A Step to Romance

Peter could no longer remain indoors, not another minute. “Damn it!” He cursed the tremendous pressure at work as the deadline for a major assignment approached and files were piling on his desk. In frustration, he accidentally hit a key on the keyboard and deleted part of the draft of a sales chart he was working on. The data on his computer screen looked like a total mess. However, the beautiful spring day outside gave him some vague strange feelings. It left him helpless with no control over himself. He undid the first two buttons on his shirt, grabbed a piece of tissue paper to wipe the sweat off his forehead, and walked out of his office. Peter kept going until he reached Highland Amusement park. He knew this park here he had felt the first excitement of love more than 25 years ago. Now he was a married man with a wife and 12 year’s old boy and he loved them dearly, but it was spring and somehow he felt free as the wind, the way he felt in his twenties when he thought he had the world in his hands.

The park which was dotted by colorful banners and flags was overwhelmed by a holiday atmosphere as if life had opened a new road for the people. He felt the same way deep down within himself. He wanted something to happen to him, something new and different. He thought of his wife knitting her sweater. Billy would be playing his guitar or fixing his bicycle. If he had been at home with them, he would be fixing the leaking filter in the kitchen and working around the house. But he did not feel like that now. The fever of adventure rose within him. He was carried away by rebellion against the principle he had respected.

Inside the amusement park, he stopped in front of a shooting gallery and watched a man shoot down ten white ducks and pigeons. The gallery owner turned to Peter and said, “Come on. Try your luck; for a few pennies, you have the chance to win a nice prize fro your girlfriend.” Peter laughed. “OK, Brother,” he said, “I will try it.” Previously a boy scout and now an amateur shooter in his leisure time, Peter happily picked up a rifle, aimed at the moving ducks and pulled the trigger quickly; shot after shot flew out of the barrel in quick successions, all hitting the target. There was a big applause from the gay crowd of onlookers and he won a big doll!

He walked away in triumph and scanned the park, and then he saw a strikingly beautiful young woman in a blouse and jeans carrying a handbag. She walked gracefully and her hips were swaying slightly. Without hesitation, Peter held the doll out to her and said, “Pardon me, but would you do me a favor? I feel funny carrying this doll around. So would you mind taking it? It needs a mother.” The girl shook off her surprise and laughed. “Well. If it embarrasses you, I suppose there is nothing else I can do.” She accepted the doll and thanked him. “It’s lovely. Where ever did you get it?” “I won it at the shooting gallery,” he told her and almost without realizing it, he was walking beside her up the path through the park.

They began to talk about different things. The girl told him her name was Louise and she worked for a film studio and enjoyed collecting postage stamps in her leisure time. She thought he was about 33, more than 12 years younger than he really was, and this delighted Peter. Now chatting, laughing with this dark haired, blue eyed girl, he seemed to go back again through the years to those days when he was young and free. He knew clearly he could not possibly mean anything to her and he could not forget he was a family man with responsibilities and a son who loved him and looked up to him. And yet it was strange that he couldn’t stop now. “Let’s go to the Ferris wheel. Do you like that?” Peter asked her. Louise’s face lit up and Peter noticed how eager her eyes were.

She sat close to him and the great wheel turned and sent them skyward. He felt her finger holding his own and a warm flood rose within him. Peter felt as if he was floating on a cloud. The world seemed so much more alive, almost new again. After the Ferris whee, they tried a small motorboat, and after that they had ice-cream and chocolate in a nearby pub. Peter discovered that he was still a good dancer as ever and they entered a dance hall. While dancing he forgot everything, his wife, his child and everything.

He was 21 again. This blue-eyed girl at his side, this lovely stranger who leaned against him, clung to him with her hand on his lap, was his sweetheart. Louise said, “I wonder why, but I do enjoy being with you so much. Somehow you seem different. Where do you live? I have never seen you before. I’d like to… well, what I mean is, don’t you think we two get along quite nicely?” “You are perfectly right, Louise, shall we dance some more?” “Peter,” she spoke his name as if she were truly his girlfriend, as if she had taken him for her own, “Peter, don’t you believe that we should see each other again?” She leaned closer. Soon Peter was uncertain of himself.

Sooner or later he knew it would come to this. He tried to retain his calmness. Finally he said, “That is easy. Let me have your telephone number and I’ll give you a call.” When the sun was setting and thunder was heard on the horizon, Peter took her home in his car in spite of her insistence in catching a cab. At the doorstep of her house, though she probably expected him to, he made no attempt to kiss her. He didn’t even ask her to let him into her house.

The next day Peter was back at his desk, but his mind was not on his work. He kept thinking of the blue-eyed girl. He had her telephone number in his notebook. The encounter in the park doesn’t need to remain just a memory. It could be made really alive again. It was just a matter of a phone call and there would be other days even more interesting, more exciting, more fascinating, fuller in meaning. However, he was after all a married man. He did love his wife, who made a lot of personal sacrifice fro rearing their son. If anything happened that hurt his marriage he knew he would never forgive himself. That was the one thing that really meant everything to him. He thought of having an affair with the girl and promptly dismissed the idea as unworthy. He rose from his chair, waled to the open window and looked out upon the April world.

He suddenly got a strange feeling at that moment. He could hear the sweet voice of Louise in the spring breeze, he could see the lovely smile of Louise among the flowers. He got a kind of strange sickness inside. She would be waiting, expecting his phone call. He could even picture her impatience. She had told him so clearly that they must see each other again, because they were meant for each other. He returned to the desk without knowing what to do.

He slowly took out the little notebook, and put it on the desk. He picked up the phone. He started to dial her number, stopped for a moment, then went ahead and completed the dialing. A voice answered. He recognized it at once. It was Louise of course. He listened quietly. Outwardly, he tried to remain calm; but inwardly, he felt the pain, a terrible pain. He almost broke down. He hang up the phone. He took a deep breath, then picked up the phone again. This time he spoke, “Is that you Billy? Home from school already? Tell your mother I’ll be home earlier for supper. We are going to plant those new roses you and your mother love, OK?”