It was the smell of baby powder. The smell of baby powder on him and...around him. And it was unnatural, granted, seeing as he was almost in his forties, but it just drew me to him. Because obviously men who smell like they may be taking care of young children and so may be happily married to some young, pretty, fertile thing, are just the kind of men I go for.
Well, no, no. I go for the men who hug their partner tenderly in public and fall asleep with them on a couch in a waiting room or on the seats of a train. It even surprises me how I don't simply latch on to every single man locked in a passionate kiss with someone else. But this isn't a diary, so I should stick to the account at hand and leave out the more...unseemly details.
So I sat by him and didn't say hello. After all it was a park bench, so I wasn't obliged to. I swung my backpack into my lap and rummaged briefly before pulling out my tome; 'War and Peace'. I was halfway through it then—I assure you I didn't just carry it around for the sake of it. It didn't start up any conversations anyway. The backpack slid forward slightly so I dropped it down at my feet and slouched over the book. Occasionally,(usually after reading a few sentences that could go on for whole pages) I would peek up at the rose sky, swollen with small pale clouds, to rest my eyes.
I touched his hand for a second when I straightened my back. Just brushed the back of mine over the back of his. And I smiled and said I was sorry and giggled because that's polite and that's how you should do it and then I just slouched back over my book and kept my mouth shut. It was then that he said it was alright (in much louder tone than I had said I was sorry) and asked what I was reading.
And it was at that point that you could tell that he was just trying to create polite conversation because I had moved the book around and he had had plenty of chances to look at the cover and anyway the title was written clearly at the top of every second page. And the first thought my mind had was, 'you're trying to rub two sticks together and this isn't working'. 'Maybe not just not working out now, maybe never will work out and maybe I should just get up and leave.' Then I mentally smacked myself over the head and kept my mouth shut.
Well, not entirely. I did tell him my name which you already know, and I said I was reading a massive book, interrupted myself with an awkward laugh then continued by giving him the title of said book. He looked impressed. He said I must be clever to read such a book because he could never imagine reading such a book. And I was getting tired of the mention of the word book and it looked increasingly strange in my head the more he mentioned it. Like a rotting mushroom that should stink but doesn't and you're trying to tell people that you can't eat it, that you don't want to, but they make you do it anyway. So I replied to his feeble compliment by saying that I couldn't imagine either. In fact, I couldn't imagine at all because school had successfully kicked that horrid habit out of me and now I was just reading because it was all the rage.
He smiled and said: "What is? This book or reading?"
I smiled and said I couldn't remember. I wanted to cry.
So I asked him about baby powder. And here's where it gets a bit fuzzy because I can't remember if I asked him whether he owned it or used it or was aware that he smelled like it. But I'm pretty sure it was one of the indirect ones because he laughed and it was quite a gentle laugh and he apologised for the strong smell. He actually said, "I apologise", I mean, who says that?
I said it was alright and stuffed the book into my backpack. It was then that I may have bent the cover. Sorry. But I was planning to ask him if he wanted to buy me a drink or something. Or if it was the non alcoholic kind I could just buy it myself. Or even if it was alcoholic, I could have given him the money and he could have just paid for it with it or something. My thoughts were all muddled and wanted to all come out at once so I kept my mouth shut.
Well, I did say I liked the smell of baby powder, and he said he could live with it because the baby was just so adorable. I went for the usual questions. Ah, gender? Ah, age? Ah, he and his partner must be very happy?
He gave me the most horrified look and said the child wasn't his; he was just a babysitter. Ah, unconventional?
No not even that, he had been babysitting for his younger sister who had been on holiday with her husband over the weekend. He was very ordinary and comfortable. He spoke clearly and openly, he blinked at regular intervals. I liked him. So I asked him if he was seeing anyone. He smirked at first, but he did say no. A lot of things, there were so many things I wanted to say but I kept my mouth shut.
Well, until the policeman came over and asked if I was okay, although even then I still kept my mouth shut and ignored him because I was having a really great moment and who did that uniformed baboon think he was, ruining my moment? And he asked again, but I was still talking to the nice man, and so the policeman offered to escort me out of the park. Because obviously the park is a place you can be escorted outside of. Anyway, he grabbed my arm and said it was something about people in the vicinity being uncomfortable.
I saw that the nice man smelling of baby powder wasn't getting up so I brushed myself off, told the policeman I was fine, that I was really fine, and then walked off. Well I thought I walked off, but apparently I hadn't, because a few moments later I was in the police car. Although, eventually, I did get home.
And now? Now I'm sitting at this desk in this nice little office writing on this nice scented paper with this nice baby blue marker. Because if it was red it would be too aggressive of a colour and if it was any other writing instrument they're afraid I may burst into tears or otherwise just to try to harm myself or others.
But I was told to write a letter anyway, because it's almost Christmas and so it's nice.
If you're sending me a present, could you just send me our copy of 'War and Peace'? I never finished it and I would like to. You know they never assigned it at school. But I did do all of the assigned reading but that didn't matter because I still failed Maths.
They said the man, the baby-powder man, was an idealized form of what I thought I needed in my life. I laughed. I don't think I've laughed like that ever or will ever. Because do you know what he was planning to do? (And I know this because apparently I made him up). He was just about to point out that pretty little young thing sitting on the other bench next to us. Just to say she was stunning and maybe ask my opinion on her or something.
Hold on. Maybe that's what you were talking about when you said I had dried up blood under my fingernails. Oh well. It's not Maths that's not my forte, it's my memory. Or maybe it used to be and now it isn't? See, I can't remember. So I keep my mouth shut.
Anyway. Love you both, and Merry Christmas.