Severed Strings

October 11, 2007
This is the moment right before the car crashes:

Bright blue yo-yo catches a glimpse of the sunlight as the gray SUV with the white stripes across the sides makes its way through the city. The roof of the car is much too low for the continuous up and down motion of the Duncan light-up yo-yo, the best present they have ever received. And once the vehicle stops, they will have the depths of the oceans and the height of the sky to amuse themselves with the new toys.

Towering skyscrapers of glass and metal saunter by, waving their star-spangled banners in the face of the young, enchanting them with their sunbeam smiles. The girl sitting in the car is amazed by the decadence of its citizens, waiting on the crosswalk, cell phones to their heads and designer clothes clinging to their perfect frames.

The boy sitting next to his starry-eyed sister is leaning back in the gray seat, his mouth forming adoring words as he speaks to his father about the latest baseball game. Father and son, share the love for the Yankees, identical baseball hats cover their similarly colored heads. The boy smiles as his father laughs at one of the jokes that he saw on Seinfeld, a show his father is quite fond of but hasn’t watched in years. The children love it when something makes their beloved father smile and laugh, that booming, cheerful, generally infectious laugh.

The smiles reflected in the glass seem to topple even the harsh prudent face of the mother, who tumbles headlong into the pool of joviality the car has become.

They have taken a bite of the Big Apple and have found no worms.

The silver train, gratefully devoid of pretentious graffiti, shoots through the city, back to the place where the family parked the car. Inside, the father graciously gives up his seat enabling the mother to sit down and grumble about how her feet hurt. Her strong hands are curled around the handles of at least eight shopping bags, all full of precious clothes. The boy is standing and testing out the yo-yo with glee. The father watches with pride as his son masters the basic trick he was introduced to at Fordham Road.

On the subway, the occupants are standing right outside the proverbial “box” looking in or rather, sitting around, and waiting for their stop to be called out by the conductor. A woman with her two children, a baby boy and another boy who looks to be around eight or ten years old is sitting beside the girl and her mother. The brown haired and tanned mother of such young children is staring out the window, her sad, tired eyes reflecting the setting sun. The curious little girl cannot begin to understand why this woman looks so utterly miserable when she lives in this wonderful city. But she will. In time. Suddenly, the eldest son walks over to the sad-eyed doe and rests his head on her shoulder. This act of compassion and understanding is what the mother needs to smile. She does so and wraps her arms around the dark-haired boy, stroking his head as he sits down in between the stroller carrying the infant. The girl, ever so observant, grins and turns away from the touching scene. In the seat across from her, a young artist reclines, his sketchbook and bag of utensils occupying the seat next to him. The black clothes he wears and the black sunglasses covering his eyes intensify his dark skin. Girl wonders what he paints about.

Next to the artist sits a woman wearing mismatched clothing, her head aflame with rainbow colored hair. As her mother wrinkles her nose at the hippie lady’s slovenly appearance, the little girl is intrigued by the medium blue and lime green scarf tied around the nymph’s neck clashing horribly with the shades of periwinkle and forest green in her hair. Intrigued by the mismatched shoes on her feet, left one a yellow hightop while the other is blue. Intrigued by her placid demeanor and thousands of “Save the Whales and “Free-Tibet” bags and purses stashed under the woman’s chair, possibly containing parts of another potentially eye-catching outfit. Intrigued by the sun and moon earrings dangling from each ear. How pretty, the tiny girl looking through the lens whispers under her breath, with a smile on her face.

The disillusioned child glances down at her normal blue jeans and light pink shirt and the matching shoes, covering her feet. In order to make a comparison, she looks back at the engaging woman, who smiles at her. All cheerfulness aside, the girl becomes infected with the green-eyed fairy, withdraws her discouraged gaze from the unchained spirit and turns her dark eyes towards the window.

Outside, the sun is setting. The haze, a remnant of many years of pollution, bestows the New York City skyline with an unnaturally beautiful tint. A mixture of red yellows and blue greens all combine together to form something never seen before. It is different, like most of the people in this city. With a sigh, the girl rests her head on her mother’s shoulder. The mother smiles dizzily and places her hand in the girl’s long, black hair, curled by Mother Nature, damaged by her sun. They both can’t help but be surprised.

The father looks over at his family. His wife and daughter falling headlong into a sleeping state, together, and his son, staring at his yo-yo in admiration. His mouth twitching at the sides, he looks over at his daughter once more. She is clutching the wad of blue plastic by the string. Her eyes are closed and her face relaxed but her fist clutches that yo-yo with ferocity.

Inside, each of them is wishing that this visit, that this ride could last forever. That it would stay on an endless track to nowhere. Painless, yet guaranteed. Forever imprisoned in time and Kodak paper forever. Sadly, no one knows that time fades and paper burns.

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