A young woman leaned on a towel on one of the wide lawns of the city park. She had taken the day off from work and she had decided to walk a few blocks and spend a few hours under the hot rays of the sun. Bright sunlight was rare in this city of fog, so the few days that were sunny had to be treasured like golden nuggets in a mountain stream. Laying out on her white towel, she wore only a white cowboy hat, a gift from an old boyfriend whose name she had already forgotten, and a light green bikini which covered her breasts, her crotch and most of her buttocks. The rest of her white skin was bare and covered in a thin layer of suntan oil and sweat.
When the young woman looked down at her own body, in full display in a public setting, every detail amplified by the unforgiving light of the afternoon sun, she couldn’t help being critical. Through her own eyes, her skin was too white, all from month after month of living and working indoors, and it would take more than one afternoon of sunbathing to change her pale coloring. Her breasts were too small and, even at her young age, she could tell that they were already starting to droop. She knew in the back of her mind that sooner or later she would have to get surgery, she would have to get bags of silicone implanted under her skin to give her an appearance of robust abundance. Her smooth belly showed signs of slight wrinkling and she perceived the wrinkles as fat, and so she worried that she had been eating too much. She made quick ephemeral decisions about eating much less, eating better, doing more exercise, doing whatever needed to be done, all decisions that would quickly be forgotten and put away like old clothes.
She poured some more suntan oil on her hands and started to rub it over her shoulders and her arms. She wished that her boyfriend was here, the one whose name she could remember, the one that she had met only a couple of weeks ago. She wished that he could be the one pouring the oil over her body. It would be easier that way and much more pleasurable. Her body ached for the touch of his firm rough hands. It had only been two days but it had already been too long. She already needed the silk of his lips on hers, for his finger through her hair, for his arms around her shoulders once again. Just as her hands were covered in greasy oil, steaming hot under the sun, her cell phone rang. She hesitated for a second to answer it, she didn’t want to get the device all greasy, but she quickly realized she had no choice. She grabbed the phone and flicked it open with a practiced move of her right hand. She brought it to her face and said a simple: "Hello?"
Two men rode their bicycles down the sidewalk, about twenty feet away from her. A group of teenage girls were laying all together in a circle to her right, sunbathing like she was. A couple was laying on a large brown towel near the trees behind her. Cars drove by in quick succession and a pickup truck was parallel parking across the street. The young woman’s eyes grew wide, digesting all this movement with her eyes, perceiving it all as a strange background to the words that the tiny metal device whispered into her ear, a movie with a strange voiceover that was sliding unexpectedly into slow motion and distress.
"I don’t understand… why today? Why right now?"
There were more words and more whispering. Two women in flowing light brown dresses walked by, talking excitedly as they moved in the direction of the tall brown building a few blocks away. A tall woman in loose gray shorts ran by on the sidewalk, gasping for breath, grunting with effort. Two more men rode by in thin stylish bicycles. The pickup truck finished parking and a large man with colorful tattoos on his forearms stepped out of the cabin.
"Shouldn’t we get together… it would be better if…I would really like to talk in person… it’s just that…"
A family of four walked by, a teenage girl in black walking ahead of them, a little boy in shorts running in circles around their feet. A tall bearded man walked by with a camera. A slim Asian girl rode by on a small bicycle. The teenage girls on her right were now laughing loudly and turning over onto their backs.
"I would rather that… but listen… I…"
The laughter of the girls seemed like an offensive intrusion. Two little boys ran ahead of their father in the direction of the restrooms in the northeastern corner of the lawn. The man with the tattoos was taking out a large bicycle from the back of the truck. He put a cap on his head with the figure of a colorful eagle and closed the bed of the pickup truck with a loud bang.
"Ok then… yeah, later we’ll… sure… ok… bye."
She closed the phone with a soft click and stared at the clouds and the sky. The landscape seemed to shift slightly each time one of the teenage girls laughed. The little boys screamed to their father from the door of the bathroom. A car honked in the distance and a motor rumbled as it started. She put the phone away and looked down at herself. The sun was no longer as warm. The park was no longer as inviting. The rough hands would not be touching her again, there would be need to find new ones. Everything she had ever thought about herself was true. She was getting old and ugly. There was no other reason for him to do what he had done. She would have to go home soon. She had to take steps. She would call around for prices on breast surgery. She would call around for diet programs and gyms. She would face up to her problems and solve them, just like she always did. She would look at time in the eyes and emerge victorious. And she would soon forget another name, another gift, another night of passion, another day of sunlight and warmth. Many more had already been forgotten.