Devon made all the arrangements for Friday's date. I wasn't willing to call it a date just yet, more along the lines of two people who didn't know anything about one another going for a walk in the park. Devon didn't seem to think that my definition was sufficient, and insisted again that it was a date. Plus, he stated that if I didn't call it a date he still had another five to set me up for. Much to my chagrin, I've been verbalizing that it's a date, but I still don't believe it is.
I begged Devon to chaperone for me, and he consented after I bribed him with free breakfast for the next week. Guess gay or straight, best way to a guy's heart is definitely through his stomach.
It was a cool Friday evening. The sky was crystal blue overhead without the invasion of a single cloud. No breeze was blowing, but the humidity was low enough to make the evening comfortable. If I didn't know better, I'd have sworn Devon had convinced the weather to be perfect just for today so his plan would be successful.
I didn't know much about Andrew Sato. In fact, all I knew was his name and that he attended the school. Devon said they had Spanish class together. Apparently Andrew was a good student, always turned in his homework on time and always ready to participate in any class activity. As far as any other information, Devon insisted the walk in the park would give us the perfect opportunity to get to know each other.
I was at the designated meeting place while Devon sat a few yards away at a picnic table listening to music and sketching away in his sketchpad. I had worn sneakers, considering we were going to be walking; but the white sand under the swing set was beckoning me to take my shoes off and just feel the grains between my toes.
I decided to swing a little. Not just a rocking back and forth, but a full on swing trying to get as high as I possibly could. The feeling of air rushing over me and through my hair always made me feel as if I were flying. Flying high overhead, ignoring whatever lay on the ground, because it no longer pertained to me: the feeling of absolute freedom. I wish I were a bird.
I slowed the swing down after a while, and closed my eyes, just feeling weightless as I swung back and forth. I sighed before opening my eyes, somehow feeling three feet taller than before. I looked around, but no one seemed to notice my near flying experience. Slouching in the swing, I once again began my observation of the white crystals of sand.
I heard slight grunting to my right and glanced over catching sight of a little girl trying to get onto the swing next to me. Her light brown curls bobbed each time she tried to jump and seat herself onto the plastic seat. I only watched for a moment before walking over and offering my assistance.
"Need some help?" I asked softly as I peered down at the girl. She probably wasn't older than six, and looked at me hesitantly through dark lashes.
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers," she stated matter-of-factly as she crossed her arms and tried to stare me down.
"Oh, that does make things difficult then. Well, I won't talk to you, I'll just help you up onto the swing. That sound okay?" She thought about it for a moment before shaking her head and insisting she could do it by herself. "Okay," I smiled before walking back to my swing and relaxing as it swung back and forth slowly.
"Mommy, push me!" called the girl next to me. I looked over to see a woman in her early forties gently help the girl into the swing before pushing her back and forth gently. The girl squealed in delight, obviously sharing my enjoyment of the freedom swinging brought.
How I wished I was that young again! Back when the sky was blue, grass was green, and life was happy. Maybe the sky was always gray, grass was always brown, and life was always sad; I just wasn't old enough to figure it out.
"Daddy look at me!" came the girl's voice again. I turned, already feeling a lump in my throat. A man with fair hair and skin walked over to the woman and child, scooping the girl up in a big hug before leaning over and pecking the woman on the cheek.
I found endless memories playing in my head. My knuckles turned white as I gripped the chain on the swing tighter and tighter with each new thought. My breathing was beginning to get more shallow, and anyone who cared enough to look would probably think I was having a panic attack: partly true.
I blinked a few times before focusing on a person in front of me. A boy around my age with short dark hair stood in front of me, looking at me with an air of concern and caution. The memories fled back to their confinement, and I tried my best to refocus on the present. What was I doing again?
"Eryn, this is Andrew," I heard Devon say as I watched his form approach me and the unknown male now identified as Andrew.
Andrew. The date. The park. The walk. Oh yeah!
I straightened up and slowly walked over to Andrew and Devon. I extended a hand to Andrew, ready to introduce myself, only to be met with a hesitant glance.
