The skyline stretched out before me. I was running fast, lured by the horizon; a tall building disappeared in smoke. Or was it pearl clouds? Perhaps a fine mist, dissipating in the sky and inviting me to take flight and swim among the eagles and the doves? I did not know. But I slackened my pace and sat down on a bench. Two girls were splashing around in the pool, their pink bathing suits bobbing up and down in the water, as they dove into the depths to emerge out of breath and spitting bubbles.

The lifeguard just a few meters away from them seemed bored. He was almost stifling a yawn. What if I climbed up there and placed my hands in front of his eyes? Would that freak him out? Of course, it would but he probably wouldn't even hear me climbing the ladder leading up to his perch. An ice cream truck with its tinkling song approached. A short black lady, bug eyes bulging out in wonder, stared at its enticing illustrations of square blocks of ice cream, thick and chocolate-crusted. As she reached into her wallet for a dollar bill or two, her grinning son flashing his impeccably white teeth pulled at her hand and motioned with his head towards the pool across the street.

I was waiting for her, she was due to arrive shortly. There was a small café just across the corner that had exactly three checkered-cloth tables and only drinks on the menu, everything ranging from milk to whisky. That's where we always met to discuss her adventures, romantic and otherwise. She arrived wearing sunglasses, the visor of her cap leaning downwards to cover her forehead, a mass of melting wax to be kneaded like dough. Her legs were lightly tanned and peaked out like tree trunks from underneath a pair of faded green shorts. I always wondered why she dressed so carelessly when she came to see me. I knew that in preparing for her dates, she would carefully pick her outfits and do her makeup. Her date face gleamed in garish colors that made me squirm -- eyes outlined in a dark green that warned : "approach at your own risk." Her matching blouses and skirts weren't more welcoming; either gray or light brown, they expressed a sort of pervasive boredom that contrasted with her cheerfulness.

Why was she so different now, when she met me? She didn't even say anything. As soon as she saw me, she grabbed my hand and led me, almost dragged me to the café, as was her playful way of insisting that we hurry up. Her date, from the other night, she told me as we sat down and sipped her ice tea, bought her so many drinks that she was sure he wanted to get her drunk as quickly as possible. But he got just as drunk himself, and was incoherent while accompanying her home. And then, as they reached her doorstep, he gave her an awkward bear hug and struggled for words to say something of significance.

I listened patiently to her account. The corners of her nose crinkled, her cheeks itching, she rubbed her neck, and thought about how to ... perceive him. Because the way he came across to her at that moment was as something unreal, as a guy who was lost in a moment of tenderness and sweet care that were meant for her, and that would have almost made her cry. Except, it felt like... too much too soon. And she wanted to delay this moment, to a day or two later, when he would be sober and she would be ready for it.

"But at least," she confessed, "it is fun telling you this. You understand me, don't you?" And I think I did. I had this idea of getting her out of this cafe, taking her for a nice leisurely stroll by the pool and dumping her into the water so that the two girls could drag her under and make her hold her breath. By the time she'd come back up with wet tangled hair, glowing in the sun and shaking in a frenzy of self-assertion, I would breathe a sigh of relief. Because by that point, last night's date would have seemed different to her.

I had this weird feeling that she might have been onto me, might have reached into the depths of my mind with her slender, flexible fingers and pulled out my vision. But maybe my thoughts were safe with me. I dipped my hand into my tall glass of warm water, and taking it out, brought it ominously close to her face. "Are you trying to get my face dirty or something,"she laughed and slapped me. "No," I said, "I am just trying to give you a good wash." "Save it for our next meeting," she chuckled, tousling my hair.

Leaving back a few dollar bills to pay for her drink, we walked down a sloping hill as the sky was turning a beguiling shade of magenta, the type that swept you up into its realm and lifted you out of the city streets, making sidewalks and apartment blocks titter and totter like objects expanding, shrinking, and bouncing around in a funhouse mirror. Ah, that fellow from her encounter - he was reaching out from the past to infect us with his intoxication; we held on to each other. Barely feeling the ground beneath our feet, we paddled through the thick air of a humid summer night and glided slowly towards that mellow purple horizon, sweet and sticky like a candy melting in the mouth of an eagerly-chewing child.



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