Central Park? How did I end up here? I questioned.
I felt groggy; attempted to focus on door-manned apartment buildings and parked limos whizzing by. A fleeting street sign read: 67th near one of my favorite mosaics: John Lennon’s Imagine . . . .In Strawberry Field?
I scooted to the other side of the taxi as we approached the vicinity of Heckscher’s playground? What’s this? I wondered. What happened to Brooklyn? . . . .Where’s Gracie’s cafe, . . . The used books store?. . . .Why are we near the playground?
Okay. I did admit to making that trip to the park often. It was the “little people.” The children. I loved it when they swung; they inspired. Fearless, though squealing, high they’d fly, frightfully high, I mentally right along with them sailing.
But right then I hated that image. The thought of them soaring close by made my insides curl. That reaction was alien but intense. So intense that I was finally fully awake. So real I felt the need to spit.
What was wrong with this driver? Where was he taking me? I didn't mention the playground, did I? I questioned.
Yes, with my mind’s eye I saw them, the children, naive and happy, very naive and so very happy they were—occasionally me as a child; I was reminded.
But the driver was clueless about my routine or my thoughts, as he should be. All he needed to know was the way back to Brooklyn. How to swing around a corner into Brooklyn Heights.
I met his black eyes in the mirror; demanding, “Driver, let me out.”
Scenes; I hate them. But I wouldn't be taken advantage of.
I remember thinking, Some people. . . .That’s okay, he can forget about it. . . . I’m not paying for this ride; I’ll take another taxi.
“Miss, I take you home,” the driver finally responded.
When? In his own good time?
I answered: “Did you say ‘home’? This is not my home. . . .I said, ‘Brooklyn.’ Brooklyn Heights is where I live. . . . Stop. I want to get out,” I insisted looking outside the window for a place for him to pull over. I was fed up.
There seemed to be a control issue going on in my life. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to dictate what I should do.
“No, Diamond. I said, ‘I’ll take you home,’” repeats the driver.
Slowly I turned back towards the mirror, shaking, because . . . she said, “Diamond.” It couldn't be. But the look in the mirror showed eyes no longer black but hazel—my eyes. Madame’s eyes. Silent, I sat frozen. Those eyes dropped a cage of guilt around me.
Cornered, I retaliated. What do I have to feel guilty about? She left me alone. Now she wants to drive me again? Warmed by that anger I wondered, where does she think she’s taking me?
Madame continued to steer, eyes shifting back and forth between my reflection in the mirror and the road. The car moved steadily through the traffic. Then she became solely on me. The car drove itself, yet she didn't utter a word. I tried to blink to break the intensity, but my eyes wouldn't shut as we locked in a battle of wills.
Finally my anger thawed that guilt into a swimming pool into which I leaped; twisting; falling in slow motion; then—Voila! I was back in . . . .Central Park? Yes. Alone. Again. Lonely in all eight hundred and forty-three acres as the paths swarmed with high energy and vitality. People bicycled; rode roller-blades; jogged, while I watched wishing they’d just sit. Their activity depleted what was left of my energy. Though, more-than-likely, it was the then oppressive weight and heat of my suede coat and my leather vise-like boots sensitive to every small rock and crevice beneath my soles. I remember thinking that a snail would snicker as I tipped along that trail. Searched for a place to rest.
Yes; rest. That was all I really wanted; all I really needed. To regroup after that difficult episode. What was Madame thinking? To just pick up where she left off?
Looking across the park, I bypassed natural boulders, searching for and spotting the large weeping willow. With extra effort I managed to drop to its base grateful for that moment. Dispersed sun-rays highlight roused dust particles making the spot unearthly; ethereal. Although the trunk and its shade shrouding me in tranquility and serenity, I shivered despite the beautiful mounted horses patrolling the park. My fear? … Enjoying too much. Like a nip from a snake’s fang circumstances change.
But again I coached, come on, Diamond; enjoy the moment. So I blessed the wind sending forth those sweet innocent whispering. Blessed the fact that they provided a calm distraction despite a world warring for fuel, democracy or both. And nature wreaking its own turmoil. I gazed up in fascination watching the tree’s branches flow over and around me, soft and gentle. Its limbs deflected the strength of the sun’s warmth. Tendrils of my hair floated delicately across my face tickling the way a child draws a piece of string along your skin.
Smiling, I began to unwind. Thankful; thinking, this feels nice. When small at times I felt this way. Cozy. Safe beneath a towering shelter. But as I sat the sun faded as I complained, I just arrived! I knew it was too good to last, for the shadowed darkness moved in rapidly engulfing the peaceful atmosphere.
In cold and fear, uncontrollable trembles rattled my body. Guttural sounds, harsh and raspy like the death rattle of an old man, replaced the pleasant whispering. And pain, piercing pain, inflicted by whipping branches shot across my body. The once gentle branches now snapping, biting boughs.
I tried to protect myself, but the limbs cracked sharp and repeated against my hands. I tried unsuccessfully hiding them, eventually touching something … sticky? … I thought, Blood?
“Blood!” I screamed, voiceless repeated screams, my throat scratchy and dry. But sweat poured from my skin. Plastered my curls to my face. I shielded my head and hands attempting to run. But my legs—weak traitors, buckled. Flung me forward. Spindly vines like fingers twisted around my throat squeezing tight, then tighter. I tore at the stems, breathing my first aim. Finally I managed a mangled, “Someone help me,” as I grasp for life. “Please someone,” I begged, staring into the darkness, wondering, … where is everybody?
Gone, the obvious answer.
I’m on my own? I couldn't believe, still clawing to tear free from the vines. Again I attempted to run. But the snarled branches seized my arms and legs. Tripped me.
“Madame! Madame!” I called out. “Help me! Please help me. . . .” my cries cut short as damp clammy leaves gripped tight my lips. They stopped my cries and again tried to smother me. And willowy vines camouflaging daylight continued to thwart my freedom.
Faceless death bound me. But I battled fiercely; at the same time whimpering, thinking: What a baby I am. I exerted one last desperate burst of strength and—.
Free? . . . .I’d escaped! My breathing labored and eyes not quite focused, I crawled exhausted for the bike path out of the park. Terrified in the darkness—still gasping and panting—I spotted a small red light among the dark shadows, making out what look like… Numbers?
Yes. 3. 0. 0.
I fell back against the sheets; stunned and totally spent, yet terribly relieved. I thought, Thank God I am home.