It’s Sarah’s birthday today. I need to get her something nice…something no one else could get.
It can’t be anything I could buy. What kind of boyfriend would that make me? Any idiot can buy a thing, but what happens when that thing runs dry or breaks?
I can’t make it for her. She’s spurned those attempts in the past, and rightly so; they weren’t good enough for her. Sarah deserves better and I know that. I’ve punished myself for those mistakes and won’t repeat them.
I’m waiting in the park. It’s a rare warm and sunny day and all manner of people are about. There’s a coalition of hippies gathering at the top of the hill. Everywhere they walk, a cloud of dust seems to trail along behind them. The ones already settled begin playing drums, enticing others to join them. They pound out a tribal rhythm that turns the sloping greens into a primitive hunting ground.
There is a Chinese family playing catch. The children’s coordination is no better or worse than their father’s and I imagine that not once in their lives will they be mistaken for being athletic. I commend the father for trying, but the mother seems to know it’s pointless. She lounges in the shade of a tree, watching their futility.
A group of what might be sisters troops up the hill. One of them lays out a blanket, clearly too small for the three of them to share. They argue and giggle over the lack of relaxation space, struggling to squeeze themselves onto the fabric square, as if the surrounding grass is boiling hot lava. The one I assume is the oldest adjusts her top, her breasts threatening to spill out. She sees me watching her and smiles. I turn away. I’m here for Sarah, not myself.
A young man and woman take up a wide space in the center of the hill. They remove their shirts in the blazing sun. She has a tight jogging bra clamped down over her rail thin frame. He wears nothing but his skin and a faded pair of basketball shorts. He’d been in shape once, I could tell that. His girlfriend probably pined for the days when he played high school ball, before his well-conditioned muscles began to melt, to be coated in an ever-expanding avalanche of greasy fat.
The man knows his athletic days are behind him, so he makes up for his less-than-impressive physical performance by belittling his girlfriend and reliving the past. Sure, he missed that last catch by inches, but he had made the play at the plate in the 1999 state championships. Of course he could throw it harder, but he’s afraid he’ll hurt her if he does. He could play all day, but she looks tired, so they’ll stop.
He’s not Sarah’s type.
Two young men saunter up the hill, purposely shirtless, flipping a football between them. They’re athletes, that’s easy to see; cocky, too. They look like models that have walked off a Guess billboard, and as such, are very out of place in this park, on this day. They are tanned to perfection, artfully and artificially crafted. They each possess the body I could never have, as I lack the youth, genetic predisposition and the bull-headed tolerance to pain that would be necessary to achieve it. But…what Sarah wants, Sarah gets.
I know she’d leave me for someone like this in a cold heartbeat. Luckily for me, her heart beats slower than most, if it beats at all. As long as I can keep her happy, she will keep me by her side. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The muscle men throw the ball back and forth with effortless confidence. One sends a toss seemingly out of reach, but the other dives and makes a perfect catch, coincidentally landing near the big-breasted sisters huddled on the blanket.
The girls’ eyes follow the men’s every move. The girlfriend of the past-his-prime athlete steals secret glances at them, eyeing greener pastures. The Chinese woman watches them shyly, knowing her children would have had more than a proficiency in math and computer games to look forward to if one of these men had been their father. Even the hippie drum circle seems to play to the rhythm of the men’s movements, threatening to break the restraints of civility and drive the women into an animalistic frenzy.
While the women watch the kings of the mountain, and the men flirt back with the women, none of them notice me. This is how it’s always been. I’m not one, nor the other; not either. It’s what Sarah sees in me. It’s why I can do what I do.
It’s dusk and the men are finally leaving, alone, much to the women’s collective disappointment. The sisters will go home to their boyfriends or solitary fantasies. The rail-thin girl will go back to her boyfriend’s dorm and suffer under his sweaty bulk for a blissfully short period of time. The wife will return to the suburbs and perhaps put the kids to bed early. Each of them will be picturing the handsome, well-built strangers from the park, seeing them in their lovers’ faces.
Neither of these men will make it home. It’s Sarah’s birthday after all, and I promised her a present. Both delivered at the same time, perhaps? Or should I keep one as a spare? Whichever one I chose, Sarah will be pleased; such pretty playthings. I only wish she didn’t finish with them so quickly.