I pushed the flat plastic seat. Arcing forward and up, backward and down, backward and up, forward and down. His laughter bounced across the neatly manicured park, over driveway parked Bentleys and Mercedes Benz’. Long hanging chains clinked over a layer of rust flaking over the hooks connecting swing to a-frame.
Three small clouds took permanent, lazy residence in the tan, smog coated sky. Beverly Hills allowed itself to be caressed by a gentle breeze that started its journey inland from the bad neighborhoods closest to the Pacific. Other residents of Venice Beach and Santa Monica weren’t necessarily granted such easy access to the glitz and glamor of the 90210. Though, if the rich snobs could have put a police tail on the wind, they might have done so.
My wife sat in the back seat breastfeeding our newest addition while I played with the elder minion on the swings. We’d meet in this particular park a few times a week for lunch. Three blocks away from her office, she enjoyed getting out in the sun rather than attempting to wrangle our little boys to silence in a conference room.
More often than not, the entire park was ours alone. The occasional jogger would hop by on the sidewalk or a random teenage girl talking about the Backstreet Boys on her cell phone. Hidden in the middle of a residential area, not too many cars came by to spread exhaust fumes and muffled top forty radio ear aches through their rolled up windows.
“Hey honey, that Creepy Old Guy is here again.” She leaned out the door and whispered. You know the kind of whisper that’s really louder than talking? Yeah. Like that.
The “Creepy Old Guy” always wore sweat suits on his workout. New Jersey mob type outfits. Unfortunately, his legs decided to wear different colors than his torso. A color blind, overweight, wobble walking hit man with a good head of hair for his age. He never really bothered me, but for some reason my wife felt wrong way rubbed every time he showed up.
These days it’s not uncommon to see people walking around talking to themselves. Those annoying Blue Tooth ear pieces providing remote connections to mouths and ears somewhere lost in the ether. Those things are the mullet of the future. Mark my words (Well, mark my wife’s words anyway). Creepy Old Guy certainly talked to himself. Sometimes I’d catch snippets of mumbled melodies. But both his ears were unencumbered and naked. No cell phone attachment devices at all. He talked and sang to himself. Can’t say I blamed my wife for not wanting him around the kids.
Normally he’d steer clear of the playground. Maybe he saw me and was intimidated by my awesomeness. Maybe he didn’t like sand getting in his Adidas. I don’t know. Just the same, I’d keep my eyes open and shift position in order to line myself up between him and the boys.
That particular day he sat on the bench behind the swings. I smiled friendly-like and waved. He nodded back humming a beautiful melody. I recognized the song immediately as one of my favorites. The lyrics floated to the surface of my brain and I instantly knew who the Old Creepy Guy was. Through mumbling lips, his beautiful voice climbed to the three clouds above. I swear they danced up there. Tears reached my eyes. I sat on the sand, son on my lap and listened to Brian Wilson sing “God Only Knows”. Before finishing the song, he stood and resumed his circle around the park still singing softly to himself. I squeezed my boy tightly knowing he’d never remember this moment. For me, I’ll never forget it.