In the park today, the pigeons arrive like Kamikaze pilots, swooping low.


 


In the park today, the pigeons arrive like Kamikaze pilots, swooping low.

The man beside me pays them no mind.

He just keeps eating his Asian noodles, then stops and peels off his shirt in the warm sun. His torso glows like stained glass, honey-colored, the Chinese characters tattooed on it resembling the lead that holds those glass-pieces in place.

He makes a sight anyone would like to stare at, if agreeing NOT to stare weren’t at the heart of the etiquette at any park.

So instead I let my gaze wander widely:

To the bench where a big man in his 70s with an oiled pompadour sits beside a tiny old woman and talks loudly to the stranger on his right:

“Oh, ya, there was two of 'em! Came here in 1919 as kids 10 and 11!” he bellows.

As the stranger listens, munching on her sandwich, it comes to me that the man is referring to this old one beside him, a lady nearly 100 if you stop to do the math, kerchiefed and toothless and wearing enough layers for a day in early March.

My gaze wanders next to two people lounging and smoking cigarettes on the grass, and I am freshly amazed by the way smokers don’t seem to need a companion, a sunny day or even a view, but are happy just to commune with the hot little sticks they so venerate.

I look across the grass and up the hill then, for it was on this hill that I spent my lunch hours once young and freed from college for the summer and working at the snoozy little job that let me make many trips through this park.

I bought cool scoops of ice cream after lunch. I bought for steaming cups of coffee in the still-cool mornings when the pigeons really patrol, “arms” clasped behind them, policing the situation underfoot like so many hall monitors. I fell in love that summer with a boy with veiny forearms, and these many years later, I don’t have to wonder if he has them still.  

It is in the midst of this reverie that I notice the man across from me, who is also looking around.

So I guess that means we have both noted the policeman on the big horse who stops so the tiny girl can gaze up and touch the animal.

I guess it means we have both seen the smokers, and the stained-glass man and this small boy here, stopping to pat a beagle on a leash.

When I rise to go finally, a male teen hurries past me, yelling into his cell phone about a girl and using all the bad-word nouns you can think of, paired with that famous bad-word participle, which he shouts repeatedly.

A 30-something male following him catches my eye, opens his arms wide and with a wink says, “Ain't love grand?” – which makes me laugh out loud as I am stepping into the tide of walkers myself.

But then I stop, realizing there is one more thing I need to do … but what?

Not look once more at two smokers, or a tattooed man, or even a grassy hillside.

It comes to me at last, and I raise my hand in salute to that other watcher on a bench and he raises his hand in return. We exchange a conspirator’s smile, and I move off among the pigeons.  
 
Write Terry at tmarotta@comcast.net or c/o Ravenscroft Press P.O. Box 270, Winchester, MA 01890. To see pictures of this place and this day, visit her blog by Googling “Exit Only” and the phrase “Wednesday at the Park.”