At the end of the summer, me and Kyoko went to Action Park for some fun. While waiting in line for the Tarzan swing, we met a girl named Gretchen who was in love with the alpine slide. She called the slide George and said it was her husband. Then she turned her leg to the side and showed us a road burn on her inner thigh that she said she got from the last time her and George had fucked. As the line inched out of the shade and into the sun, me and Kyoko asked Gretchen about her marriage with George: when they had met, how they fell in love, what their first time was like. Me and Kyoko had smoked a little weed on the drive over, and this was just the kind of silliness we were looking for on our last day-trip together.

In two days, me and Kyoko would be heading off for college on opposite sides of the country. I was going to study music in upstate New York, and Kyoko had earned a scholarship to study criminal justice in California. Though Kyoko had assured me that nothing would change between us, I was worried. After more than three years together, I’d learned that I needed her much more than she needed me.

Once the three of us had taken our rides on the Tarzan swing, we decided to spend the rest of the day together. Other than George, Gretchen was all alone, and she was fun to talk to, so we said why not.

At noon we sat in board shorts and bikinis in the open-air restaurant at the center of the park. We ate thick slices of pizza topped with fat knobs of sausage, towering ice-cream sundaes drowned in hot fudge and sprinkles.

At sunset we smoked a j in the back of Gretchen’s station wagon and listened to one of my Bill Evans cassettes. Bill Evans was my favorite jazz pianist ever, and I practiced piano for over two hours a day in the hopes that someday I’d be able to write something as brilliant as “Waltz for Debby.”

As me and Kyoko watched the sky burn with streaks of red and pink and orange and purple, Gretchen reached under the seat, pulled out a gun, and started to cry. Through her tears she told us that George had broken up with her and that she had been waiting all day for the park to close so she could climb into George’s mouth and shoot herself in the head. My brain was too slowed by the weed to react to any of this, but Kyoko grabbed the gun from Gretchen and pushed open the back door with her bare foot. Kyoko’s dad had been a homicide detective for over twenty years, so she knew the right way to handle a gun.

Kyoko walked Gretchen toward the woods behind the empty parking lot. Cool evening air sliced past my face as I climbed out of the car and clambered after them. Standing at the edge of the woods, Kyoko emptied the three bullets into Gretchen’s palm and whispered something into her ear. Gretchen nodded and threw the bullets into the woods and wrapped her arms around Kyoko’s shoulders and cried. The sun slipped behind the trees. Mosquitos needled my bare shoulders. Kyoko looked at me with a half-smile, as if she was thinking about something good. Soon me and Kyoko would have to go back to the car and say our goodbyes to Gretchen, and to Action Park, and not long after, to each other, but right now, we didn’t have to do anything.



Photo used under CC