I sat on the bench that Steve Kaplan had once sat on, my love by my side. The stifling heat of the day had been unbearable, and as much as we had let our senses be overwhelmed by the dazzling duo of chilled beer and jazz earlier on in the evening, it felt nice to just be. There was a hum in our heads and a hint of a breeze in the air as the clouds swooped in upon the strange hour of twilight which brings with it the twin emotions of contemplation and melancholia.
The lamps in the park twinkled as people hurried on, giving into the nudge from the darkening skies to find their way to the nearest shelter, because as surely as the stars that cling to the sky on crisp clear nights, a nasty spell was about to be unleashed upon us.
We, however, held on to the bench. I could feel peace stealing in upon me.
Was it the fact that we were enveloped in a cocoon of sorts in Central Park – that vast oasis of green which sits dab in the middle of Manhattan and yet seems far removed from the trammels of city life? I know not for sure but the sense of contentment that had been eluding me (both of us for that matter) for some time now, was just there, waiting to be embraced. A change is difficult. Getting used to a new environment is such an insidious process. You might think you can work it all out in your mind, and go about falling in love with a new place in an organised way, but some things in life just do not go according to plan, do they?
The man on the neighbouring bench stared intently at something so I squinted at whatever he was staring at. Oh, but it was a firefly, and he was trying his best to trap it in the cupped hollow of his hands. We whirled around, and why behind us in the woods, there was an orchestra of luminescence.
Whimpers of gold as those busy fireflies went about finding their soulmates, for do you know that they emit optical signals to attract mates? Some are deceived in this battlefield of courting because they are lured by the honey traps of femme fatales – the carnivorous females who lure lovesick males and simply gobble them up. How many had found their true mates on that summer evening and how many had been lost their lives, who knows, but it was all for love. And oh so magical.
In tandem with the fireflies, the immediate world around us was full of little pieces of joy. Like the many acts that come together to make a play count. We just had to look.
A couple walked by with their two cuddly daughters tucked into a double buggy and smitten by their rainbow cones of joy. Ice lollies to beat the heat of the day. Perfect. But one of those errant lollies took a toss – and the little girl who was the proud owner, her face crumpled up.
Before she could let loose a wail upon the world at large, her father dived to the ground. He picked up the cone, gave it a brush, and handed it right back to her. You should have seen the look on her face (of pure delight), ours (aghast) and her father’s (sheepish) as he turned around to us grinning, ‘All’s well. The five-second rule guys!’
A heartbeat away, at the south end of the part of the park called the Mall, two literary greats sat far, far away from home. Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns. One stared at us moodily and the other gazed into the sky dreamily all poised to write on his scrolls of paper. Nearby stood Columbus, that lousy navigator who aimed for the East Indies and landed up in the West Indies. That man gives me hope. So what if I have a woeful sense of direction? Look where it took Columbus. Now he stands along with the Bard in that part of Central Park known as the Literary Walk staring every Saturday at clusters of couples dancing the tango in their heels and pretty dresses.
You can find them every weekend, those dancing divas and their hopelessly dressed men, regardless of thunder and lightning, rain and hail. As we found out soon enough to the tune of all with the exception of hail. We stood beneath the branches of a massive tree and huddled beneath my small plaid umbrella, which is only as effectual as pretty little things are, got wet, giggled and wondered aloud about tango in the rain.