A zoo, two strangers approach, a young brunette woman, hair bouncing off her shoulder blades, a stray purple bra strap from beneath a white top, one slightly older gentleman with thinning blonde hair, smiling eyes, short sleeve shirt and bronze arms.
They are alone, it is too early for school trip children and too late for elderly brunch, it is a secret hour to visit, a place and time for those searching for peace and a knowing smile shared.
She slows as he approaches. They will both arrive at once and she halts slightly to let him lead, he awkwardly stops short and reaches his left hand to the bars, fingers slightly poke through the gap’s as he stares into the enclosure. The monkeys are less than impassive, they do not even glance and he has little to react to, his eyes shift slightly.
She steps to within a few feet, turns slightly and smiles – what a smile, and what accompanies the smile, full lips, a tiny scar below the bottom lip and cheeks flushed from the breeze, cheeks with a tease of a dimple.
“I see I’m not alone …” He can barely meet her eye as she says this, blue eyes, they trip and tumble as he mumbles reply, a hint of a stutter.
“They are, uh, no you’re, you’re not alone.” Another quick breath and he continues. “There are often a few of us. This is a well-kept secret, the quietest square mile for, well … for miles.”
“I thought I was rather clever.” As she speaks he brushes his chin, his eyes rise now and he meets her gaze for a split second, no longer. She continues, “I thought I would have this all to myself.”
“I can, uh, I can move … move over to …”
She giggles and bites her lip, “No, I mean I’m glad you are, that other people … are happy here, I’m just surprised, I suppose it’s a bit presumptuous to believe this would be a hideaway for myself only.”
And she is proud of the word presumptuous.
“I want love with all its imperfections,” from he.
“Sometimes I think you want simply the imperfections,” from she.
“What are you so content about?”
“You make me come so hard I feel I’m drowning,” he says.
“It feels like your soul grabbing a breath, like it’s a rare chance for it to take a gulp of everything, everything you are, all your worries and the worries of us all … everything, every layer is stripped away and the soul is laid bare and your soul takes this huge breath and at times it’s so hard and so long that … you feel you may pass out, to the extent you’re almost glad when it’s over … I don’t know if it’s safe to come face to face with your soul for too long.”
She smiles, rubs his chest and kisses his cheek, no reply the best reply of all.
Then quietly … “Love can be a fucker, an intimidating fucker”
“Well that’s ok, you don’t believe in love…”
“You’re right. I’ll be fine.” Beat. “You however are fucked.”
“And so it is.”
And the crowd turns as the bride strikes the aisle as he turns to whisper, “Why do we come to these things.”
“We came to this thing because you’re a good friend. I came to this thing because I’m a better girlfriend.”
“We’re not even good friends, if we were I’d warn him away from all this. My father says that every time he thinks of love he can never figure out why the law is involved. If there’s one place that should be free of bureaucracy it’s the heart.”
He turns – and so it is, as she passes he stares at the nape of her neck, her hair much shorter now and he remembers how love supposedly never dies it simply changes shape, and he realises this is bullshit.
And so it is, she turns as he leaves and she is staring now, and she turns once more and her eyes moisten slightly, a sting as she remembers how love supposedly never dies, it simply changes shape, and she bites her lip.
By Jonathan H.