We were laughing our heads off in the park. He’s 28. I’m 22. But that day, we were children again; pinching, tickling each other, running around the park until one catches the other or one suddenly loses breath and lies down on the grass. He would tickle me again. He loves it when I shriek and blush in embarrassment. The joggers looked at us with narrowed eyes, the dogs wagged their tails. And we would sit down again, side by side, heads bowed, shoulders shaking. One catches the eye of the other, recalls a funny story and the cycle begins again.

I only knew him that day. We met after chatting online. Two bored horny people. I just finished a manuscript and had nothing to do in my apartment. He just got off from work that morning, waiting for NBA. We entered a chatroom filled with either busy, working members or sleeping bags. We exchanged sizzling lines in our chat histories, typed wild things to do to the other when we meet.

I invited him to walk with me in the nearby park. This has always been part of my foreplay- walking while conversing, my way to screen potential lovers. He came down from the bus, confused but he agreed. We walked and we talked while the gray clouds could not decide whether to allow the sun to peek or not.

To the world, we might seem like friends or lovers in the early stage of courtship- together, yet not touching. We talked first about banal things—a stock of information we can readily share- name, job, school, birthplace… but won’t mean much to the other. No one asked if the other has a romantic partner. It did not matter.

Then we talked about my passion for literature, his lost love for music and painting. We had fun reminiscing our childhood pranks and blunders. He poked me on the rib. I giggled and ran away. He followed, discovering my weakness.

When the sun had set without so much as a glance, maybe he remembered why we met. Or maybe, I had exhausted all my life stories. It’s funny how I could summarize my life in just one day. His hand on my waist was no longer tickling me. It began caressing my back, my hips and it’s climbing upward. He blew light kisses on my neck, behind my ears. I started to pant as his hand drew circles on my belly. His lips traced my jaw, searching for my lips as his hand reached my breasts underneath the cardigan. I could hear the music from the aerobics class nearby, the ice cream bells, the children playing in the playground behind the bushes.

But darkness made us bolder. His hand was already inside my skirt and his finger probed between my legs suddenly. My lips missed his as I arched my neck upward, gasping. His finger is within me and down there, I felt myself tightening around it. He’s looking at me directly, daring me more. His fingers became more insistent. He was biting his lower lip. I fought the urge not to crush it on mine. I could feel the world spinning. I held on to his nape and raked his hair. He tried to kiss me on the lips but I buried my face on his chest as I grew breathless. I closed my eyes and as his finger dug deeper, I recalled our whole time together.

I remembered laughter as we walked; his jokes, his stories, his songs. How he lifted me up when I delivered a corny line and I begged him not to tickle me again. In flashes, I recalled the music he shared from his iPod. My eyes popped when he quoted lines from my favorite movies and novels. As my world started to swirl with desire, I saw him again in my mind’s eye, eating ice cream like a little boy. Before I lost all focus and control, I pulled out his hand. I put it on his lap and when I raised my face, his eyes were questioning me. I touched his face, his lips; I pulled his hair back in place.

“I like to keep you. Let’s stop this.” I said.

I didn’t know if libido slowed down his mental processes. We looked at each other for a long timew before he replied.

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“What we just had this morning was beautiful. It’s refreshing.” I said, surprised that my eyes were misty.

He still could not understand. So I had to explain. I told him how I bed men when I’m working on a novel. I meet strangers for sex; releasing all my frustrations, fear, loneliness and boredom to people I don’t know and will not meet again. It’s how I maintain my sanity. If I do it with him, I have to leave him, just like a used condom thrown in the hotel trash bin.

He was sitting beside me, a tall man with strong jaws and rockstar long hair and he is pouting.

“You can still keep me after that.” He said and I laughed bitterly.

It would not be like that, I told him. After I told him my life without imagined portions, I felt cozy. I can stay this way with him and be contented. I thought that something would be shattered if I go with him tonight. I will lose something pure.

I shook my head. He drew a deep breath. I was waiting for him to leave. But I caught his eyes twinkling. The next thing I knew I was down in the grass again; my high-pitched shrieks tearing the waning joviality of the park. We sat down again, side by side. He offered his hand, smiling.

“By the way, my true name’s Arnold, not Ben.” He said.

I shook his hand and gave my real name— Marianne.

“Friends?” He asked.

And we laughed again.