"I don't bite," I jested as I let my hand hang there for him to eventually shake.
"No, but I've seen the damage you did to Samuel. I'm not so sure I want to be the next punching bag."
I sighed and relaxed my hand by my side. "I'm not going to hit you, Andrew."
"Do you confirm or deny the fact that you, Eryn Shale, did in fact hit Samuel?"
"I plead the fifth," I tried not to roll my eyes.
Andrew smiled, and I wasn't sure if that was because I said something stupid, or he found my remark humorous. After showing me his perfectly straight teeth, he extended his hand ready to shake hands. "No further questions."
I couldn't help but smile back as I extended my hand to receive a firm, businesslike handshake. Not the most traditional of introductions, but definitely one to remember.
"Not that difficult to spot, is it?" he joked.
"Well, you're only the first person I haven't had to explain what pleading the fifth is."
"Sad that most people don't know their rights."
"Well, that's just tragic, isn't it?" Devon began, although he sounded more impatient than interested. "Why don't you guys go walk and talk." He nudged both of us softly, obviously trying to get his setup in motion.
Andrew took the hint, and directed the both of us onto the path that circled around the park and along the lake. I threw a glare over my shoulder at Devon, making sure he understood I didn't approve of his meddling or pushiness. He just continued to smile, knowing I wouldn't go back on my word.
"So, what made you interested in law?" I decided to pick up the conversation with a topic we had been discussing earlier.
"My parents suggested it when I was little. I was always one to question and to argue, and to dig a little deeper, not accepting the story I was given. They said it was all good qualities of a lawyer, and decided it was as good a field as any to get involved in."
"But, it's still your decision?"
"Yeah. They're not pressuring me into it or anything, and I'm pretty content with the idea."
I just nodded.
"What about you? Your parents pressuring you into a specific field?"
"Um, they don't really care." I stated.
"Is that a good or a bad thing?"
"I'm not really sure," I lightly chuckled. "I guess it's a bit of both."
"So what do you want to study then?"
"I haven't fully figured that out. I guess I can sort of envy you and your readiness to face the rest of the world and your life ahead. I'm still trying to decide."
"There's nothing wrong with that you know? You have to live life in order to figure things out. No one's just given all the answers right up front. You learn by living."
"I try," he shrugged, and we both smiled. "So what about this school year? Any really big things you want to get involved in now that it's your last year of high school?"
"I'm going to stick with basketball. I'm not really involved in any of the on campus clubs, I just stick to my sport. I will go support the other sports, and catch a musical, but I won't get involved in it. You?"
"I'm not the athletic type."
I had to gawk at him. He was definitely an average looking guy, but he looked like he worked out, or at least lifted weights. The biceps and pectorals gave that much away.
"You're not the athletic type, even though you look athletic?"
"Well, I mean, I don't do the sports scene. I like to play them in my spare time, but I don't want to play in high school. The pressure to perform and impress coaches and scouts and not let your team down – not really my style."
"They do have solo sports to you know?" I laughed.
"Oh, I know. But still, it counts towards a team as a whole."
"But don't lawyers do that too? Sure, you may work on a case by yourself, but your client depends on you, along with your firm."
"My mental game is a lot stronger than my physical one I guess. I just trust my mind more than my body."
"Understood. So are you more of a chess club guy?" I joked.
"Oh definitely!" He just rolled his eyes at me, but I could see there was a smile playing at his lips. "I don't know what I'll do this year, I might not do anything."
"But wouldn't it look better on a transcript to at least be involved in something?"
"Probably. I just don't know yet Eryn. Now I can be envious of you; you have this year figured out, and I can't even decide what to do from day to day."
"It's nothing major, I mean, it's just basketball. It gives me something to do after school, and something that will keep me in shape. I don't think it's earth shattering."
"But, you still have a bit of a plan. I'm mixed up in the now. I can only look ahead to what I want, I just don't know what to do until I get there."
"Didn't you just say you learn by living? Sounds like you might need some of your own fortune cookie advice."
