October 11, 2007
I would not have met her if it hadn't been for Jacob L. Albertson.

He was just a name engraved on a worn bench of faded wood. "Park created in honor of Jacob L. Albertson," it said it regal gold letters. I didn't know him. I am still not even quite sure what he accomplished that was important enough to have a park named after him.

All that really matters in the end is that I found her lying down on that bench.

It was an unusually sun-drenched day in early April. I walked along the worn cobblestone pathway through flowering cherry blossom trees and newly blooming lilies. It was fairly warm, and yet I had on a heavy jacket, jeans, and a scruffy-looking pair of my old blue converse on. Golden rays of sunlight shone down upon my face, yet I stared dejectedly down at my shoes, Nirvana screaming with irate woe and suffering in my ears. It seemed to be simply another day in my pessimistic, worthless life; and yet...

I found it hard not to notice her across the pathway. She wore a loose white sundress, and her auburn hair glowed in the brightness of the day. Her figure was sprawled across the entirety of the bench; she lay on her back with her eyes closed. A slight, peaceful smile adorned her face. Her skin was just tan enough to contrast with the whiteness of her lacey dress. And I couldn't breathe. It took me a moment to realize I'd stopped walking. I crossed to the bench across from hers and plunked down.

I lied down on my back just as she had, closing my eyes to block out the sun. It still burned through my eyelids, so I rolled over to my side.

I suppose I didn't notice when I fell asleep. But the sun was so warm, and I was just so exhausted. All I remember is Nirvana's "All Apologies" playing... "In the sun...In the sun I feel as one..."

What happened next, I have to say, would be the most wondrous awakening I have ever experienced. And, I'm scared to admit, will always be.

I was dreaming of being inside a cloud, and of feeling something on my shoulder. I brushed it away. Could bugs get as high as the clouds? I didn't think so. Only my dream self could. I felt it again, a little more pressuring this time. I opened one eye, realizing that I'd felt the touch in real life as well.

Standing above me was her, her wavy hair framing her face. Her vibrant green eyes stared down at me, and she had a smile like...I don't know. Nothing I have ever seen before, or ever will see.

I sat up groggily. She sat down next to me, and her knee brushed against mine.

"See that guy over there?" she said, pointing. A disheveled-looking man sat leaning against a metal trashcan, muttering incoherently to himself. He was wrapped in a ratty blanket with stains. He looked over at me for a split second, and I looked away.


"He looked about ready to take that iPod right out of your hand while you were sleeping," she said, grinning, "I figured you wouldn't like that much."

"No, no I wouldn't," I laughed.

" just looked kind of down on yourself. So serious," she said, imitating the angsty frown I often wore when I felt sorry for myself. I gave her a crooked grin—she did it well. "How can you be sad on a sunny day?"

"I just...well I don't know." I sat there for a moment, thinking about it. She was looking at me sideways. There never really was anything to make me so heated all the time. It was just miniscule things here and there: feeling lonely, an F on my math test, my friends making me mad. I let it bring me down just because it could.

I looked down again; an old habit. I noticed that she was wearing no shoes at all.

She laughed, and wiggled her toes, painted light pink. "Why wear shoes if you don't need to?" she said.

The clock across the road chimed five, and she looked up quickly. "I'm sorry, I have to go now," she said, and as soon as she had appeared, she was running carefully down the path in her bare feet towards who knows where.


Not surprisingly, I was waiting patiently on the bench in Albertson Park the next day. I watched the homeless man closely today as I listened to my iPod. Today I wasn't in a Nirvana mood, though. Today it was a little U2, a little Counting Crows.

I sat with my hood up and my legs drawn up close to my chest, though. It was drizzling slightly and the sky was a light shade of grey, not letting the sun come through.

It wasn't until 4:30 that she showed up. I was about ready to just walk away, until I noticed her walking slowly down the pathway, again with her bare feet patting against the rough pavement. Her face was tilted towards the sky and she had her tongue out to catch the drops of rain. When she finally got her head out of the clouds, she caught a glimpse of me on the bench and smiled the most radiant smile I've ever seen.

"Take your hood off, silly! I can barely see you in there!" she shouted. Today she wore a loose, flowered skirt, and her hair hung in an effortless ponytail.

I did, obligingly.

"I never got your name," I said as she approached the bench.


It figured her name would be Lily. She was just one of those people you always think should be named after some sort of flower.

"And yours?" she inquired.


"Ohhh, like Ben Gibbard."

"Yeah," I laughed.

"Come with me," she whispered in my ear, and took off yet again down the pathway. I still felt her breath on my ear, and for a moment I couldn't even lift myself off the bench.

Out of breath, I finally caught up, and we walked more slowly now to the unknown destination. Despite the gradually increasing rain, she smiled the whole way and periodically spun around in a circle. It struck me as strange that someone could remain so optimistic all day and every day. In my world, a mindset like that was rare and often nonexistent.

We eventually reached a large grove of trees. I could see long rays of sunlight through the branches and leaves. She pointed. "Jesus rays!" she said, pulling me onto a leaf-strewn trail, winding through the overabundance of trees.

The path ended at a crystal clear, flowing brook. On the bank was an enormous tree stump, with about three hundred rings. It was strange to think we would sit upon something almost twenty times our age; something whose long life had been ended so involuntarily.

She sat down on it, and motioned for me to sit down. She put her feet into the water and wiggled her toes, giggling.

"Come on, try it," she said.


"Try it."

I reluctantly untied the laces of my dirty converse, then came the socks. I stuck a toe in the water.


I stuck all my toes in.


I let my whole foot go into the water. Surprisingly, despite the weather, it ran warm. I tried both feet. She smiled.

"See, you just have to trust people sometimes," she said.

"Why are you just so happy all the time?" I said. It sounded harsh, though I didn't mean it to.

Still, she seemed to ponder it for a moment. Slowly, she said, "You know...when enough things go wrong, you start to only concentrate on the bad parts of your life. And you get very, very sick of it. And eventually you cherish the rare good things instead of the everywhere bad things." She looked me straight in the eye.

We sat silently for a few moments, and soon she hooked her index finger with mine, with a slight smile and her face as she stared down at the flowing creek.


The following day I walked through town in a daze. I gave the homeless man a dollar. I listened to The Fray. I grinned at strangers. I never grin at anyone. Not even my own friends.

On my way to the park, I bought a newspaper to read while I waited for her. I sat on the same bench, sat down, and flipped through.

"Iraq War Four-Year Anniversary" (for lack of a better word). Woman held hostage in man's basement. Crime rates increasing."

I flipped to the local section.

"Downtown Woman's Shelter Burned Down By Ex-Husband". Hmm. I'd volunteered there for school before. I scanned through the article.

"A search for a local man continues, but investigators are finding no lead to an arson committed around eleven PM last night. All of the residents have been moved to a shelter one hundred miles north, and the scene is being explored for clues.

"The suspect is the ex-husband of Cecilia Chapman, who, along with her daughter Lily Chapman...." I trailed off.

No. It had to be a different Lily. But she wasn't here yet, and it was five o' clock. I scanned around, and there was no sight of her.

And yet, I could recall what she had said in the forest the day before. About so many things going wrong in life. And the way she was never home. And how she had to always leave at five. The shelter closed at five.

I closed my eyes and breathed shakily for a moment. When I opened my eyes, I noticed at an object on the opposite bench.

I walked over quickly.

There sat a soft white lily in full bloom.

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