A Walk in the Park
For Old Time's Sake
by Levi Masuli
Manila, The Philippines
I approach this lagoon, taking care not to let any of its dampness cling to my shoes. Here, where tall grass used to conceal grist and shells of dead snails. Us too, long ago, when we used to conceal nothing. A caretaker now keeps the foliage at a handspan’s length. Also: kids practicing a dance a few meters from where I stand. A pebble in my hand.
My visual recall is a mess, I recall only the sound of your pulse on my ear. The thirsty sparrow briefly gulping its reflection. The water frogs that croak louder as the sun falls. The rustling noise we make as we brush off amor seco pods from our clothes.
“Go ahead.” Or perhaps, “Wait”, time re-arranging words from my memory, as whimsically as it turned that pool into walkway, that shower into flood. I tottered further carefully along the edge, picking up new words from all directions. New things, too: that bench was not there before, and that boy flying a kite. Neither that skyscraper on the horizon, that cloud in the shape of a cow.
Or was it a sheep? Or a slab of butter? We let that cloud go, as I let go of its memory now, as I skip over a log. There it is, the guava tree under which we exchanged more words, only a few of which I remember with certainty.
I’ve heard and said those words many times since then, and now I fear that they either betray me or I betray them. I back up, head to the other direction, feeling no sense of loss. More swish, snap, click, thuds. “Over here!” Your hand releasing my hand, now my hand releasing the pebble, the water swallowing the pebble, the water now a ripple skimming the edge of my shoe, leaving a wet trace. I feel no sense of loss. But I remember propping a promise there, near the water lilies, a handspan above the water. I leave.