The pulse of the city beats like a drum as she turns down 4th and Q. She pulls her coat tighter around her shoulders. The fog is wrapping its way around the sidewalks and up the walls. How can you be surrounded by a million people and yet feel so alone?
She rushes across the street, flipping off a taxi driver who honks with some choice words thrown at her.
She’s going to her bench. The bench she goes to anytime she just needs to decompress. She’s been going there now for years. It’s always blissfully empty and quiet.
She crosses the bridge and weaves her way through the park, but there’s a man sitting on the bench. Her bench, she thinks angrily. She pauses by a tree to size him up, this man whose now quickly ruined her day.
He’s a little older, just slightly graying around the edges of his hair, but in a refined sort of way. Wearing jeans but like, really nice jeans that tell you he doesn’t shop at Gap. A nice watch. Nearly trimmed fingernails. A classic t-shirt that looks very soft. Everything about him is neat.
He’s holding a worn leather journal and writing with a very fancy looking pen. Not in a hurried way, just steadily. With purpose. What is he writing, she thinks. And on HER bench. She’s half annoyed and half intrigued.
Finally, she decides to sit down. She has nothing to occupy herself but whatever, she sits down under the tree she is spying from and just continues to watch this mystery man that she is now so occupied with. She stays for two hours until he leaves. Then finally leaves too.
The next day the man is far from her thoughts until she turns the corner and he is there again, on her bench. She stops at the tree she was at the day before, half-hidden behind it. He’s writing again. Same journal, almost same clothing. She sits again, waiting, watching. She realizes she is kind of being a creep but he doesn’t seem to even notice her existence so she keeps watching.
This goes on for weeks. She keeps expecting him to be gone and he is still there. Every. Day. She just sits half behind the tree and watches him. Writing in that same worn leather journal. At some point he has to run out of paper, right? Should she say something to him? She’s being silly, it’s a public park, a public bench! She gets up, goes to the bench, and sits down-holding her breath the whole time.
He stops writing, gently closes his journal and looks at her, with steely blue-gray eyes. “I was wondering how long until you would come to sit here and stop staring at me from behind the tree,” he says, not taking his eyes off her face. She’s stuttering for a response but she’s so taken aback no works will come out. “How are you, Jane?”
He knows her name??? HOW? She is quite literally, speechless at this point. She gets up, slowly turns to the sidewalk, and calmy starts walking away from the bench. This guy must be a stalker or a serial killer. She is panicking but she will not let him see that. As soon as she is out of sight she runs, all the way back to her apartment, locks the door behind her and starts to cry. There under the door, is a small piece of paper, folded up. Torn from a book. Heavyweight paper, expensive and it says:
open for me
under the blue skies
bloom for me
like a sweet red rose
fragile and fragrant
and I will plant you
where you never thought
you could grow