Did you ever walk down the street with your boyfriend and think, “I’ve got this figured out! I get it!”
I did! I had that feeling! N was back after a couple months away, and it was like we just picked up where we left off. This particular afternoon, I watched him pack his backpack with strawberries, whipped cream, brie, a baguette, a bottle of champagne and two champagne flutes. We held hands walking up the scenic, winding streets to Washington Park for Symphony in the park (I can’t make this shit up- it really happened). He spread out a light blue blanket on the ground in between two pink rose bushes and smiled as he sprawled across the grass. I stood there for a minute wondering if this was real life. The musicians started playing Mozart, and we ate our strawberries and drank our champagne, laughed as we shared stories about our lives. It was absolutely perfect. I truly thought to myself, “Wow, my life could not get any better than this moment.”
Around what I can only assume was the middle of the symphony’s set, we started to notice that a senior care home had brought some of their residents to enjoy the day as well. They had brought chairs and were setting them up wherever they could fit in the rose garden. Many of them looked tired from the trip, but eager to get settled and relax. Before we knew it, N and I were surrounded by wheelchairs. Not that it mattered. We had been there for well over an hour already, it was time to share the space. We pulled the blanked in and moved closer to each other so that more people could fit. A lot of these men and women thought N was military because he was sporting a buzz cut and was coming off of running season. He was telling them all that no, he was not in the military, he was here from Ireland. Loneliness is probably one of the worst things a person can experience, and some were felt so lonely. So we talked to all of them, listening to where they came from and finally wishing them well, as it was time to go. But just as N leaned in to kiss me over the last of the champagne, Fred, one of our new friends, leaned in to talk to us and tipped over sideways in his wheelchair, landing on top of me. He apologized profusely in my ear while he was trying to get up, pushing his hands into my back and through my hair, and though pinned to the ground, I appreciated the kindness. N helped him off of me and back into his chair. The aids checked to make sure he was okay, and I tried to play it as cool as a girl who just got unexpectedly crushed during one of the most romantic moments of her life.
N knelt down in front of me and said, “How’s your head?”
All I could mutter was, “Fine.” I tried to smile but I wasn’t really fine, my head was killing me. I pushed myself up on to my knees, then made myself stand up. We had become the entertainment and much of the audience was now looking at us. N quietly packed up what remained of our picnic, I offered Fred the rest of our strawberries and then we bid him adieu. That was a long, awkward walk home.
The next day N took me for a walk downtown. He pulled me into a jewelry store and, nodding at the woman behind the counter, turned to me asked, “If you could choose any ring, which one would it be?”