“In partnership with The Gothamist, The New York Public Library asks you to send love letters to NYC this month.”
I wasn’t always as nice as I could have been. I’m sorry. You gave me a trove of memories—I know because anywhere I look, I see them, layered on top of each other like years of snowfall, movies that play back to me at different speeds. A first kiss undulates next to the bright cheer of a friend’s baby shower, within range of the jittery excitement of the Fourth of July fireworks.
You are not haunted. You are not dead. Sure, gone is the tidal restless of E.B. White’s commuters, the “second” New York, but you’ve grown into your spaces. And wherever liquid restlessness flows, I know they’ll be back: mercurial, fickle, silver-flecked streams of money that puddle at every financial advisor’s doorstep.
Some would argue that you’re better for it. I didn’t initially hold that sentiment—the quiet was eerie. While my body stalled, my mind raced at warp speed, slamming into whatever concerns I’d avoided during the busy years. I will admit I haven’t been the most faithful. After ten years, even the most star-crossed lovers ease up a bit. Thought a lot about where I would go if I had the chance, but luckily the opportunity never came, and we made up.
Thank you for the fall. It was a beautiful one. This year’s leaves took my breath away. Unlike the spring that seemed to fade into the matte gray skies of late winter, I got to see your fall. I picked up leaves like they were semi-precious gems and pressed them into yesterday’s novels. I like how it felt to pass and press another season into the folds of time.
I miss my job more than I ever thought I would. The micro-routines. A moment I’d take to make myself the best cappuccino I could. Regulars who chugged through the hallway. Monotonous pleasantries we shared. The braided conversations of passing coworkers. My locker with the pile of receipt paper notes. There’s no closure to what happened. The hotel sits like a temple that’s been pried open and plundered of its soul. Mostly I miss the days when I would walk to Central Park on my lunch break. On those afternoons, I was determined to sit in nature, even if it was only for fifteen minutes.
Over the years, I’d found my perfect spot, a corner of the Hallette Nature Sanctuary where a waterfall drains into the pond. Birds flock to bathe in the water. I saw cardinals, blue jays, sparrows, and warblers. Sometimes I got so engrossed in the birds that I forgot I was technically working. They hopped in the water and loved to shake the moisture from their feathers. I tried to remain as still as possible. The more birds that came to the stream, the more successful I felt at dissolving into the backdrop of leaves and brush.
One November day, a Nor’easter came to Midtown. I ran to the locker room for my coat and hat, not even changing my work shoes as I walked into the blizzard. Carriage wheels chopped through readymade piles of slush. Tourists burrowed deep into their designer jackets. As I approached the park’s perimeter, I had a particular goal that afternoon that coincided with a particular visitor: photograph Hot Duck in the snow. He’d made the pages of many newspapers over the last month. His presence was peculiar; many people speculated why a Mandarin Patinkin would be swimming in Central Park in November. I’d not seen him yet, and I thought the snow would be the perfect opportunity to greet the famous guest.
At the pond, I began clicking away on my iPhone. There were many ducks in the pond that day, but Hot Duck swam elegantly through their flock without much engagement. Even his tailfeathers wiggled majestically. I couldn’t believe my luck in stepping outside of work and walking into what looked like a Thomas Kinkade painting. Then a very polite professional photographer tapped me on the shoulder and pointed further down the path. “Over there,” he said. Hot Duck was fifty feet away. I turned back to whomever I’d mislabeled as the celebrity. “Wood duck,” the photographer said. “Ahhh,” I responded. Just as pretty.
BIO: Kendall Poe is our Copy Editor. She is a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared on the blogs of Tin House and Paris Review. Last year Southeast Review awarded the honor of World’s Best Short-Short Story. If not writing, Kendall likes to bike around Central Park, NYC.
Main photo: Quintin Gellar from Pexels
Please consider a Donation!
We are all volunteers here and rely on our readers and contributors. Thank you for helping.