There is the din of fireworks from the town display next door at the park.
To me they sound like giant footsteps on this slow death march.
I miss flossing and brushing our teeth next to one another…the way your mouth opened uncomfortably as you flossed your back teeth. Even then, your expression was charming to me.
There is so much to say and so much impossible to say and I don’t think people are generally chatty on their march to death. Boom. Boom. Boom…go the fireworks next door.
Yesterday before my appointment with the counselor, I walk to our favorite spot in Central Park- the poets walk where the American Elms form a graceful arch over a wide pathway with benches on either side. Tears fall as I head down the long cobblestone winding path there- past sketch artists, tourists in shorts (fyi: not many New Yorkers wear shorts), and horses tied up to carriages with sadness in their large pooling eyes. As I near the pathway, a band in the distance is playing “When I Fall in Love…it will be forever.” There near the dairy which is next to a big field where I once sat on a rock at an end of the year class picnic as a 7th grade teacher of English at a private school on the upper east side. This was another life entirely.
I walk down the path remembering. “We can cut through the park,” you’d said after we attended an evening church service together- maybe our third time meeting in July of 1999. I was wearing a purple shirt dress, black sandals, and matching purple mascara which was funky for me but you said looked great. When we arrived at those arches, they were also purple- lit up by the setting sun behind them. We stood in awe together. And I think that’s when we knew something was happening between us. A photo of the archway would be on the front of our wedding invitation almost exactly five years later. It was the last special place we’d go as a couple before we had Audrey, and the only place we ever got to take her to the city together when she was almost one year old. You walked up and down the path with her in the stroller trying to get her to nap. A poet named Willie the Poet came by while I sat on the bench alone and offered me his poetry- he’s also known, according to his flyer, as “the poet of new york city.” The funny thing about that was, when we’d first started dating, this same Willie the poet- about ten years earlier- had given us a copy of his poems on the subway. I still had it in a box of special memories. (someone he made it in there). So I told him that- “You know it’s funny…i remember you…” Willie the Poet- like a returning character in the Shakespearean play of our lives. And this is why I’m always drawn to nonfiction over fiction. This stuff isn’t made up.
I cross the street dodging cyclists and think I recognize a homeless man sitting near the entrance. I’m sure I’ve seen him for years. Then I think about how even though I’ve been saying how fragile we are – it’s also kind of hard to die. I think of all the people who live much more recklessly or unhealthily than you did and are still…alive.
As I near the benches yesterday, I want to tell the Chinese man sitting beside his sketches, in vest, black cap, glasses, and sandals with socks, “I came because my husband drowned.” But I don’t.
I sit and pick up two rocks from the ground behind the bench. I will place them on your headstone from Audrey and I on Wednesday- this was part of my goal in walking here.
“I just feel like we’re going the wrong way,” a tall tourist in white says to her fellow walkers, “What are you looking for?” I ask after them. “The boathouse?” I direct her and remember a conversation from just a little over a year ago, when I was making up my fun “summer list” of things we’d do as a family. “I want to take Audrey to Central Park and rent a boat or those little boats for her to sail,”
“Sure, sounds like fun,” you answered.
On the left of me, down by the entrance a band composed of drummer, bassist, guitar, and sax are playing the melancholic “You are My Sunshine,” while a little further down to the right, a group of Mexicans with a fat guitar shaker and flute, are also playing loudly. They clash.
I decide to call the monument company to see if the headstone will be there by Wednesday for the service. I hate making phone calls in general, (you would always laugh at how I’d always opt for email) but especially this one.
“Yes, I just wanted to check on the status of the stone I ordered. It’s for Daniel Cho.”
She asks me when I placed it and then tells me it’s not ready and the quarries will be closed for two weeks. I hadn’t realized there were real quarries involved. I start to tell her I had planned a service for an unveiling on Wednesday and have people coming, and she tells me to hold on. While I’m on hold, I calm myself and decide, so what- if the stone’s not there- it’s not really about the stone.
But then she gets back on and says, “It’s already here- they knew about the service Wednesday. It’ll be there.”
I feel simultaneous relief and horror.
And she closes with,
“So don’t worry…everything’s going your way.”
The fireworks are over now. It is the first of July, 2011.