My Angel of Washington Square Park
By Patricia Crisafulli
Time has a funny way of putting things in perspective. Like the current of a river that pushes the debris downstream, breaking it up and breaking it down in the process, the passage of a couple of decades takes away the edge, but leaves behind the lesson. And so it is in that context that I recall a hot July day, exactly half my life ago, when I thought everything was over. Bereft over the loss of my boyfriend, who had decided to leave me after all and return to Europe (and a girlfriend who turned out not to be an “ex” as he had portrayed), and the death of my mother a month before, I sat in Washington Square Park at mid-day and cried.
Not caring who saw me, for in its crush and bustle New York offers anonymity as if one is completely alone, I sat on a park bench and grieved. No matter than I was only twentysomething, I was just past the mid-point of that decade and suddenly felt very old and beyond hope. I had loved and lost, and never expected a second chance in romance. I cried for all the broken promises and lost dreams that had been created back in the days when I played with dolls and the highlight of any rainy Saturday was planning Barbie’s wedding to Ken. It was over for me, or so I believed.
Now Washington Square Park, as the official gateway to Greenwich Village, attracts a motley cast, from nannies with perambulators to old men who play chess and shadowy characters who hover at the edges with nefarious intentions. Caught up in my sniveling on the very bench where my departing boyfriend had met me about 15 minutes before to say a last good-bye, I ignored them all. I wallowed in the sea of my misery and had no intention of pulling myself out. Then someone waded in.
“Hey, you, girlie.”
It took a moment for me to realize those words, repeated a second time, were directed to me.
“What’s wrong with you?”
Where could I begin? Clearly, I wasn’t pretty, smart, sexy, accomplished, and confident enough to keep my boyfriend from leaving me. (The fact that he was, essentially, a two-timer on an eight-month assignment in the U.S. with his European employer had not factored into my self-loathing logic.)
“Why are you crying like that? Somebody hurt you?”
Since my interrogator wouldn’t leave, I swiveled around. There, in a two-inch-long skirt, a spangled halter top, and high heeled shoes, was a woman who clearly didn’t walk around the park for exercise.
“I broke up with my boyfriend,” I sobbed.
“Oh, is THAT all.” She scoffed at me and repeated my tender tale of woe to the woman behind her, whom I hadn’t seen at first, the one wearing skinny jeans that looked like she’d painted them on. “She’s crying like that over some guy.”
The second woman laughed rather cruelly, as if I were nothing but a foolish girl who knew nothing about the world and wasn’t worth bothering with--especially since talking to me wasn’t helping commerce any. But the first woman lingered and leaned over the back of the park bench, close enough that I could smell the cigarette she had just stomped out on the sidewalk. “Listen, girlie, no man is worth crying over like that. Nobody is.”
I wish I could say I thanked her for her wisdom, for taking the time to speak with me when everyone else passed me by. Instead, I slumped on the bench and said nothing as she kept walking. But I never forgot her words or her kindness.
My age has doubled since then, and my life has changed dramatically. This morning as I write, I look out my window on a garden that is my private sanctuary. Upstairs, my college-age son is in the shower and will soon want a late breakfast that doubles as lunch. I’ve had plenty of ups and downs, but have moved beyond that sad 26-year-old who’d had her heart broken.
And what of that wise woman who took the time to speak to a sobbing silly girlie who didn’t know a thing about life. Is she in a place of her own these days, with a family and someone who loves her? Is she well? Is she even alive?
Wherever you are, thank you. You’ll always be my angel of Washington Square Park.
Tricia...I love this. You know me, I love the lessons you are able to take with you over the years (even though at the time you can't see the wisdom there). These types of 'random' events are the ones that help shape and mold us to be who we are. What's really wonderful it's 'that kind of' person God speaks through most often, and if we choose not to judge...Voila! - one of his greatest gifts, a moment with him, a lesson in wisdom and 'hearing' and it only took a moment to give you a gift for a life time. Hugs and love Kellie
Posted on Sunday, September 09, 2012 at 6:08:55 AM
FaithHopeandFiction is my creative home and my labor of love. I have written stories all my life. As a child, I told myself stories for entertainment, to pass the time, and for comfort. Stories were my way of interpreting and understanding the world around me and to discover the deeper meaning and lessons hidden in even the most ordinary circumstances and relationships.
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