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The Day We Destroyed the City

On some sweet Saturday in April that convinced us it was June, David called me and said he had to get out of the house. By he, he meant we. The rose garden at Loose Park was a known cure for cabin fever, we agreed. Although the roses weren’t blooming yet, we could imagine what they would look like, and the stone work was lovely year-round.

We were both far too pale to deal with laying out or walking around without shirts, though. I felt no shame wearing shorts and, after some adamant convincing, got him to agree to put some on. To my great surprise, he was actually wearing them when he picked me up. The first thing I did was make fun of his pasty white legs. He then complimented me on my knobby knees. Throwing inhibitions to the wind, but grasping tight to our egos, we took off for a day of citified nature.

Loose Park spread out for we-didn’t-know-how-many square city blocks right in the middle of Kansas City. It was my ideal fantasy of what the country was like (only because I had conveniently forgotten the weekends my family spent visiting friends who lived on a farm). I preferred a little nature with my city, not the other way around.

All of the parking spots by the rose garden were full, so we drove around until we found a spot along the street at the other end of the park. We took the walkway that hugged the circumference of the park all the way around, through trees, across a little bridge that stretched across a pond, then by the playground. David wanted to stop  to play on the swings. I think he needed to stop. Within a year, he wouldn’t be able to walk very far without resting. He’d have to quit his job, go on disability, spend even more time alone. My job that day was to help him forget what was coming. If I hadn’t already known, everything about him that day might have left me blissfully ignorant.

Oh what a glorious day! There were some serious bods walking around that park. Unlike us, most of the guys on display that day had been fake-baking all winter. As vain as David could be at times, he was never into tanning booths. He said he just couldn’t make that kind of commitment to anything as fleeting as his tan. In addition to pale, we were scrawny. Our internalized body fascist minds found many insulting adjectives to chip away at those egos of ours, but we just considered it a worthwhile sacrifice, a rite of spring.

As we approached the rose garden, we saw a tall, dark, and beyond-handsome statue of a man, stripped above the waist and playing with some kids. We quivered at the thought of how lucky those little urchins were to have for a playmate like that. He was, quite plainly, the most exquisitely carved male human form we had ever seen: Adam if he were from ancient Athens and brought to life by Dr. Herb Ritts-Frankenstein. David uttered the phrase built like a brick shit house without hesitation or irony.

We slowed our pace to observe Adam’s technique with the children. For his big finish, he stretched out on his hands and toes and began doing push-ups. David came close to losing composure. Then the little boy hopped up on one side of his back and the girl jumped on the other and Adam didn’t lose a bit of steam. David and I tried to assess whether there was room for him and me, too. But then Adam started to stand upright, and we decided it was best if we took off down the path.

By the time we made our way into the rose garden, the sun hovered directly overhead as I teetered, dizzy for lunch and on the brink of a fierce mood. I breezed along the curved path beside a stone wall, eyeing the gray soil that would soon be hidden by blooming roses. Purplish pink, peachy-pink, reddish-pink: they’d all look the same to me.

David had wandered off in the other direction. I watched him studying two women who helped another woman in a white dress. I hadn’t realized they rented the garden for weddings so early in the season. We’d probably be in their way soon. David turned away, browsing the blank garden beds, then quickly turned back to the bride. He cocked his head, really into the scrutinizing the gown, I assumed, until I saw him smile. Ironic defenses down, he experienced pure delight for some reason that was unclear to me, and I got to witness it. At some point, I would make sure he didn’t live that one down.

But there was no harm in letting him enjoy himself. I imagined the roses blooming throughout the garden, all the various pinks bringing out the warmer tones in his skin. He caught me looking at him and rolled his eyes. He slid his sunglasses from atop his head down over his eyes. The blooms vanished from my mind’s eye. When I got over to him, he shrugged and told me the bride reminded him of his sister. But my sister’s prettier, he said.

After we left the park, we had lunch, shopped, and of course kept up our ogling. Before it was over, we even bought matching t-shirts. We said we destroyed the city that day but never admitted the toll it took on us. He teased me mercilessly the next week as the skin peeled along my hairline. I stepped behind him and pointed at the skin shedding from his bald spot. He gasped and demanded to know how I resort to such childishness.

As always, he gave me a hug before he left me. Every hug he ever gave me felt warm, like if he’d been the brother I never had. I spotted the tan line on my arm. We both had hideous farmers’ tans! I was sure he was accustomed to them, I chimed at him. He didn’t take the bait and prepared to stare me down. We should have known never to leave the house without protection, I prodded. His expression flattened and he looked at his watch, ready to move past our game. Oh well, he said. Too late.


Also posted on my Red Room blog for Topic of the Week: My Favorite Garden.

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