Romance in Philippe Park

By: Rock Kitaro
Date: May 27th, 2013

Mariah Carey – “Always Be My Baby” –

Philippe Park

 The following is a narrative fictional piece based on factual events.

I’d never been there before. To Philippe Park. I was invited by a colleague to attend his church’s barbecue in celebration of Memorial Day. I admit that I was reluctant at first. Not due to the religion or the fact that it was going to be held at noon when I’m usually a night owl…but because of my agoraphobia. While I accept that I do have a slight case of agoraphobia, I told myself that I wouldn’t let it hold me back from such experiences. So I went.

It was a beautiful day around noon that day. The sun was up but the heat was still manageable. There was a cool breeze rustling through my white cotton button up shirt. The sky could’ve been better. The clouds seemed smeared not painted, but the distinction between the blue sky and the white clouds were distinct, so I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The National park lay on the banks of the western waters of Safety Harbor, a northern extension of Tampa Bay. While the saltwater and the rare sightings of manatees were certainly a worthy attraction of the park…in my opinion the highlight and most noticeable feature of the park are its majestic Spanish moss trees. I’m a history buff, you see…Pulling up to the parking lot and taking a look around, I could tell from the winding serpent branches that stretched out in all directions that they’ve been around for generations. It’s weird…I love historical landmarks when it comes to nature, but feel quite the opposite when it comes to manmade landmarks…like when it comes to buildings, I prefer newer constructions over the older.

Greeting my colleague and his wife at the barbecue made me laugh on the inside. When I walked up to them, already in the line for grilled burgers and hot dogs, they seemed surprised. I told them that I would be coming, but I suppose they just weren’t expecting me to show up one way or the other.  Still… they embraced me and introduced me to a few bystanders within proximity whose curiosity I had peaked.

Agoraphobia…I hate that it has the suffix of phobia because I’m not afraid. Just nervous and anxious. Being that I’m well over six feet tall and at one point used to be borderline obese, I still carry the paranoia that I’m always being watched. From a spectator’s point of view, my condition is similar to a formerly abused dog in a new surrounding. My voice shuttered and I struggled to release the words that I was trying to say. As I reached for the hot dogs and hamburgers, my hands and fingers rattled as if I had Parkinson’s. Not fear… It didn’t look cute and I didn’t feel special because of it. It annoyed the hell out of me, and I had to suppress the frustrations I had with myself. But the sensation didn’t last long, thank god. Once I got myself situated, seated and relatively out of the open…I could calm down. I could focus on being sociable.

Being that it was a church function, I felt obligated to inquire into the group’s religion, their beliefs and how they came to find their way to that particular organization. My colleague caught me twice staring off in deep thought. I’m still working on handling my facial expressions because I have large eyes and it’s easy to read my mood. I didn’t mean to be rude or draw in curiosity from my perplexed look, but rather, I find it’s important to digest such information on the spot so I can ask more questions while I still have the people there in front of me.

In the end, the group won me over and I had made up my mind to check out their next service. Not sure what to expect really. But I am a religious person. And more so, I’m a philosopher. What philosopher would turn down an open invitation to learn a new system of thinking, a new theology…I can’t wait.

After sitting with my hosts for a little over half an hour, the inner child in me compelled me to get up and walk around. Such a beautiful place…People get on airplanes and travel all over the world in search for adventure. The amazing thing about Florida is that there are so many untapped places for me to explore. So explore I did.

Haha…let me tell you. With my mind…and the fact that I was wandering by myself. I can really put myself in the mood and make the most of it. Being physically fit and very athletic I put myself in the shoes of James Bond, investigating the park with my hands in my pockets, displaying charm and cool charisma to those who passed me. I would’ve gone with the mindset of Indiana Jones, but it was Memorial Day. The park was full of other gatherings and family reunions enjoying barbecues. Just not a good look to see this big black dude climbing trees and doing back flips off of boulders.

I finally found a secluded spot high up on a hill. A smooth rock that overlooked the water and was upwind of the appetite-gripping grills. I was at peace and satisfied. Like a hawk overlooking its territory, I scanned the surface of the water for any activity. I had seen dolphins before, but never any manatees. To me, such occurrences were treated like rock stars. I hoped for the chance. And that’s when I saw her. She was walking in a group of five other girls. But most of them seemed underage, so I didn’t even give them a second’s thought

“Damn…they’re headed this way.” I thought to myself. Not annoyed. But just didn’t want to be bothered.

