Carmen added a final touch to her outfit–a white carnation to her hair. Esteban’s
favourite flower. She fluffed her skirt once more and left the apartment. Her heart galloped in her chest as she rushed to the park. Sunny skies filled her soul with joy and anticipation.
She hurried to her destination. Fidgeting with her blouse and her jean jacket, she sat on their bench and waited for Esteban to appear beside the little bridge over the creek. He never came close, but she knew he’d show up, just as he has done every Tuesday for the last ten months.
She fondly remembered the first time they met. It was at the university library one Saturday morning; she thought she was the only crazy person to go to the library on weekends, but she needed to work on a paper. It was her last year before finishing her teaching degree.
She spotted him, hunched over a book, taking notes. When he realized he was being observed, he smiled at her. She blushed, but she held his gaze.
He gathered his books and made his way to Carmen’s spot. “Hi,” he said, “would you mind if we share this table?”
Before she could utter a word, he grabbed a chair and sat facing her. From the first moment, his hazel eyes captivated Carmen’s heart. Their attraction was mutual.
All that happened after–falling in love, moving in together and their graduation– ran across Carmen’s mind, like slides or images spinning quickly in a projector.
As sometimes happens in life, beautiful things don’t last long enough.
Warmth radiating throughout her body, she checked her watch again. Just a few minutes to wait. At six o’clock exactly Esteban stood by the side of the bridge. It wasn’t him in full flesh, just his image. But his eyes glimmered, as they did the first day they met.
Because he was transparent, Carmen could see through him. Literally. She glimpsed at a mother pushing a stroller, a kid running after a ball and an elderly couple trudging along the pathway. She wanted that moment to last forever, but she understood it wasn’t possible. Gratitude to have a little time to glance at Esteban’s eyes invaded her soul.
Then, gradually, like the sun going down on the horizon, he disappeared.
“Until next Tuesday, my love,” she whispered.
Content, she smiled and stood, grabbed her bag and went back to her place.
Carmen didn’t talk to anyone about her dates with Esteban. It was her secret. She didn’t want people to think she was losing her mind.
But, sometimes secrets find their way into the light.
The following week, she was having lunch in her school’s staff room. Through the window, kids’ laughter from the playground permeated the surroundings. She loved children and enjoyed being a teacher.
“Hi Carmen,” Mario said. “May I sit beside you? I hate eating alone.”
“How are things with you?” he asked.
“Good, I love Tuesdays.”
“May I ask why?”
“Can’t tell. It’s a secret.”
“I’m your friend. I’m good at keeping secrets.”
“Well, if you insist. I have a date on Tuesdays.”
He stared at Carmen. “Are you serious?”
“Very much so,” she said.
Mario put his sandwich down. “After Esteban’s passing and all you’ve been through, I’m glad you’re going out.”
She inspected her hands and kept silent.
He continued, ”I loved him very much. He was my best friend, more like a brother. But he’s gone and you are here.”
A cheerless expression appeared in her eyes. “I miss him, you know?”
Mario touched her hand. “I miss him too.”
“I’m going to tell you something special,” she said.
“I’ve seen Esteban.”
“Do you see him in your dreams? That’d be understandable.
“No, not in my dreams. I have been meeting him every Tuesday at 6, at the Alameda park.”
An incredulous gaze flashed across Mario’s face. He sighed, ”I don’t know what to say.”
“You think I am out of my mind, don’t you?”
“No. If you tell me you can see him, I believe you. How do you see him?” he asked.
“I don’t see him like he was. I see his image.”
“What do you mean?”
“I see through him, something like a clear silhouette, but not exactly. The only real thing is his eyes. He looks at me. I know he does.
“Does he talk to you?”
“No, he doesn’t. I see him at a distance.”
Mario smiled.“I’m glad seeing him makes you happy.”
“I knew you’d understand.” A brief smile appeared on her face.
For a brief moment, Mario closed his eyes, breathing her pleasant scent.
“Thank you for listening,” she said.
“Anytime. I have to go back to class,” he replied and left.
Time dragged for Carmen. Tuesdays took forever to arrive. Sometimes she saw Mario in the staff room. He casually whispered in her ear, “how is Esteban’s image looking?”
“It’s beautiful, as always,” she answered.
As days went by, unexpected things started to happen. When Carmen got to their bench in the park and saw Esteban’s image, it wasn’t as clear as usual. Did he look at her? She couldn’t tell. Feeling disappointed, she went back home.
The following Tuesday something extremely rare occurred. He was late. She waited for half an hour before Esteban materialized. This time the image was blurrier than the week before. She was certain he didn’t look at her.
That night she cried herself to sleep.
She saw Mario at lunch break “You look beautiful today, but so sad.”
She didn’t know why she blushed, gave him a half-smile but didn’t engage in conversation.
Another Tuesday came, Carmen arrived at the park on time. She waited for an hour, then two hours turned into three. Esteban didn’t come to their date. It was already dark when she got home. She slumped onto her couch and a dejected expression settled on her face. The following day she didn’t go to work. She couldn’t. Her puffy eyes gave away a night of solid crying. She couldn’t understand what was going on. Why was Esteban breaking her heart?
She didn’t see Mario at work. She asked around, but a colleague said he had taken a week off. Too bad. She missed having someone to talk to during her lunch break.
Carmen had been going to the park, every Tuesday, for the past year. When she approached their bench, a foreboding feeling of uncertainty filled her heart. She had a premonition about Esteban’s image. She was right. He didn’t show up.
For some unknown reason, she didn’t feel as sad as she expected.
When she looked at the little bridge over the creek. Mario stood there smiling. Her heart pounded out an erratic rhythm, throat thickening with emotion, she waved.
He approached her bench.“Hello, I knew where to find you.” Without waiting for an answer, he said, ”I have a couple of tickets to the movies. You’d like to come with me?”
His eyes full of anticipation gave Carmen the confidence she needed to answer without hesitation, “I’d love to.”