Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lovers in the Grass

We have come just to talk, to hang out, unwilling to stuff ourselves into yet another enclosed room, seeking the air, the sun, the space. Wandering through the park, past the verdigrised fountain, along twisting cobblestone paths we find the perfect spot. It has three gray plastic benches arranged in an open rectangle, a little hobo cul-de-sac, a tree behind the middle one and flowers planted all around. I sit on the western bench facing the fountain and despite Matt's joke that there's a bench for each of us Mark and Matt both sit on the same bench, under the tree, to eat their dinner. Mark has already been talking and he continues, balancing his cup precariously on the rounded arm of the bench, holding his styrofoam container open in one hand while he gestures with the other. Matt eats ravenously while Mark talks. I have been engrossed in what Mark is saying - he thinks differently than anybody else I know and that makes him fascinating - but I am suddenly distracted by a huge shock of ginger curls seemingly sprouting from the bole of the tree behind Mark.

I am curious and surprised. I had not noticed anybody as we were walking over and sitting down and usually I am attuned to such details. And how could I have missed this?! It's practically a copper beacon in a see of bright green. I know I should just leave well enough alone, but I can't help myself. I slide surreptitiously over just enough to get a further glimpse, only to discover that he (I think it's the he - who knows these days) is not alone. He is long and lanky like a slender tree that flowers only at the top. She is shorter, chunky, plain by comparison with paper bag brown hair. They seem innocent at first, a couple of lovers in the grass, laying on their sides gazing longingly into each others eyes, a common enough sight on a day like this.

But then...oh then. She catches my eye (he has his back to me) then leans forward to whisper in his ear. He turns his head and torso to look at me but I have returned my eyes to Mark, pretending to listen as he talks about some dilemma at work. In my peripheral vision I see him turn back to her so I dare to look again, feeling like a voyeur at some illicit reality show. It is as if they were only waiting for an audience to start the show. He has rolled on top of her, one hand cradling her head, the other supporting his body. He lies between her legs while she lies limp and motionless on the grass. They are kissing passionately, hungrily, vampirically, only coming apart every couple of minutes to gasp for air. Or rather, he is the one kissing her like that. I cannot tell if her lack of action is due to inexperience or lack of interest. He is moving his hips slightly, gently but urgently. This continues for several minutes until it loses it's titillation and just becomes gross. And yet I can't seem to tear my eyes away, except a brief flash every now and then to convince Mark I am actually listening to him. Mark finishes his anecdote about work and launches into a new subject before anything changes.

Suddenly, explosively, he rolls off of her onto his knees and bends over coughing and gagging and spitting in the grass. He hacks, spits, coughs, repeats. This too continues for several minutes till I wonder that he has anything left to spit up. I wonder also that neither Mark nor Matt have noticed his respiratory pyrotechnics. She is also on her knees a few feet away from him, turned slightly in the opposite direction, looking over at him with an indecipherable expression. Eventually he stops expectorating and they come together again, on their knees, arms around each other, facing away from me as if they were ashamed - not that I had seen them in a compromising position but that I had seen his display of weakness.

Matt has finished his dinner and started shredding a peel of reddish brown bark, heaping the thread-like curls on his knee. Mark is still talking, his dinner uneaten as he waves flies and other insects away periodically. He is talking about missions now, but something reminds him of his earlier story about the library. He looks furtively around to make sure nobody from the library is around.

"You never know," he says with a self-deprecating grin. Seeing only an innocent couple, on their knees, facing away from us, he continues with what he was going to say, but just then the couple breaks apart and begins to get ready to go. He crawls over, careful to avoid the spot where he was just spitting up, and picks up several items from the grass which he slips into various pockets on his shorts. Then sits down to put on his sandals. I assume she is doing something similar, though she has disappeared behind the tree. Then he stands up, checks to make sure his zipper is up and puts out a hand to her. Seeing them standing together I see they couldn't be older that 16 or 17. With one last look in my direction they head toward the fountain hand in hand.

Mark has finished talking and Matt is asking questions now, but our conversation seems a little bland. I can't quite figure out how I feel about what I just witnessed. I feel slimed somehow, disturbed and disgusted, and yet still fascinated in a macabre sort of way. It makes me feel a little old and out of place. I know that sort of behavior is perfectly acceptable in public nowadays, but it still seems innapropriate to me. Yet I long to be privvy to the secret, private lives of those around me and it certainly allowed me to do that. Which would I prefer? Ultimately, I guess I wish I had never witnessed it. After all, it is only a brief interlude in a long life - and a disturbing one at that. But having focused on it for so long, I've now missed about half an hour of conversation with good friends - certainly something of much more value. Perhaps next time I will leave the lovers to themselves and keep my attention on my friends. Perhaps.

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