Remember that park I mentioned in my last post? Full of dog walkers and hardwood trees and cross-country runners? Near the back of that park is a ski lodge, with a few slopes built around it, and the gondola-chair thing skiers use to avoid climbing the hill. I used to climb that hill several times each summer, as it was between my house and the county pool. This park, it was a special place to me. It is a special place to me, still, though I haven’t been there in almost two years now–I’ve moved, far away, but when I think of spending time in the wildwood this is the wood I imagine.
Now, when I grew up a little (but probably not quite enough), I had a boyfriend. He was, truly, a Bad Influence. I would sneak out of my house in the middle of the night to meet him in my park, to walk with him along the wide grassy trail stretching between the road and the center of the park, where we wouldn’t be in too much danger of tripping in the dark. Most of the time we spent together was in this park, away from my father’s disapproving glare, and away from most of the reasons he was a Bad Influence. I had one of my first sexual encounters with this boy in this park, against an oak I used to climb as a child. And after he left, I went back to climbing that oak, and to loving my park just as much as I had before him.
Yesterday, a man was found, hanged to death, from a large oak behind the ski slopes at this park, my park. He was 27. Another man on his morning walk found him, and the preliminary reports say he had been hanging there through the night at least. He took his own life, after a long struggle against depression, poverty, and addiction. He is survived by his wife and two young daughters.
I will remember you. I will remember you, under that oak, young and virile and laughing and cussing, lingering on my street corner, waiting to see if I would come out. I will remember you walking softly through the grass, climbing the steep slope of the hill towards the wood, darting out my back door when my father came home early. I am sorry for your pain, and for the pain of your children. And I will remember you.