But they approached, not to see or talked to me. But just passing through. The girls were all black or mixed. That doesn’t matter. Just pointing it out because in that part of Tampa, it was rare for me to see someone who wasn’t white or Hispanic. Like a lion at rest, I let the lionesses pass through. They were laughing and I didn’t listen to discern what they were talking about. But one of them…one of them was a bit too bold.

She was lighter in complexion compared to the other girls. My color complexion. Soft brown eyes, smooth even skin tone with long brown hair and an oval face. She mostly resembled Bianca Lawson, but her name was Sierra.

Never met her before. Never been there before. I’m this big athletic guy, just minding my own business, perched up on that rock. And here she comes with a little toddler, her four-year-old niece. Without provocation, Sierra walks the cackling child up on the rock and lifts her up to jump off of my back in a playful manner.

It didn’t hurt. And with the two of them smiling and laughing like that…there was no way I could feel an ounce of contempt for the two. But like I said…bold. I turned around and smiled at the two, letting them know that all was good. They laughed and giggled and went on along their way.

I didn’t think anything of it at first…but gradually, I couldn’t help but think about those soft brown eyes. Then guilt started washing over because I wasn’t sure how old she was. To take my mind off of her, I lifted myself from that spot and walked off. A mental trick to escape from such thoughts is to remove yourself from the relevant setting.

It’s weird…I never blame God for any misfortune or natural disaster…but time after time I find myself shaking my fist at him for planting me in situations of irony, coincidence and hopeless temptations. I laugh and grin at the challenge, whispering to myself… “Is that the best you got?”

Didn’t take me long to forget about her. I was used to coming across beautiful women, entertaining the thought of making friends with them…before dismissing it with the prescription of realism.

The heat was picking up…so I inadvertently found solitude under the shade of a massive Spanish moss. I was alone, but not lonely. With the cool wind holding its course, it was easy for my mind to get carried away with it. I started thinking about my goals and what I planned to do for the rest of the day. Busy Busy Busy. But that’s a good thing.

After plotting my course for the day and embracing myself for embarkation, I turned around with intentions on going back to my hosts to say goodbye. And wouldn’t you know it…there she was. Sierra, just staring at me like I was an exhibit at a museum. Just her.

Naturally, my mind breaks out a web of several angles to discern what the hell she was thinking. That’s just something I do. Before the person opens their mouth. Before I even say hello…I always try to figure out what’s going on with the person beforehand, open to the fact that my initial deductions are possibly wrong, of course.

“Did you follow me over here?” I asked her.

“Are you weirded out by that?” She asked back.

I grinned. Interesting. When it comes to females, it’s usually me who would answer like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stalker…but my methods are a little less orthodoxed in the sense that I use complete honesty and actually follow my parent’s advice of just being myself.

“Not weirded…Just unexpected is all. You come here often?” I asked.

“Where are you from?” She asks, completely ignoring my question.

Aigoo… I didn’t want to get into a conversation where all I’m doing is talking about myself…my arrogance has a way of slipping out when I talk about what I’ve been through. So…we played quick game of checkers.

“Clearwater. You?”

“Town & Country.” She says. “Are you here, by yourself?”

“Nah. A friend invited me out to his church thing. What about you? You’re out with your cousins?” I asked.

“Why would you say they’re my cousins? How do you know they’re not my sisters?” She asks.

“Well… I could’ve said friends. But since you didn’t ask why I didn’t call them that, I’d say my guess was right on the money. I’m sorry, what is your name?” I finally got around to asking.

“Why? Gonna facebook stalk me?” She chuckled.

I laughed and nodded. “Yes, actually. No wait. First, I have to ask. How old are you?”

“Why?” She said, rolling her eyes.

“Well…you look quite young. I should probably watch what I say. I am 26 after all.” I answered.

“So? I’m 24.” She answered.

I laughed quite smitten…obviously her attraction just went up a couple of notches in my book by simply knowing her age. “Nah uh! Let me see your ID.” I said.

She approached with a seductive smile and said she left it back with her aunt. After that…we both got quiet, looking out over the water. I could tell there were a thousand more questions that we wanted to ask each other. And while it’s my nature to be straightforward and direct, I usually get to know the girl more before I reveal that detail…as some girls are turned off by the direct approach…they feel cornered and become afraid or tense.

But this girl…she just walked up next to me and leaned shoulder to shoulder with me. She said softly that her name was Sierra.

The sensation felt unreal. I barely knew her, yet she embraced me in such a way. What was her story? Did she treat all guys like this? I admit that I don’t go out as often as I should…so the mystery of such romance…Let me put it this way.

