The two sit on a bench holding hands beneath an old cherry tree in the spring; legs dangling while florets of pink flowers disintegrate on their way to the earth. He lets go of her hand for a moment to collect a small mountain’s worth in his before turning to face her, holding them in his cupped hands like an offering. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye he takes a deep breath and exhales to release a flurry of petals towards her freckled face. She giggles and swats at him playfully. Their hands reconnect and as they shimmy closer to one another her left ear finds sweetness on his right shoulder. They sigh together.
In the distance they hear a familiar voice call to gather a group of school children. She lifts her head to look at him expectantly. He squeezes her hand and smiles before turning to face her.
Why don’t you ever see elephants hiding in the trees? His smile is so broad she can see the gap in his teeth.
I don’t know. She wrinkles her nose. Why?
Because they are really good at it. He watches her furrow her brow and look sideways before her eyes widen and she starts shaking her head.
Because they are really good at it she echos, laughing.
They lift themselves from the bench in unison and follow their classmates to a large enclosure. They are both tall enough to rest their elbows on the wooden railing keeping visitors out of the exhibit. A deep, concrete moat separates them from a family happily playing by a narrow man made waterway. They watch as a mother’s leathery skin gently caresses her suckling baby. Nearby, siblings standing knee deep in the fake river take turns splashing water on each other.
She can’t take her eyes of them. There’s no shade; they look hot.
He chuckles. We wouldn’t be able to see them if there were shade, would we?
He brushes the hair from her face and reaches for her hand. She takes it and gives it a squeeze, but holds her ground as he gently tries to pull her away. They lock eyes. Her eyes narrow and her lips press hard against each other. His tongue traces the metal hardware that hugs his teeth. Crowds of people hurry past.
I want to show you something. She takes a step back, then another. Their arms are almost parallel to the ground before he decides to follow.
Where are we going?
They make their way against the flow, hand in hand. Left at one intersection, left again, then right at another. Past families with children sucking on popsicles, and tourists with brimmed hats and money belts. Past wooden fences and concrete motes, and mobs of smiling people, pointing and taking photographs.
Is that what you’re looking for? He stops and points.
Depends. Her eyes light up. Is it a unicorn?
No. He spins her around and presses his chest against her back while holding his hands over her eyes. Look. Her arms reach up instinctively and she grabs hold of his wrists, feeling for his watch with her peace fingers.
He kisses her hair and drops his hands. Tell me what you see.
She leans back into him and sighs. I see creature with a magical horn. People have killed so many of them for their magical horn that this one is nearly the last of it kind. And here it is, resting quietly beneath a shady tree while thousands of people stare at it every single day. But one day there won’t be anymore and they will exist only in fairy tales told to children.
She turns to face him on her tiptoes, leaning in to lightly brush her lips on his. Her wrists rest on his shoulder and she frames his face with her hands. Tell me what you see.
He breathes deeply. I see a beast too fat and too ugly to be a unicorn.
Really? Her head tilts slightly left as he traces the lines around her eyes. How do you know what a unicorn looks like?
He shakes his head and laughs quietly while their palms connect and their fingers intertwine. Their arms sway together as they stroll away.
The two sit on a bench holding hands beneath an old cherry tree in the spring; legs dangling while florets of long pink flowers disintegrate on their way to the earth. He lets go of her hand for a moment to collect a small mountain’s worth in his before turning to face her, holding them in his cupped hands like an offering. With a smile and a twinkle in his eye, he takes a deep breath and exhales to release a flurry of petals towards her freckled face.
Stop it! She swats at him playfully. Their hands reconnect and as they shimmy closer to one another, she sighs.
In the distance they hear a familiar voice call to gather a group of school children.
We should go, we don’t want to be in trouble. He hops of the bench and turns to wait for her, smiling so broadly she can see the gap in his teeth.
She climbs down after him and they follow their classmates to a large enclosure. They have to stand on tiptoes to rest their elbows on the wooden railing keeping visitors out of the exhibit. A deep, concrete moat separates them from a small herd of elephants playing by the water. She moves left to get a better look at the mother cradling her baby with her trunk, while he watches the youngsters spray water on each other.
At the next exhibit he finds himself in awe at the long necks of the giraffes. They have such big brown eyes… He decides that if they could talk they would probably all have very good manners. They would always say please and thank-you and maybe they’d even be old fashioned and say things like yessir and no ma’am.
She is on the other side of the zoo staring at very funny looking animal. It’s the only animal she has seen that doesn’t have any others like it to play with and she wonders why that is. She doesn’t understand all the words on the sign and she isn’t sure how to say what it’s called but she thinks this creature looks lonely. She wonders if it’s a dinosaur. It has skin like the elephants and it looks really mean. She can’t imagine even a lion having any luck trying to eat it.
She makes her way back to the elephant enclosure. He is on his tiptoes, dangling one arm in front of his face and wondering what it might be like to have a third arm where his nose was. Would he still be able to smell things?
She brightens when she sees him and skips her way over. Want some of my popsicle? It’s cherry I think.
Sure! He reaches for it and uses just his thumb and forefinger to take it from her as they both take a seat on the bench beneath the old cherry tree. Their feet scuff the pavement while florets of pink blossoms disintegrate on their way to the earth.
If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy the true story of what happened when I agreed to meet a dear friend I’ve known for 12 years to explore Alaska. Click Here!