Somewhere out there was his other half. He saw couples walking up and down the street all the time, hands intertwined, smiles on their faces, completing each others sentences, completing each other. He knew, as he sat on the park bench watching them go by, feeling the wood mash into his back, that his other half was out there somewhere.
The twenty-something year old dirty blond haired man leaned forward, arched his back and leaned back again, the wooden back of the bench seemingly perfectly designed for maximum discomfort. If everybody had a slight forward curve to their back when they sat, a parenthesis of posture pitching them slightly forward surely this would be equally uncomfortable for everybody. But, perhaps that was the intent. Maybe the benches weren't made to be used, but to be there. If everybody sat on them then they would need more benches and that would be expensive. A sprinkling of uncomfortable benches filled the need for benches without encouraging their use. He leaned forward again, resting his elbows on his knees this time to look out at the people walking by. Waiting to find his other half.
He looked down at the sandy dirt at his feet, small pebbles from the path mixed in. His New Balance shoes, once white, needed cleaning or maybe he thought as he tilted his foot a bit, they needed replacing. It seemed that just as soon as they got perfectly comfortable it was time to get new ones and start over again. That was probably on purpose too. He was familiar with the phrase “built in obsolescence,” but wondered if built in uncomfortableness was a class someone took in engineering schools across the country. His thin tanned arms, flexed and relaxed as he clenched his hands together in a double fist as he stared at the dirt between his feet. This wasn't getting him anywhere. He'd already hunted this park to the point where there was no chance of finding his special someone... not here. He turned his wrist enough to rock his watch forward. He had to get back to work. Pushing himself to his feet he bent and picked up his insulated lunch bag and started down the gravel path towards his truck.
He smiled a friendly smile at people as they passed, nodding a hello that left many of them thinking they must know him from somewhere. Why else would he make eye-contact. That wasn't done in this city, at this time. They spent the next few minutes trying to figure out where they knew him from and making sure that the next time they saw him they would smile and nod back lest he think they didn't remember him in spite of the fact that they didn't. As he walked under a large sprawling ginkgo tree he caught the smell of lilacs and heard a humming from his left. He turned to see, at one of the benches, a thin young lady, no more than her mid-twenties, with short business-like hair handing a sandy-haired boy half a sandwich. He took the sandwich in his two small hands and took a bite. He took this in with a glance before stopping immediately to kneel in the path and tie his shoe. His shoe that wasn't untied. His eyes were on her, the shape of her neck, a gentle slope from her shoulders to the hollow under her jaw. Her skin was very pale. She looked up and saw him seeing her. She flashed a quick smile as her eyes passed over him and returned to unpacking their lunch.
His ears rang. He had found her. He had found his other half after all. He stood slowly, mind racing. He'd practiced his lines for every possible situation except this one. He wasn't supposed to be walking past her when they met. She was supposed to be walking past him. What was he going to do? He couldn't let her get away. Not after he'd spent this long looking for her. It'd been five years since the last one and she hadn't worked out. A flash of something ugly danced across his face but neither she nor her son saw it. He stayed kneeling but turned to face the two of them and smiled broadly. When he smiled his whole face smiled, even his eyes seemed to look happier. She looked up, noticing him again.
“Yes?” She said. Her tone flat, neutral, giving up nothing.
“My name is Joseph. I know this must be insane, but do you mind my asking what you're wearing? It smells like lilacs.” He extended his hand to shake hers. The smile radiated friendliness and harmlessness. She put the grapes she was holding on a napkin on her lap and reached out to shake his hand. She smiled back.
“My name's Sarah. I'm not wearing anything. Well.” She looked down, blushing slightly, “I'm not wearing any perfume I should say.”
Joseph looked over to the boy next to Sarah, “I'm not imagining the smell am I little man?” The boy shook his head, cheeks working as he chewed what Joseph could see now was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “You smell it too right?” A quick glance and grin, the grin of long-time friends sharing a joke towards Sarah. She popped a grape in her mouth and reached to the brown paper bag on the ground between herself and her son, Mark. She leaned the bag forward and Joseph saw that the bag was full of lilac blossoms.
“Ah,” he said leaning forward and making a show of breathing in the scent of the lilacs. He could catch the faint smell of the brown paper bag as well. “I see. Well there you go. That answers that he said, putting one knee to the ground and resting his folded arms on the other knee. “What had me puzzled was what scent you'd found that smelled so much like lilacs. I love that smell. I have since I was your age.” He said flicking a long finger towards the boy who was taking another bite of his sandwich.
“I like them too. It's why I got these. They don't last very long though in the house. Listen. We have to eat. It was a pleasure to meet you Joe.”
“Joseph,” he interrupted, “my dad was Joe. Sorry. Can I make it up to you? Do you come here often?” He'd heard her about to push him away. He couldn't have that. He may never find her again. His watch beeped the hour. He was late getting back to work. “I'll meet you here tomorrow. I'll bring lunch from right over there,” he indicated the grocer across the street. I'll leave it in the bags so you can see it's fresh from over there.” He looked at the boy, “Do you like lunchables with the yellow cheese?”
Mark nodded, eyes going from Joseph to Sarah as he nodded with the sandwich in his mouth. “There you go then. I'll see you tomorrow about this time?” He smiled again, with his whole face. He'd practiced that smile in the mirror and practiced it on his customers for years. He knew he had a great smile, a 100 Watt smile.
She looked at Mark and then at Joseph wondering how it had happened so fast. “OK. Well. OK. That'll be fine I guess. It was a pleasant surprise meeting you today Joseph.” She watched as he turned and left with a bounce in his step. He was humming softly to himself as he walked. Outwardly happy inwardly he was burning. He'd seen her. He'd finally seen her and she'd talked to him. Her voice, had she once smoked? It had a little bit of rough around the edges, not Sade rough, but texture like silk rubbed against the grain. Other than that she was perfect though. Her hair was slightly shorter than it should be, but that would be a problem easily fixed. All it would take would be time. The boy was a problem. He wasn't nearly polite enough. He had talked with his mouth full and hadn't said “thank you” when his mother had given him his sandwich. Joseph could fix that too. There weren't any problems he had seen that he couldn't fix.
He needed to get her to recognize him as her other half though. He needed lilacs. Today was Thursday Mrs. Johansen would be in. She would know where he could get some essence of lilac. She had brought him the essence of rose last time. Hadn't she said she got it from a french parfumeri? She had connections, and collections of scents. Last time. Joseph snorted as he opened the door to his truck and pulled into traffic.
How had he been so wrong to think Julie was the right one for him? She wasn't even close to as good a match for him as Sarah was. Her incisors were too short and that gave her a buck toothed look. Her left eyebrow as more arched than her right one was. It gave her a slightly surprised look all the time. Or maybe she looked like Spock from Star Trek. Her voice, pitched so high it was almost a squeak was so annoying. Especially when she screamed. He was really surprised how blind he'd been to her faults. He was younger then, only twenty-two. He had been too immature at the time to recognize his perfect match. He knew now though. He'd had years to learn what she would look like when they met. The brat had been rude though hadn't he? He'd offered him lunch tomorrow and the kid hadn't thanked him or anything. Just nodded. Ungrateful little brat.
Joseph took a couple deep breaths as he pulled in the alley behind his New Age shop and parked next to the dumpster. He'd be opening twenty minutes late, but the only person who would notice would be Roger, and Roger was always noticing something he didn't like. Roger was nuts. The brat he could deal with later. He just needed to make sure she recognized him as someone she needed to spend more time with.