On a summer day when I was five years old.
The war had just ended and wounded, pennyless veterans loitered in front of the gates and sat on the benches. One of them approached us, asking for money.
The soldier loomed over me. His chest was wrapped in bandages. His camouflage jacket was partially unbottoned. I thought I saw a wound that looked like two gaping holes in his chest. I told my mother that he looked like he was really hurt, that maybe we should take him to the hospital. She told me that he was faking it, that he just wanted money. She held my hand and pulled me away. I didn't look back, although I couldn't understand how he could have faked the two gaping holes that lingered so permanently in my mind.
I started riding the bus and going into the city by myself when I was around twelve years old.
I didn't have any friends so I tried to find fun things that I could do by myself. I visited free museums and art galleries and when I had gone through those I started wandering aimlessly.
I had forgotten about this park until I stumbled onto it through one of my meandering walks. I remembered the fountain in the center with the marble statue of some ancient hero emblazoned in our nation's collective mythology. I looked at the benches sheltered in the shade of the trees. The soldiers that used to loiter there had been replaced by grandmothers who sat down to watch their grandchildren as they played.
I had brought a comic book with me and I sat on one of the benches to read it. After a few minutes, a man approached me and took out his hand for me to shake. I shook it. He sat down next to me and told me that he was looking for a bench in the shade. He was going to meet his friends later, he just needed to sit somewhere while he waited for them. I looked around, there were about ten unoccuppied benches in the shade. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties. His front teeth were asymmetrical. He asked me what my name was. I made something up. I told him my name was Marlena. "Marlena" he said. "Marlena, what kind a name is that?". He inched towards me. "What kind of a girl has a name like that?". He asked me how old I was. I told him my age. He told me I looked older. I replied that I wasn't. He asked me whether I wanted to get a cup of coffee.
I got up to leave. He shouted behind me, "Why not? Why don't you want to?". I didn't answer.
The very last summer.
The last time I saw the Creepy Camcorder Dude was, I was in this park. I was about fifteen years old and was holding hands with my first "boyfriend". He was a few years older than me and for the first time, I felt like the cool one amongst my friends because I was dating an older guy and not one of the clueless buffoons in our grade. I don't remember that much of my time with him, but I do remember it being a very happy time in my life.
We were walking in the park together holding hands, when I noticed the Creepy Camcorder Dude out of the corner of my eye. He was bent over, holding the camcorder up to his eye and filming the pavement. He followed the path to a statue of a nude woman (probably, a goddess or muse of some sort) in the center of the park. He lifted his camera up and started to focus it on the statue. He began to mutter to himself. I was standing about three meters away, so I couldn't hear what he was saying, but I thought I heard him making some sort of growling noise.
My boyfriend lightly tugged at my hand and led me to a more secluded area of the park. It was a warm, summer day and all of the trees were in bloom. Their petals glowed in the sunlight and a few of them were carried away each time the wind blew.
I remember that he would tell me things like no would love me as much as he loves me and that for as long as I live, I should never do the things I do with him with any other dude. Although, even back then I think I knew that whatever was between us would never last. I knew that after the next summer I would move on to another dude. I'd do the same things I did with him with a bunch of other dudes. About six, if I'm keep count.
I don't really know what's up with him anymore. The fact that he doesn't show up in my feed probably indicates how we've drifted apart. Maybe I'll look him up when I get back home.
A break from a futile search.
This park was the last place I visited before I called it a day and went to get my cappuccino. The flowers from the trees had already fallen off. Decaying, brown petals littered the roots of the trees and were crushed into the pavement. I circled the park and eventually sat down on of the benches. I buried my nose into my phone and started searching through all of my contacts. There must be someone I knew who knew the Creepy Camcorder Dude, or who had at least seen him. Maybe someone accidentally caught him in the background of their photo. I searched until my head began to hurt, but to no avail.
Perhaps he was meant to be buried in the past. Maybe I should just let him rest as a nebulous figure of my adolescence, for whom the only documentation that exists is the impression that he left in my memory.