I don’t write about romance because I’m less than a novice at it. When you’re used to weighing over 300lbs and feel disgusted with yourself, you train yourself to disbelieve any notion that anyone else would find you appealing. Yeah, I lost that weight and look better now, but the side effects, just like agoraphobia, still lingers.

A friend once asked me if I can tell the signs of a woman who’s giving me hint that they’re interested in me…and the honest truth is that I can’t. I mean, I think I can…but it needs to be more than obvious. The subtle things completely elude me. My mind, as a shield, comes up with a reason as to why a girl is asking me questions, or revealing unwarranted personal details, or upcoming events that they have planned. So for this girl to be leaning up against me like a long lost friend who was just reunited…the fuses in my mind were shortaging out.

I had no choice but to ask…politely of course. “What’s with you?”

She sighed and replied. “Do you always do this?”

“Do what?”

“Ruin the mood with unnecessary questions.” She said.

Damn…So frustrating. She was right. Was it really so important to get my questions answered? Is this what romance is? To know absolutely nothing about the person…but to simply accept it if it feels like a perfect fit. Is that all there is to it? Would it kill me to simply say nothing? To spend a moment without the need for control…over anything.

I wasn’t control that I wanted. It was uncertainty that I couldn’t stand.

So I stepped away from her. She laughed with a look of shock. “Really?” She said.

I chuckled back, shaking my head saying, “Missy. I don’t know you?”

“What do you want to know? What if I told you something that you didn’t like, or disagreed with? Are you trying to tell me that you wouldn’t want to be with me?” She asked.

It was a turn off… Not because the question was, what I thought, stupid. But simply because it told me that she didn’t seem to be the type who looked at the big picture. Or worse, she wasn’t into me for a relationship. I say worse, because it’s the complete opposite of what I was looking for. So to me…there was no need for me to further waste my time.

Looking off toward the horizon, I laughed and said, “Nevermind. You already told me more than I need to know.”

Then something happened. A folly of mine. When it comes to deductive reasoning, nothing is certain.  Granted, there’s always a reason behind something. There’s always a motive. There is also always the possibility that some people do things just for the hell of it. There is never “no reason”. Because even “no reason” is a reason. It’s called whim.

She said. “You told me more than I need to know too. That you leap to conclusions.”

“Everyone jumps to conclusions when the facts aren’t there. That’s why people ask questions.” I sharply replied.

She smirked, nodding and crossing her arms. “Yes. But if I told you what you need to know, then why are you pushing me away?”

I laughed. It was so frustrating. What the hell was she telling me? As clever as I thought myself to be, was she my match? … or Better?

“Obviously, its as you said. I have come to some faulty assumptions about you. For that, I apologize. But perhaps…maybe you’re doing the same? For instance…what if I told you…” I started as I moved closer to her.

“I have no idea what the hell is happening. A beautiful girl who seems perfect in every way… You have to understand. It’s important to me to know who you are. I know you ask why I need to know. But ask yourself. Why do you think I need to know? The fact that I’m asking you such questions should tell you a lot.”

Then she smiled this big bright cheesy smile and held it that way for a while before laughing out loud. Gosh…she was so beautiful. The smile completely stunned me and caused my heart to stop for a millisecond. God! I felt so fucking clueless…and I think that she knew!!!

“Well…” She said as she began with that seductive approach again. “Here I am, walking with my cousins. And I see this big handsome guy…just chillen by himself. But you didn’t seem depressed or sad. So I thought, ‘why is he by himself?’ So…I followed you over here and…”

“It’s like this. I’ve dated a lot of guys before. I’ve had guys hit on me. Buy me drinks. I’ve had guys try every pick up line in the book. Hot guys. Rich guys. Big strong men. But you seem different. You seem interesting. So, I just… I dunno. Took a shot in the dark. I’m sorry if it offended you, or threw you off track or whatever. I guess, I’ll be on my way.”

As she said this, she was still smiling, walking away from me with her eyes locked on mine…Hahaha…it wasn’t subtle. She had me on the line and was reeling me in. And for someone so engaging…there was no way that I was going to let her get away from me. So…I took my own shot in the dark and let myself be pulled in. I caught up to her, put my arms around her, and kissed her. Not a French kiss. No tongue. Just a brief, affectionate suction on the lips. And the rest, as you say…is history.

One comment on “Romance in Philippe Park

  1. Pingback: Old School Romance in Philippe Park – Short Story, narrative fiction | Stage In The Sky

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