“You’re sure enjoying that book.”
I looked to my left, and there he was. Sitting on a patch of grass not too far from my patch of grass, this unidentified stater of the obvious had been there for who knows how long, apparently watching me read.
“Yeah,” I said, almost directly into the book.
Normally, I don’t mind talking to strangers – it’s almost inevitable when I venture out solo – but it was getting dark. I’d spent the day wandering around Central Park, taking pictures, before sitting down to read in an area with significantly fewer people than the periphery of the park. Fully engrossed in my book, the sun had begun to set without me noticing.
Books are usually effective deterrents of uninvited conversation. Mine proved futile in this case.
“What are you reading?” he said.
“Oh, you know, a book of travel essays… by women.”
“Oh? That’s good,” he said. “It’s good to read about what you’re interested in.”
Though there were quite a few people around — families, couples, small groups of friends – we had enough space between us to not have to hear each other’s conversations. This stranger obviously had no intention to leave me in peace, all the while sending off major creepy vibes. As he talked about something or other, in my head his words were replaced with, “Don’t worry, I’m just really, really lonely… and sometimes I kill bunnies for fun.”
Maybe it was because he was wearing a beanie in 70-degree weather or maybe it was because he chose to sit dangerously close to me in a park of many patches of grass. Or maybe it was the essay I was reading, eerily depicting much of what I was experiencing at that exact moment. In the essay, the author writes about how as a woman traveling by herself, she often has to depend on strangers, which, as was the case with some creepy male attendants she’d met, can be unsettling. She eventually realized that by sitting alone on the platform at a train station in India, she had unintentionally sent a signal to creepy men everywhere that she was not one of the good girls.
He asked me a few more questions. I told him I was a writer, and he, in turn, said he was an artist. As for what kind of art he did, I’m not sure because I was too busy plotting how to exit the conversation. I wanted to be polite enough to seem casual, but not so polite to give off the impression that I wanted company or to exchange e-mail.
Just then, Lucas* appeared.
He’d somehow freed himself from his owner and, leash and collar in tow, circled the stranger and me in a euphoric gallop.
“I’m free! I’m free!” he seemed to say.
He ran to me, getting close enough for me to pet him. Just as my hand grazed his scalp, he tore off in full speed, his owner pleading for him to relax.
It was the perfect escape.
“Nice talking to you,” I said to the stranger as I gathered my stuff before walking away.
I didn’t bother to look behind me.
*Note: Lucas may or may not have been his real name. It was the first name that popped up in my head as I wrote this, so that mutt shall forever be Lucas, to me at least.
Last year’s trip to the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. was ridiculously fun, and I’d captured my trek with friends in photos. This year, with no plans to revisit the festival and still yearning for some blossoms, I spent a beautiful afternoon on a Cherry Blossom hunt in Central Park.
There were several scattered throughout the park and in the city. Though majestic, the trees themselves weren’t very interesting, so I aimed to capture the activity around them. I hope these images evoke the stark contrast between the serenity at the park and the constant movement of Manhattan. It’s as if once entering, people immediately disassociated themselves from the quick pace of the city, which, while visible through the trees, seemed worlds away.
I was tempted to do the same, but the hunt wasn’t over.
It gets kind of treacherous when you cross without looking. Cyclists
and joggers are pretty serious about their space.