I feel as if I’m not being fair to you. He said that standing on the trunk of a tree bent to the earth by the previous week’s winds. The green leaves of the crown only just beginning to wilt.
He was looking in her direction, two hundred metres away, on the other side of the park, searching for him. It’s not that there’s someone else, he said, descending from the trunk, it’s that—well, I never really wanted this in the first place. I mean, I liked what we were in the first place. But this is something else entirely.
She had just spotted him and was coming over, waving. I’m old, he said. I want something for myself.
She was still too far to hear him.
I see where I’ve gone wrong, he said.
They hugged. It feels like forever since I’ve seen you, she said. Yes, he said, a long time. And look at this tree—what has happened to it? she asked. A great big wind, he said.
And what was the cause of the wind, she asked. Flapping your wings?
No he said, not that.
They were sitting now. Listen, he said, I feel I’ve been unfair. What do you mean? All this talking. It can’t be good for you. And I’m not sure, he said, continuing, that it will lead where you want it to lead.
I’m not sure I follow, she said. I don’t want to hurt you, he said, and I feel I am doing that. How? she asked. By talking to me? Yes. It doesn’t feel right. And that’s how I know.
I can take care of myself, she said. I know we were only talking. I knew it didn’t mean anything. Not necessarily. But there were tears rolling down her cheeks.
I’m sorry, she said. Don’t you be sorry, he said.
I really just want to be friends, she said, laughing a little.
Is that true? he asked. No, she said. Probably not. But I wish that was the case.
He didn’t say anything.
Actually what I wish is—nevermind, she said, when she saw the look he was giving her.
You’re a very generous person, he said. I know, she said. The friendship you offer is beautiful. Oh god, don’t say that. Why not? Just—listen. I think I’m going to need some time. Yes, he said, I thought so.
Two sparrows flew down from the crown and hopped hopefully in the dirt in front of them.
Look at that, she said. Your cousins.
I think they’re only hungry. No, she said, they’ve come to say hello. Hello, he said. One of the birds flew up to the trunk beside him. Oh god! she said, they are hungry. It’s a social visit, he said. But I’m a poor host and have nothing to offer them.
Give them this, she said, reaching into her pocket. There was nothing there. He pretended to take it from her.
Here you are, little bird, he said, extending his fingers.
The bird edged closer, its little feet skipping uncertainly along the trunk. They watched it carefully. Finally it closed the gap and took one peck at his empty fingers.
There, she said. It’s got it now.