It was a Saturday morning in mid-March, and I was on a bench in Golden Gate Park absorbing the sun and people watching. I’d always found it relaxing to observe life and movement around me. Sometimes I even wrote about what I’d seen.
Cigarette fumes slowly floated in front of my eyes, the sunlight breaking the smoke into parts like a magical laser. It was a beautiful sight—smelly, but beautiful.
The water in the lake was shining, like a mirror reflecting the image of the world: a world dominated by white ducks and swans, fighting over the territory. Just like humans, the birds marked off their land. We are all the same, all equally primitive.
A woman sat next to me on the bench watching the ducks and their war with the swans. Her nail polish was as red as blood, and her hair was as dark as the bottom of the lake. Her eyes were covered by opaque sunglasses. Her hand, with its red fingernails, slowly moved toward her lips so she could enjoy her cigarette, drag by drag. The smoke floated straight into my face, but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed watching her in action.
To my left, I heard a constantly nagging voice. It was a woman in her thirties whining over the phone that her boyfriend had left her. Obviously, it was not meant to be. And if it were, he would come back sooner or later.
The birds flew around like maniacs, chasing each other in circles and crapping all over the park.
I saw a homeless man passed out on the grass about fifteen feet from me. He didn’t notice when a bird took a shit on his face. Again, the birds marked their territory and attacked invaders in their park. Poor drunk, at least he was passed out.
The smoking woman and I gazed at each other. We connected; we agreed—we didn’t say a word, but we agreed. She took out another cigarette without asking me if I wanted one. On top of that, she blew smoke at me, but I still liked her.
An old couple passed by. I could see their wrinkled faces from a distance. The man was wearing a nice blazer, a proper one. It looked like he’d had some great times in it; it was an experienced jacket with stories of life. A lot of women must have fallen for him in that proper blazer back in the day. His old lady was probably one of them. She was wearing a black hat and that kind of dress only very old women wear, the kind of dress you can sometimes find in vintage stores around Haight-Ashbury if you’re really lucky.
We were becoming a crowd. At first, it had just been the cigarette woman and me. Then the whining woman had arrived. Later, there was the drunk man, and finally the proper blazer man with one of his success stories walking by his side.
The sun continued to cut through the cigarette smoke and shine on us. The woman’s red nails were still as appealing as before, and I was thinking of ripping her sunglasses off to see what she looked like behind them. That would be rude, but fuck that. She was rude, blowing smoke on me, not even offering me a cigarette. I don’t smoke, but she didn’t know that. Maybe she could sense it. Maybe she noticed that my eyes were watering. Maybe she was just fucking with me and enjoying it. One thing was sure, though: we connected.
Suddenly the smoke was not as clear and beautiful anymore; the sun could not cut through it. I saw that the sky had become less blue, more like dirty water. Gray clouds were starting to gang up together, getting ready for a fight. A big and dirty cotton candy field was taking shape. I looked at the woman. She continued to smoke. The ducks were leaving, and so were the swans. The worms were crawling back into their holes in the ground. I noticed a dog was trotting around the drunk lying in the grass, licking the bird crap off his face. The man woke up, totally lost. He managed to get up, brush the crap off himself, and lurch away toward the park exit. The blazer man took his old lady under his arm and strolled off.
Finally, I thought. Finally, it was only her and me. I could focus on her and her beauty. The smoke, the lips. I noticed that the smoke was gone. I turned to look at her and ask if she was done blowing it in my face. She was gone. Not there. She’d disappeared. Fuck. I needed to see the sunlight her up and make her visible. Powerful thing that sun. We see everything differently in its presence. It brings life to the world.