July, My Love

by

01/20/2002

1 e 23rd Street ny 10010

Neighborhood: All Over, Manhattan

I saw it all from a bench in the park, sitting next to some gathered pigeons and a pile of peanut shells. And nearby, across the street, a statue and an American flag.

The man with the black hat and the enormous red-shirted gut was sprawled out on a bench and he appeared to be dead. Perhaps he was. A crowd of flies was assembled on his arms and his chest and in great numbers on his knees, where they could be more easily made out against the lighter background of his faded jeans. The leaves of an English Plane tree gave him shade. The woman and man were next to the man in the hat, she clutching a patchwork bag and he, curious. The woman smiled. A grey-haired man in bright red pants rode by on a purple children’s bicycle with streamers, honking loudly on a horn. The woman kept smiling, and the man was still curious.

She held a patchwork bag very close and from the faces and the bodies of the couple it seemed that she had a surprise tucked away inside. A bit of an affectionate plea floated over the noisy air. “It’s crazy! Tell me!” he said to her, and the only reply was laughter, followed by more of that irresistible smile. Yes, that was it–she had a surprise. The flag waved in the breeze as though it had been there for a hundred years and the statue stood motionless, mute.

The man with the black hat still had not moved. But the hat had slipped away and fallen to the ground, letting his hair blow free like the streamers on the old man’s bike. If he was dead, it could have been his soul escaping that had caused the disturbance, as it forced its way through his head and knocked the hat off in the struggle.

The man and the woman were still smiling and laughing, but now there was a sharper edge to both of their rounded faces. The surprise was slowly forcing its way out of the patchwork bag like the soul from the head of the now-hatless man. The woman seemed to be telling the man to be patient, to be calm, to wait. She wore a brown shirt and white pants and he, just the opposite. They both wore simple sandals.

The purple bicycle came rolling down the path again and the couple turned their attention away from each other for just a moment, to absorb the spectacle of it all. When all that could be seen was a tiny red-and-purple blot heading towards the exit to the street, they turned back to one another, and then they kissed. Until the dead man rose. He no longer had his hat, and he was quick to discover the lack, and he began to shout at all the world. Or so it seemed, his booming, growling voice sweeping over the park like a hurricane wind come back from the dead, accusing anybody and whomever.

Until he found the hat.

Meanwhile the woman appeared to have found what she was looking for, and the man next to her looked glad to be done with the wait. She had her hands inside the patchwork bag, and when she pulled them out again she looked surprised. She held a little box covered in blue velvet, and now it was herturn to look curious, and his to wear that irresistible smile.

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