There was a lady sitting in the park tonight around midnight much to my surprise. I wanted my solitude but would later be glad she was there. She was listening to an iPod and drinking a bottle of Miller Lite – both of us ignoring the no alcohol sign at the entrance to the park. Another unopened bottle sat next to her on the bench sweating from the humidity of a Southern summer night.. I was mesmerized by her myriad of colorful tattoos adorning her scantily clad body in the shadows of the mercury vapor lights that shone pinkish overhead. A wispy dragon ran down from her shoulder to her left arm revealed by the openness of her skimpy tank top. A large colorful sunflower adorned her outer thigh revealed by her very slight blue jean shorts. She watched me warily as I sat down on a nearby bench and put on my radio’s earphones. She saw me light up a cigarette and soon walked over to ask me for one as well – cigarettes being the supreme icebreaker for smokers. Especially smokers without a cigarette. She seemed to be a worldly woman and I thought it strange a woman would be sitting in the park this late at night. My immediate thoughts were that she was a prostitute or a crackhead lost in a moment of quiet contemplation over beers.
“I forgot my cigarettes at home,” she told me. “I left in a big hurry.”
“Ah menthol,” she then said after lighting up. “You must have some African American in you. Black people always love menthols. You always see them smoking Newports.”
I chuckled emphatically exclaiming my complete and utter whiteness. George would always say I was about the whitest guy he had ever befriended.
“I love your tattoos,” I said trying to stir up small talk as she walked over to the bench in front of me and sat down facing me. “They are fascinating. It must’ve have hurt to get all those.”
I shuddered at the thought of all the painful needle pricking that went into creating all that body art.
“The pain is worth it,” she said drawing on her cigarette and crossing her legs growing comfortable with me. “I love the art of it all. Each tattoo has a meaning and significance about my life. They all have a story to tell.”
“Do you come down here a lot?” I asked.
“I’ve been fighting with my boyfriend,” she told me revealing more than I had asked for as she got up and came over to sit down beside me.
I offered her my bottle of Thunderbird and she unscrewed the cap and took a dainty drink.
“We fight all the time,” she then said wiping her mouth following a weak and worried smile. “I love him, though. I just had to get out of house and walk down here to sit awhile to cool off. We had a big blow out tonight. I love this little park.It calms me. I come down here to read often early in the mornings before the heat hits. I’ve been reading the Twilight Saga and love it. I about can’t put the books down. I live just across the mill’s parking lot. Me and my boyfriend live in the apartment complex over there.”
She turned and pointed across the parking lot to the sprawling apartment complex hundreds of yards away nestled in-between houses of the mill village.
“Relationships are a funny thing,” I replied wistfully, drawing on my own cigarette and exhaling. “My ex-wife and I fought all the time, but we loved each other deeply.”
“Do you come down here a lot as well?” she then asked reaching for another drink of wine. I eagerly obliged loving having a drinking partner. I’ve been lonely for months ever since George went to jail.
“This is only my second night in weeks, but I plan on making it a usual occurrence,” I replied. “I enjoy this park as well. I like to listen to my favorite radio show down here late at night. It is better than just sitting at home. I’ve felt this extreme need to get out of the house every night lately.”
“I shouldn’t be drinking,” she shyly told me. I could almost see her blush. “We always fight when we drink. You know. Me and him. My boyfriend.”
“I shouldn’t be drinking as well,” I replied as I sighed. “I call it my medicine these days. I have a lot of anxiety to quell.”
She chuckled and told me goodnight as she got up to leave.
“He’s probably worried about me now,” she said as she turned to face me one last time. “It was really nice talking to you. You’re a cool guy. Can I have one more cigarette?”
I gave her another cigarette and said goodnight. I wanted her to stay as I watched her walk across the parking lot towards the apartment complex. It had been a long time since I had been so close to a woman and had such close social contact with one other than my mother. They are fascinating creatures. I thought for a long time about what just happened. For months, I’ve sat inside my house with little contact with others except for AA meetings. The socialization was intoxicating. I wanted to meet new people – to explore a social world. My drinking has emboldened me and made me gregarious.