So I hear New York chews you up and spits you out. Perhaps. On some days.
Stepping out onto the streets, it’s easy to feel like a New Yorker. You just have to make sure to adopt a slightly annoyed look, seem in somewhat of a hurry, and cross the street without waiting for the ‘walk’ sign.
The city is full of perfect strangers. Their heads and fists are full of intentions.
No one minds being watched, it seems. I feel grateful to gobble up the stories. Maybe they will settle in my conscience somewhere, fragmented, to get recycled in dreams days later.
I’m sitting on a bench in Central Park. It’s just as I imagined it would be, except much colder. Damn those Fahrenheit to Celsius conversions! My fingers are stiff, writing a bit sloppy, my nose certainly red. Carrot-ginger soup and tuna roll from Whole Foods in my belly slowly warming me from inside out.
A grandmother with short silver hair and stylish glass frames is leisurely pushing a stroller with her grandson past me, her face radiant. She stops right-smack in the middle of the walkway, an umbrella’s reach from where I sit. I watch her, openly, smiling, as she leans in to kiss the child’s forehead, closes her eyes. He is closing his, drifting in and out of consciousness. That’s what grandmothers do. That’s what grandchildren should do.
Couples holding hands. At my eye level, conveniently. I’m attentive to how their hands are interlocked, then gaze up to their faces. Mostly comfortable silences. That’s nice. Some don’t hold hands when they should.
Photographers in Central Park. You know ‘the look’ when they recognize the red stripe around your lens. My lens. The couples they are shooting are sweet and proper. They are cold and happy. The photographers – serious and perplexed. Central Park is serious business. I start to wonder how I would fit in, laughing, playing, crawling around, softly squealing whenever I get a good shot. That’s serious business.
Fifth Avenue WASP couple? Bring it on. Whoever said cliches are bad. Around here, striving to be different is a cliche. Of course I followed them around, wouldn’t you?! I found photo assistants are the most amusing. One in particular, a tender asian girl, was not only dragging around a pink equipment case, but also the couple’s dog, dressed in what looked like a suit and bow tie. Classy. Once in a while, the photographer would hand her his camera, with an unmistakable sense of urgency, looking away on cue once his hand was extended. All to walk around the circumference of an imaginary circle and take the camera back. It must have induced his creative juices.
As I write this, I look up and smile, looked up too late – someone had just taken a picture of me. Just maybe I look like a troubled local.