Andrew stopped walking and looked out towards the lake, letting out a deep sigh. I knew that sigh: that was the sigh of sadness. I'd let it out many nights when my parents were arguing, and I was too exhausted to cry. Suddenly, Andrew Sato didn't seem like a stranger I had been set up with; he became transparent.
"Who was she?" I asked.
He laughed, but sadness and bitterness seemed to come through. "That obvious?" he asked as he walked towards the railing and leaned on it.
"Sixth sense for this stuff." I said as I followed.
"Emily. God, she was perfect. She saw beauty in everything, and seemed to bring life to everything she did. She talked about the future like it wasn't a dream, it was exactly what she was doing. We seemed to be a perfect match. Our dreams seemed to go together, and we seemed to be heading down the same road. But I guess not. I had spent months including her in all my dreams and hopes for the future, until she became the only thing I wanted in my future."
Andrew wasn't crying as he spoke, but I could tell there was another sigh trying to escape. His head was down, and his posture emanated sadness. I did want to reach out and hug him, but didn't think it appropriate, so instead I looked out over the lake.
"What happened?" I probed.
"She – uh – she told me during the middle of summer that her dreams had changed. Suddenly our lives were headed in opposite directions, and it would probably be better if we decided to as well. I guess I never expected losing her to hurt so much. It's hard to try rebuild my dreams when the one thing I really wanted in them isn't an option anymore, you know?"
I smiled at the irony of it all. "Yeah, I do know actually. I sighed as we both stared out at the lake. "But," I paused and carefully considered what to say. "I also know that the world is still spinning. I'm not going to use that analogy of 'there are other fish in the sea' because she sounded like something special."
"She definitely was." He smiled as he placed his hand on mine. "Look, Eryn, I'm sorry. I don't mean to suddenly empty this on you – it wasn't my plan."
"Eh, no biggy. Lots of people tell me that I'm easy to talk to. Sorry I can't really help with it."
"No, having someone to talk to does help, believe me. You're not Emily, but I can tell you're also something special. And, I don't want to bring any emotional baggage on you. I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate it. I think we should just let this one end here. Tell Devon I'll see him in Spanish."
"I can do that," I nodded. He smiled before walking away.
"And Andrew," I called after him. He turned to look at me. "If you need a friend, I am always here."
"Thanks Eryn," he pivoted on his heel, put his hands in his pockets, and continued walking. After watching him for a while, I stared back out to the lake. The sun was beginning to set, and pink was being reflected on the water. The scenery was so calm and pure; it was beautiful.
I made my way back to Devon, breathing in the evening air and trying to smile. The calm of the evening, unfortunately, wasn't doing much for the inside of my brain. Not all of my memories had made their way back into confinement, and try as I would, I couldn't make them go back.
"Like this Daddy?" I said as I tried casting my rod in again to go fishing.
My dad looked down at me and chuckled, before bending down to untangle my line. "You have to remember to let go of the line when you throw it forward, or else you're not going to get the bait into the water. Here, like this."
My dad picked up the rod and cast the line out to what I believed was perfection. He then proceeded to reel it in a bit, before handing the rod back to me and letting me fish while he sat on the picnic blanket with my mother.
"If only life were that simple again," I mumbled, shaking my head and continuing on my walk back to Devon.
It wasn't long before I found Devon in the same position I'd left him: sketching away. I sat down, and he looked up from his drawing long enough to smile at me, before getting back to work.
"Where's Andrew?" He asked while gently shading something on the paper.
"He left. Said he thought we'd be better ending the 'date' where we did and being friends."
"If you're lying, I can always check with him in Spanish class."
"Be my guest. He also said to tell you he'd see you there."
"Well," he paused to blow on the sheet and make sure no extra lead would damage his drawing, "I guess that's the end of that."
"I guess," I shrugged, as I got up from the table and made my way over to Devon's car.
"You do realize you're going to have to tell me all about it," he said after he'd jogged up to me.
"I never doubted that for a second."