A middle aged woman walked through a great green park on a sunny afternoon. Two teenage boys walked by her side. One of the boys was her son. The other was her son’s best friend. The woman had a warm face, already etched with the wrinkles and spots that signaled a quickly approaching seniority. She wore dark glasses to protect her eyes from the harsh sunlight. Her hair was curly and brown and the unruly curls reached down to her neck. She wore a wrinkled loose button up shirt over a red T-shirt and she had a black bag around her shoulders which hung from her left side. She was thick around the middle and her light brown pants hung loose around her legs.
The boy that was her son was only a little thicker than her and he was also taller. He had messy black hair that partially covered his forehead. He had strong dark eyes and a slim pointed nose. He wore a red T-shirt with a logo on it and light gray cargo pants. He walked decisively, with a sense of pointed determination. Although they all walked together, he seemed to always be just a fraction of a step ahead.
The best friend was skinnier than his two companions, his entire body seemed to be made out of a softer substance. He had long blonde hair that was parted in the middle and tied together in the back. He wore a loose long sleeved brown shirt over a white T-shirt and black jeans. His left hand was always in his pants pocket, as if looking for a solid foundation in the darkness of his jeans.
They walked together by a small playground where many children were playing, screaming and laughing as they ran into each other and climbed up, and jumped over, the complex and colorful structures that stood over a small circle of rubber mulch. Several women, the mothers of the children, sat close by on green benches, looking at their children playing and turning to each other to find an ear or a temporary source of disposable entertainment. The middle aged woman looked towards them and remembered seating like that, in one of those very same benches, while her son ran through the little tunnels and slid down the metal ramps. She looked towards her son, trying to ascertain that this big strong boy was indeed the same little thing that had run up to her one day crying, suffering from a tiny cut on his knee. Her son at that moment was not looking towards the playground or towards her. His attention was on his best friend.
"The thing is… look, I understand that the levels are important, there’s no question about that…"
"Well, then what is the…?" the friend answered with a very subtle shrug of the shoulders.
"Wait, the thing is that the levels are important and all… but they are not the only thing that is important."
"I understand that but…"
"But wait… we agree that the levels are important but if you focus only on that then the game…"
"Well, I never said that I only focus on that. I don’t want to…"
"I’m not saying you did… it’s that…"
They walked together towards a dark tunnel. A bride and groom, in full wedding attire, were walking out of the darkness. The bride had an angry look on her face and there were small trails of mud on her wedding dress. A photographer followed behind them, carrying two large leather bags. The middle aged woman looked at them and remembered the days when she believed in marriage, when for a moment her lover was all that mattered and nothing could be more delicious or more desirable than to be in his presence, to be close to him and to touch his face, his body. It was all so brief and his son was all that was left of that short flirtation with romantic happiness. She wondered what this bride would think a year from now, a decade from now, maybe even a week from now. Would she still love her husband as she did on this sunny day? She shook her head and the trio entered the tunnel together. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could make out the form of a homeless man leaning against a wall.
"What I’m really saying…" the friend continued as he only barely noticed the tunnel around him, "is that we have to keep in mind the effect that each session has on…"
"That’s exactly what I mean… if you do that…" the son said in a loud voice that echoed through the tunnel. A little boy screamed from the direction of the playground. At this distance, it was impossible to tell if it was a scream of delight or of horror. "If you do that, then the game becomes about levels…"
"I don’t want it to become about levels, you know… but…"
"But that’s the thing, it does… look at the second table of powers and tell me that if you focus on that then you don’t…"
"No, I wouldn’t base it on the second table… it would be too limiting…"
"But then what would be left?"
They emerged from the tunnel and the sunlight seemed brighter than ever. The woman leaned her head back to feel the warmth spreading over her face and body. Above them was a light brown ledge of rough cement and beyond the ledge there was a large black sculpture. She couldn’t make out the details, but it was shining black in the sunlight and some people were gathered around it. A man stepped close to the ledge with a camera in his hands and took a picture. She briefly wondered what he had taken a picture of.
"There is plenty left… look that’s only the second table… what if you look at the fifth table? There’s a lot there that can be a guide…"
"You can’t base the whole game on the fifth table!"
"I’m not saying you should… I just mean that…"
The woman looked at her son again. His face was blushed with a rush of anger. His friend looked up at him, with the eyes of gentle shyness he had always had. He would never take the fight too far but he would never quite give in. She wondered if that was the nature of real friendship. Maybe she had never had a real friend on which to try it. Maybe she couldn’t do what her son’s friend did. Maybe friendship itself depended on that subtle skill and she never had it and so her son would never have it and he was just lucky to have found someone who did. She looked at them as they walked down the cement path that lead towards another tunnel and she felt grateful for her son and for his friend and for their discussion that she simply couldn’t understand. She felt the warmth of the sun again like a bucket of hot water pouring over her dry face and she realized that today she was satisfied. For all that was lost and for all that she never found, today, on this sunny gentle afternoon, all her real needs were fulfilled.