The sunlight never looks right at this latitude; it’s too bright and the blue from the sky weaves itself into all the colors of the spectrum. A white hot light, that early summer light, brushed from the shoulders by the late spring breeze.
Pepper runs with her nose inches from the ground, following the yellow-green scents through the forest of dark green blades and still damp twigs. Woody and musky, the dampness evaporates up from the ground underneath the woolen blanket, banded with bright neons and pinks. The colors send up their own scents, both chemical and sheepish at the same time. Patricia blinks in the bright light, noting the subdued input of her senses.
It’s Pepper’s favorite spot, so many other dogs to meet, and the quiet breathing of the conscious world winds its way in Patrcia’s thoughts, the penetrating peace drawing her back again and again to this spot. Her book lies abandoned on the far corner of the blanket as the trees’ individual leaves wink green and pink and blue.
She searches people’s faces instead of chasing the letters across the page, though the desired insight is still the same for both activities. Her face and eyes open to her peers, her comrades in park, she is looking for something beyond the leisure and luxury afforded by the environment. Like attending church, she and Pepper are regulars at this dog park, her striped blanket displaying as a gas station sign in the night; a familiarity for those individual travelers transversing their orbits.
Tell me, tell me what you are thinking, what you see, why you are swinging your arms like that, tell me about the world as you see it. Her eyes scan the passersby. Tell me that you are the same as me, tell me that you are here to find that sense of togetherness, just like me, that you have a need that you can satisfy here. Her eyes dart from face to face, from knee to shoe to hands touching dogs faces, tennis balls, books, other hands. She is looking for that small smile of understanding, that sideways glance of disapproval (why can’t that lady control her dog?), and on those few lucky days, the meeting of eyes that’s held just a little too long.
A childish decadence, really, her whimsical hopes for love and affection, but one she has been unable to shed since her father mixed her morning milk with chocolate syrup before the morning car ride of alphabet games to preschool. She carries it around like a dirty book in her purse, sure that everyone can see it and knows that it’s there, ashamed at the smudgy little thrill of curiosity and rebellion that quivers in her chest.
They say that eyes are windows to the soul, which makes the pupils the gatekeepers, the aperture gods over the intake of reality.
And of course, he’s come around the corner. The triangles made by his stride flash in her peripheral vision and the long lines of his legs lead her eyes to the shade of his jaw, the sharp nose, the symmetrical sharp eyes with the discerning gleam. The balls of his feet feel the crushed granite beneath him, ascertain the depth of the pebbles. The crunching of the gravel acts like sonar reflections of sound, detailing the minute details and spaces between the ever smaller, shifting sands of the path. His easy gait sails over the shifting tides of pink granite, adjusting ever so slightly to walking on water.
It’s his eyes, as she follows her glance to his face, that answer her question. His knowing gait comes from experienced eyes and a necessarily understanding heart; he would sweep her hair behind her ear when they sat face to face, eye to eye, with dialating pupils, velvety tenuous forays and connections having appeased gatekeepers, accepting the bribe and stepping away from their charge. She would look at her like that when he looked at her, when he broke his stride and turned his head those thirty or so degrees in response to his peripheral apprehension of her stare. He’s starting to feel it, she’s sure, her eyes following his movement. He will see the sun reflecting from her open face, she knows.
As if she had called his name, he turned his head and looked directly at her and she could see he was not very attractive. He held the gaze full moments too long and a frantic pressure built in her temples, his expectation burrowed into her pupils. Such shame washed over her as she met the gaze with her guilty acceptance of what she had asked for, though it fell so short of what she hoped. Shame, then stubbornness, then an angry challenging washed through the light around his head; who was she to hope or to judge? Such a child, such a child… She broke the gaze and stared down at her hands, called for Pepper, grasped for some distraction until she saw the pale moon of his face turn away and face the other faces.
He comes every week wearing a different face, wearing different clothes, walking a different dog or with a water bottle and armband iPod, he always showed up one way or another. And then he is gone, each and every time with a small gesture, with that lazy, dead stare, with one sideways glance of insecurity toward that girl’s chest. And like that, he’s gone.