Thursday, April 23, 2020

If Only…. blog post #386

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Nostalgia time again. See if my flash fiction piece below conjures up any memories. Let me know how you like it.


          I stood at the window looking down on the city park. From my perch three stories above, the place reminded me of a massive playhouse. An expanse of grass—newly mown judging from alternating patterns of light and dark green—made up the carpet with gravel walks that resembled worn places in the pile. Bushes ranging from Gainesboro gray to plum purple provided walls, while tall, leafy trees made an inconsistent roof of sorts.
          The ceaseless movement of people intrigued me. Nursemaids pushed strollers holding their charges. Mothers and daughters sat on blankets while fathers and sons tossed Frisbees or balls. Maids and maidens sat on iron benches knitting, reading, or talking. The gleeful shrieks of children on swings and slides and seesaws faintly penetrated the glass pane. One man in a red and white shirt and a straw bowler walked around hawking identically red and white striped cartons of popcorn. Puffy clouds provided cooling shade before moving on to spill sunshine again. I imagined I could smell the arresting aromas of yellow and red flowers lining the walks. In the distance, a family of ducks paddled across a small pond.
          But it was a couple cavorting in a secluded nook provided by a thick burning bush hedge who commanded my attention. An unusual duo given the setting. Two young men—one with dark hair, the other with honey locks—looked on the verge of bursting into their twenties, at least as viewed through the telescope I customarily used to examine the night sky. Handsome and laughing. Pedigreed colts at play. Tickling one another and mock wrestling. Pausing occasionally to glance into one another’s eyes. A furtive hand moved here and there, setting off gales of giggling.
          Resting from horseplay, they sprawled side by side on their backs, one’s hand resting casually on the other’s chest. That did not last long. Nervous energy brought them to their feet to strip polo shirts from their torsos and cast them aside. Facing one another, crouched in opposition, Brunet used what looked to be a college class book as a football. Naked muscles bunched as he charged forward. Honey Locks intercepted him. It was, of course, merely an excuse to grapple, to feel, to experience. They ended up in a tumble, one atop the other. Both boys froze, and I sensed the moment had arrived.
          The fairer youth lowered his head, and their lips met. Through my telescope, I clearly saw fright or fear or indecision on the other boy’s features before he relaxed and accepted his companion’s intimacy. They parted, and Brunet shook his head. Honey Locks spoke urgently. I couldn’t read his lips, but there was no mistaking his message. He was proposing, his friend was hesitating.
          As I watched, the dark-haired boy’s eyes widened, and he nodded. An understanding had been reached. They rose, shrugged into their shirts, and collected their books. In the protection of the hedge, they walked hand in hand across the grass. As they emerged from their private glen, they moved apart to observe the conventions of society. In the grip of a ten-year-old memory, I watched them all the way out of the park.
          For a brief instant, that recollection from my own teen years almost seemed real. I was creekside with Johnny again. The skinny-dipping was over, and we lay on the sandy shore, allowing the sun to dry our adolescent flesh. He initiated horseplay, and I reacted like the boys in the park, participating, enjoying it, experiencing a deep thrill that I didn’t understand. And then he kissed me and took me in hand.
          Panicked, I pushed him away. Shook my head. He said nothing, merely looked hurt and dressed in silence. Something was lost that day. Something precious.
          “Charles, are you ready?”
          I turned to greet my wife dressed to the nines for our business reception that afternoon. I smiled, but I’m certain it didn’t reach my eyes. That only happened when eight-year-old Carolyn bounced into the room, dolled up in her mother’s mascara and blush.
          “Look, daddy. I’m like mother. Am I pretty?”
          Sweeping her up in my arms, I experienced the familiar tug between what was and what might have been. Love versus regret. Trade offs ruled our very lives.
          “Pretty as a picture, honey.”
          I glanced at nature’s playhouse outside the window and couldn’t resist a thought.
          If only….
I don’t know about you, but I have a few “if only” moments in my life, one particularly powerful that I don’t understand to this day. All I know is that  I wish I had reacted differently. Would it have cemented a relationship or destroyed one? I’ll never know.

Let me know about some of your “if onlys....”

Until next week.

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See you next week.


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