In Her Place

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etting ready to go into town has become almost a ritual for me. I’m filled with excitement, anxiousness, a buzzing energy that sometimes drives me crazy when trying to decide what to wear and how to do my hair. Mother used to laugh at me, ridiculing me being in love. She doesn’t anymore; she just stares sullenly at her crosswords and magazines, paying little attention to my exhilaration. She’s gotten bored with me going out regularly. She doesn’t understand how important this is to me, how it stirs a vibrating passion in me so that when I return home I’m like a box full of bitter chocolates, a bottle filled with spirits – intoxicating and pungent. Sometimes, I think I’m like Pandora’s Box with hope cowering in one of the dark corners when everything else is gone.

It’s chilly out today and I won’t be able to show my chic new top under the coat. That annoys me, but I substitute for it by wearing a skirt that accentuates my lovely calves and full hips. I’ll wear high heels although it’s a pain walking down the steep road from our house at the top of the hill, but he’s worth it.

I don’t overdo it with make-up, he doesn’t like it. I’ve always thought that said a lot about him. It shows he’s an honest, open man; he doesn’t like pretending and I tend to agree with him. Why cover yourself up with a fake façade? It feels like cheating and it makes no sense if you really want to win a man. I mean, what will you do when you wake up next to him with your face wrinkled from the pillow and last night’s mascara smeared across your cheeks?

I remember our first date that somehow happened without any real planning. One Friday after school, he asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. Until then, I’d been admiring him from afar, dreaming about us being together when I couldn’t sleep at night. I craved his touches and kisses so much I could almost imagine them real. I’d never before felt so strongly about anyone else. So I said yes and he took hold of my hand and walked me from school down to the river. There we sat on the pebbles and talked about things that I forgot just seconds later because all I could concentrate on was the incredibility of him sitting next to me, talking to me, staring in my eyes, and then taking hold of my hand timidly.

“Mom, I’m going out,” I yell from the hallway. She doesn’t respond from where she’s sitting at the kitchen table, and I can imagine her face scrunching up with annoyance and concern. She’s so negative about everything. I wish she didn’t take life so seriously, I’m afraid it’ll kill her. She’s already lost all that happiness I used to notice in her features and gestures. She’s become negative towards me; it’s like she’s disappointed in me just because I’ve found love. That doesn’t make sense, I know. I don’t understand why she can’t be happy for me, and it hurts. She keeps saying she only wants what’s best for me, but if that were true, she wouldn’t be forbidding me my love. I suspect she just can’t understand what I feel and how deeply I feel it. Maybe she’s never experienced such wild and irresistible feelings. Father passed away when I was five. I don’t remember ever hearing them fight, but honestly, I don’t remember anything much about their marriage. Mom has never remarried and sometimes I think she is just so terribly lonely that she wants to keep me to herself to keep her company for all eternity.

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ust the thought of seeing him is like a caress on my feverish skin. It feels like my flesh is tuning itself up for him. All I can think about are his long fingers warming my body, slipping under my pullover, preparing my skin for his lips. I want to see his grey eyes go dark with desire, his joking attitude being replaced with earnestness, with respect for our mutual need. The thought of what I can do to him by simply being me sends a wave of heat to my cheeks.

I feel the blush as it comes into contact with the nippy air. The wind is rising and the sky is dimming, but I ignore it all. Nothing can sway my determination. Rain, sleet or storms haven’t stopped me in the past when I was on my way to see him. A bit of chill and wind won’t stop me now.

I realize I’m speeding up without even knowing it. I smile at my own impatience and a woman with a child who passes me looks at me for a second time when she notices my mysterious grin. She probably thinks I’m bonkers. Or perhaps she recognizes the symptoms of a woman madly in love. This thought makes me smile wider.

I pull the coat more tightly around me and the clicking of my heels on the pavement speeds up yet again as I try to stay warm. I pass the first houses on the periphery of the town and it feels like the town is raising its arms around me, protecting me against the wind with its concrete embrace. I’m nearly there and I can feel the thudding of my heart; the hands clasping my purse begin to tremble. I feel the excitement like a sip of strong liquor, warming up my insides, messing with my senses, confusing my emotions with reality. Anxiety comes riding on the second wave, quenching the excitement a bit, but only for a second. For as I picture his face, the lips twisted in a teasing smile and his arms around my shoulders, nothing can douse the surge of love in my chest.

I’m past the church now and the park is just ten paces away. I slow down and then stop by the hedgerow. The park is deserted at this hour, but in five minutes – six and twenty seconds, to be exact – it’ll be crawling with secretaries, architects, bank tellers and administrators on their lunch breaks. I always come early so I can find a nice spot to hide. Usually, I step behind the cluster of trees opposite from the main entrance of the church.

The first group of people emerges from the south-eastern entrance. They’re from the bank; I recognize them by now. Two women and three men. They always sit on the same bench, always in the same order – two men on the outside, then the two women, the third man in the middle. It amuses me how they rotate the middle position. It is only fair they all get equal amount of the female closeness. A young girl follows them, probably a student ditching lessons or using her break to study in the park rather than in a classroom. She takes a notebook out of her bag and then throws the bag on the grass and sits on it.

When a boy joins her a few minutes later they distract me enough with their passionate kissing that I nearly miss my love’s entrance. As always, he comes across the street from his office, but this time I catch him when he’s already in the park. I missed his concentrated look when crossing the busy street, I didn’t see him saunter down the footpath and over to ‘his’ bench. But I see him unwrap his sandwich now, although he doesn’t start eating yet, he’s waiting for her to come. And punctual as always, I can sense her silhouette approaching from the other direction. I look at her and notice her focused expression, she’s typing something on her mobile phone and holding a brown paper bag in her other hand. Her steps are brisk and sure and unaware of me watching her as she passes the trees that are hiding me from the bench. She looks up, sees him waiting and her focus shifts, her expression lightens up. When she pockets the phone, her wedding band glints in the cloudy light. She quickens her steps.

I feel my heart thudding, my cheeks are warm but despite the heat wave that splashes over me my eyes start to sting from the wind. I huddle deeper into my coat. I force myself to watch them greet each other with an affectionate peck on the lips; their admiration and love are still fresh even after years of marriage. I hear her laugh loudly; his smile is silent but radiant. They sit side by side, thighs touching, her hands fuss over his napkin and sandwich, he opens her soda and hands it to her.

I’m amazed that they manage to eat at all seeing how much they always have to say to each other. I find it ridiculous; they haven’t seen each for all of three or four hours since the morning. Still, they act like lovers united at long last. I wonder whether he’d greet me like that, too, after more than a decade. Would he have anything to say to me or would the awkwardness of our break-up still hang in the air between us? Would he be shocked into silence? Amused or maybe happy to see me? I wouldn’t have much to say other than how much I still love him and how I want him back. How I envy him his family and happiness and how it isn’t fair that I don’t get to have it. I want to be the mother of his two sons; I want to meet him for lunch in the park every day. But I will forever only watch and wish it were me in her place. I will only ever watch him from behind these trees where the grass doesn’t grow anymore because I stomp on it everyday.

Leave a comment

3 Comments

  1. Emily

     /  September 15, 2011

    This is beautiful. So real, and so heartbreaking, and a little close to home, but beautiful.

    Reply
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