We brought bathing suits; most people did, but not everyone. I guess the sprinklers caught some people by surprise, but in a good way, and the park now had its fair share of little boys stripped down to their underwear, screaming with joy, splashing in the water. It was a hot day, a very blue and white and blinding day, and I lived through them for a bit from my very adult perch on the very adult bench.
"People are sad," I said to my husband. "We become all inhibited and adult-y. It's not an improvement."
Children are so beautiful, so uninhibited, so capable of tremendous amounts of joy.
And that's when I saw him.
Bad man, said my entire being.
But we don't listen to that voice that makes the hairs in the back of our neck rise because what if we are wrong? We are civilized, after all. Children are joy uninhibited to us, all glee and beautiful with their new skin and eyes to take in wonder. Innocence. Something to protect, to cup in our hands, to hold in our hearts.
Surely, everyone feels the same.
So I thought, a father. No, a grandfather. But while other parents and grandparents had kids running back and forth between them and the sprinklers, no one ran back and forth to the man with the low-slung baseball cap, his greying hair sticking out from the back, his camera held in front of him.
And he panned all over, while other parents only focused on their own. Of course, we only see our own, don't we?
Okay, no, so an artist. The kids are beautiful in the spray.
But he was videoing and focusing and--
"That man is creeping me out," I said abruptly to Outdoorsman.
The man made me want to gather my children to me. He made me glad for the bathing suit dresses that covered elbows and knees that my daughters wore.
Outdoorsman got to his feet. He went abruptly down the green hill and towards the man. I stood. The baby was fine, but I took him out of the stroller anyway. He squealed in protest.
He stood behind the guy for a good ten minutes.
What are you doing? I mouthed at him frantically. He gestured towards the man's camera--he was watching what the man was filming.
Little boys, he told me later. Only boys and only the ones only in their underpants.
Outdoorsman then walked out of the park and returned with a policeman.
The policeman looked through the man's camera and called for backup. We didn't leave until the man, his face blank, his camera slung over his shoulder, left in the back of a police car.
I want to end this cleverly. I want to end it in a way that gives over a message and also is well-written and also personifies what I saw, what I felt, what happens all the time every day because our world is sick and growing sicker.
But instead I will end with Outdoorsman telling me, "I got a shot of him."
And me saying, "we should put it somewhere."
And with us putting it on Facebook.
I didn't give it a thought. I felt bad! wrong! dangerdangerdanger! with every nerve ending, and I thought of the glee and the beautiful and the innocence in the water and I wanted to cup them all in my hand forever. Mamma Bear sitting on the bench and watching.
I got an avalanche of support, but also:
"How dare you?" said one email. "How do you know that he is guilty?"
"You can destroy his family by putting up his picture," said another.
Did I do too much by putting up his picture? I am left with a sick feeling. It felt so right. It still feels right.
But how can I be sure?
"I saw him Pesach time, doing the same thing," one person posts.
"I was also there today," said another. "He was definitely creepy."
Am I the only one who wants to hold the glee and beautiful and preserve the innocent?
Insert your own clever ending here.