I Found a Man in Central Park

by

02/03/2003

E 72nd St & 5th Ave, New York, NY 10021

Neighborhood: Central Park

I found a man in Central park. I’d been running around the reservoir on a weekend and needed to get home and shower. I wiped my T-shirt on my face, and bent down to tie a lace, and I heard a man telling a joke. I heard him telling the back-story about how this certain celebrity and his boring wife acted so superficial and self-congratulatory at an award show on TV.

On my way home my thighs tightened as I walked east toward Fifth Avenue. I sat down on the flat part of a hill to do my stretches. Touching my knee with my forehead, a man’s voice came from behind me. I tied my ponytail tight and adjusted my Sports-Bra and slowly turne for a peek at the man connected to the voice.

Two guys were sitting together wearing shorts. He was blonde. I love blondes who have deep, sexy voices and he was telling a funny but racy, intelligent joke demeaning the celebrity’s phony wife’s alleged compassion for a revered handicapped person. Normally I wouldn’t talk to park people as there are always stalker types around, but the joke, his voice and casual air literally compelled me to join the conversation- if only for the sensation of the moment.

I walked out of the sunny shade and told him I overheard his joke and the blonde and his friend, who seemed a bit stiff, asked me politely to sit. When that subject of occupation arose, as it invariably does in this economy-oriented city, the stiff talked about content in medical journals and the blonde claimed to work in TV production.

I said I like the concept of TV but I only watch Comedy Central and cartoons.

When asked what I did for my living, I told them I work for a neurosurgeon by day, and am a Columbia writing student and a poet by night. After sharing with them my enjoyment of watching brain operations, Blondie blurted that he couldn’t believe I am a poet. “What kind of poems do you write?  Do you get published?” he wondered.

“Surreal poems. And yes.” I informed him. He acted like he didn’t understand who would publish that. I told him I perform my poetry in public and he smiled, as if I told a joke. He assured me he was not laughing at my being a poet; rather at the image of wannabe French men in black turtlenecks and berets smoking hookahs and reciting spontaneous odes to Nature. Well, though I like the Beatnik era, I assured him his vision of contemporary poetry was slightly off. Then we three chatted about philosophy and the world’s future – the usual presumptuous topics overheard in college bars, such as the overpopulation and theories to avert it, religion and its ill effects, and what a nice, sunny day it was.

I did wonder if I was too pushy to sit with them. I mean, who talks to people in the park – except that one freaky bald guy who preys upon me year after year. I had spoken to baldie once when he asked me the time but even then I said I was a visiting foreigner and hoped never to see him again. He always approached me when I walked through the park and I hated it – his lack of decency to give me my space. Didn’t he understand that I would rather be solo than talk to his bland face?

I didn’t want to give off that impression to these men. But after a quiet dialogue they shared, both stood up to go walk a dog or welcome the stiff’s parents to New York City, or some such mumbled excuse. Regardless of their mutually decided reason to go, it was a sudden decision and I felt a bit self-conscious, as if my interrupting their park sojourn had driven them from the park. Blondie extended his hand to me and we shook before he stood up. He said, “By the way, I’m Dave. What’s your name?” I told him “I am Fiona.” He repeated my name back to me “Fiona” and walked away. I remained sitting and sipped from my water bottle.

A minute or so later, I got up to leave the park and Blondie was walking alone back toward the park. He looked like he was going to say something but merely smiled (politely, was it?) and walked right past me. We both happened to look back and catch each other’s gaze one last time before he disappeared into the park. I put on my T-shirt and walked up 79th Street to go back home.

A week passed and I opened a letter from Dave Goldberg, the blonde in the park who had to find me. Apparently his friend berated him for not getting my number and forced him to walk back to the park and find me. After moments of hesitation and coming up with potential opening lines, when he saw me leaving the park he got shy and kept walking. His friend explained that he was always complaining he couldn’t meet someone new and here I come into the picture, but he ran away.

His letter explained that he didn’t stalk me; rather he looked me up on the Columbia University website and found a few “Fiona”s and saw only two listed as special students. Hoping this label simply meant I was in night school, he cross-referenced the two special names with the phone book and found I lived on the Upper East Side. He gave me his number. I called him. We had a great conversation that led to many more. Three years of getting to know each other and falling in love, we got married.

Now we often walk through Central Park and imagine spotting other couples finding their soul mates.

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