted ten minutes.
She watched him walk away - re-banished to the bad side of town. He never tuned back even though not doing so felt like it was killing him.
She returned to her bench where her scooter was leaning. She sat for a moment with her head lowered. She made the sign of the cross before getting up, mounting her scooter and pushing off, tears glistening on her cheeks.
And I was alone again. Still invisible and everything they weren’t.