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by Susan Tepper

"Not afraid of catching Lyme, huh?" said the man.

And he cast his eyes down at my bare feet, and I saw a smirk form on his lips. I'd shoved into the moccasins, glad to have my feet covered, then smirked a little myself - like I'd taken something valuable away from him. A moment later musing: Probably years ago he was considered attractive, sought after. For a second or two I actually felt flattered - that's how inside-out Ronald had turned me.

That day in the park, my vision cloudy, my mind swimming like soft fruit, I actually wondered: Could this man be the one? The one in shining armor come to rescue me?

As if he could read my mind, the guy broke out in a wild grin. Hesitating, I gave in, grinning back. Joaquin Phoenix. He looks like Joaquin Phoenix, I'd thought. A moment later seeing no resemblance at all.

Then without so much as taking a step, the man seemed to get closer. Like I told the police: he did this swaying thing with his hips, this pushing out of one hip, then the other, back and forth, rotating, almost hypnotic.

And his awful, black nylon running shorts. This gold link bracelet he wore. Disco-man! I'd wanted to call him. I felt like saying: Let go of the seventies! When something inside me snapped. Go away, I thought, go away. I need my peace. Go away.

"You belong?" he asked again pointing toward the pool.

Belong! I couldn't believe I was hearing it! We've just been through all that, I was tempted to say.

I watched the couple from the blanket get on their feet and start to play with their dog.

"Look, if you don't mind," I said.

"What if I do?"

The corners of his mouth had turned down in a real ugly way - so ugly it made me want to hide my eyes. He turned his back on me, then, started to shuffle off, a few steps in the direction of the far road, toward the pool and tennis courts, when he stopped. Looking back over his shoulder.

"Bitch," he'd called out.



Copyright 2007 by Susan Tepper

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