It was discouragingly dark among the shrubs, and there was the rustle of dead leaves. A half-moon made mottled silver patterns on the higher branches of the trees.
Walking through the park at night made the girl acutely aware of solitude. She saw the stoic swans on the lake but they were ghostly calm as they floated, without a ripple, eerily into and out of shadows.
Her footfall faltered and she hoped it was unnoticed. The gap shortened. A young man came towards her. Her head lifted, bravely, her eyes shone, fixed to a point behind him. She felt relief because she sensed embarrassment in him. There was a tense moment and it seemed awkward not to greet as they passed.
A thought occurred. She knew, then, that he was afraid of frightening her.
He slouched a little, desperate to be relaxed. In daylight he may have asked her for directions to somewhere or other. Just to start a conversation, jokingly, laughing, supported by the presence of other anonymous people around them.
She disliked the dark, not as before through imagined danger, but because there could be no human contact. Anger arose and he felt her anger. He felt ashamed and was aware of what he sensed, wrongly, about her feelings. He wanted to turn and call after her, to say, “Sorry,” for all that had happened in parks at night. She knew that he was in a state that meant failure. To turn and speak to him would have been a tremendous, impossible step against the world and a bound existence.
She hurried on and went home, wondering about what he was like. There had been only a remote glimpse, and she wondered if she could have liked him. She was determined to go again to the park seeking a second impossible chance in daylight. To give life a chance. Just to be sure.
She went the next day, impatient to have it over. They saw each other coming. She sat on a bench, kids and mothers all around her. Skateboarders rumbled by. He sat beside her and asked for directions. Then they both laughed. A couple of years later they talked it over, with their own children at their feet on the grass.
As they talked, they heard a barely audible clap as two angels high-fived.