May 20th, Manhattan, NY:
“Watch it kid!” I yelled at the rude african american boy that bolted in front of me, making me stumble in my black stilettos. Central Park is always so alive at 9:00 in the morning. People with no personal boundaries crowded around me as I briskly walked to work. I would be much more lively this morning if it wasn’t for the fact that I’m late to my job at The New York Times. I was supposed to be there ten minutes ago and I still have a fifteen minute walk ahead of me. I never walk through Central Park in the morning, but it’s longer if you go around. I may not even make it there if more kids keep cutting me off. What a truly terrible morning. I was late getting on the Subway from Queens to Manhattan, so I was forced to stand. How awful.
My heels clicked fast as I sped up my stride in an attempt to get ahead of the crowd before leaving the park. My Chai Latte sloshed around in its metal to go cup while my leather case containing all my important work files bounced at my side with every step. My hand began to buzz as my phone started to vibrate. I groaned as I saw my assistant’s name flash across the screen.
“Hello.” I sighed out while giving a man in a suit a dirty look as he bumped into my side.
“Iris! Where are you!? Our investors are showing up for the 9:30 meeting and they are wondering why the assistant editor in chief isn’t here to greet them!” Sophia’s panicked tone made me roll my eyes. I hate when people critique me.
“Tell them I’ll be there soon.” I growl out through gritted teeth.
“But-” Before I waste my breath on her I hang up. I’ll have to talk to her about not questioning me with her negativity.
As I stalked through the park I began approaching the edge toward town. I heard the music of street performers and the alluring smell of roasted nuts from the vendors. I typically would stop to buy some, but I have to hustle if I want to make the 9:30 meeting where I will present the company's new ideas of modernizing the New York Times. Honks came from multiple taxis as I hurried across the intersection, barely making it to the other side in time before the light turned green and the tour buses sped along the road. Just a few more yards now and I’ll be to the front door of the office. Once I exited the revolving doors I sprinted as best I could in my shoes and business dress to the elevator. Squeezing into the small box, that held way more people than the maximum amount, the pristine doors closed and levitated upwards. After what felt like forever and a few stops on lower floors I made it to the 32nd.
Sophia was waiting for me at the doors where I murmured a few demands and gave her my chai to be reheated towards the end of my meeting.
I took a few deep breaths before pushing my shoulders back and entering one of the many conference rooms with a bright smile. I glanced at the clock on the wall to see 9:20. Just in time.
“So glad you could join us, Miss Stanton.”
“I apologize for not being present sooner. A little african american boy in the park was lost and I had to help him get to school. So sad that parents aren’t supportive of education these days.” I needed some type of excuse and that was the best I could think of. The story got a few sad smiles and head shakes. That little boy just excused my tardiness.
After addressing and saying my hellos to the top investors and editors of New York Times I began my presentation. As always I managed to stun them with the new ideas and made a deal to put these changes in the next edition.
After all the investors left to make arrangements with the bank and the editors left to send out announcements I escaped to my office.
I walked past all the other workers in their glass cubicles typing away at their desks and talking on the phone until I reached my door. I waved at Sophia as I pushed into my office and walked to my desk in a rush. With a heavy sigh I sat in my white chair. I stretched my neck from side to side and kicked off my heels as I turned in my chair and looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the city around me. I could never get tired of this view. The empire state building was towering over the other skyscrapers in the mid May morning. The clouds that rested above the buildings promised afternoon rain. I spun back around to my desk to get ready for the busy day ahead of me.
I saw Sophia got me my mail and a new chai latte from starbucks. I sipped my drink gratefully as I thumbed quickly through the papers. I stopped when I saw a letter from my hometown. Ten year high school reunion. With barely a pause I ripped up the announcement and threw it into the wastebin. It’s not like I’m ashamed of my life now and I would love to brag about it to my old classmates, but I have no desire to be around those fools. They were so mean in high school. Immature and oblivious to the real world. Albeit I am the only one that made it out of the small town in Oregon to pursue a popular career in the big city.
Without another thought about it I pushed aside my mail and focused on my work.
After a full day of signing papers and clearing ideas for next week’s edition I tugged on my coat, put my papers in my satchel and collected my phone and to go mug. The sun was just beginning to set and I knew I needed to make it home before all daylight was lost.
A few others were still working in their cubicles as I navigated past the other offices to the elevator. I waved goodbye to Sophia as the doors closed. I rubbed my neck which was sore from staring down at paper all day. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply until the doors opened and I walked out the front doors of the office. The streets were still wet and cold from the rain that had fallen earlier in the day. Steam emerged from sewer holes on the street and the taxis honked at the rebel bikers that cycled in the middle of the road. I smiled, much more relaxed now than this morning. I couldn’t resist the urge to buy some roasted nuts from the vendor as I walked past the stand for the second time today. The smell was too intoxicatingly delicious for me to pass up the honey glazed snack.
The subway was packed shoulder to shoulder as the afternoon rush of people shuffled on. Thankfully I was able to push my way to the seats before the others beat me to it. However, when I saw an elderly man standing beside me I stood and offered my seat which he graciously accepted. I may be just as pushy as most New Yorkers, but I still respect my elders. I noticed the man held a flower pot with a dug up rose in it. This struck my curiosity, but I’m not a person who purposely starts conversations with strangers so I let it pass. Once the Subway stopped in Queens I exited and walked a few blocks to my apartment. Assistant Editor at the New York Times pays well, but I would rather use the money I earn to buy clothes, go out to dinner, and travel around the world. As a result, my apartment is quite small compared to the ones around me.
Once inside my home I kicked off my shoes and began to prepare my microwave dinner. As I did so I listened to my voicemails. Scam, salesperson, scam, then one caught my full attention. It was from April, my best friend in highschool.
“So excited to see you again bestie!”
Her high pitched voice made me snarl in disgust. Those spoiled snobs don’t deserve my presence. They never actually did anything to me, but back talk and rumours are annoying, so why would I relive that? I’m definitely not going now.
I ate my dinner then went to bed. I need more sleep. I cannot miss my alarm anymore.
I couldn’t resist more roasted nuts, so I decided to walk through Central Park again. As I was getting my change from the short man by the stand I noticed arguing from behind me.
The same little boy that ran over me yesterday was bickering with a man who was red in the face with anger. The blonde man was tall and thin in his brown trench coat that was one size too big. I walked over curiously as I snacked on my glazed nuts. Once I got close enough to hear them my intrigue peaked.
“I’m sorry, but look it’s a different color, sir.” The small boy said to the man.
“Oh please, don’t be so stupid! Where is your mother?” The man shouted back causing more eyes to look their way.
“Right here.” The words flew out of my mouth before I could stop them.
The man stared at me with wide eyes. Clearly he expected the question to scare the boy and not get an answer. His surprised expression probably reflected my expression, but now I have to get myself out of this. I suppose I somewhat owe the boy since he saved my tardiness yesterday.
“Really?” Replied the man after looking me up and down. “Is that really...possible?” He said, referring to my skin color.
“Yes, it is and it’s not your business how that is possible, but I just went to get some tasty nuts from the vendor and did not realise my son had run off. He likes the flowers in the park, so I’m sure that you can find a little bit of imagination and compassion in your heart to walk away with your droopy investigator attire before I start giving you some of your own medicine in the form of public embarrassment.” I raised an eyebrow at him and stared long into his hazel eyes.
His face turned red again, but with humiliation instead of anger. A couple people stifled their laughs as they watched him rush away. Everyone returned to their own business and I walked over to the boy with a sigh.
“You can’t keep making people mad. I won’t be here every morning to pretend to be your mother.”
“I know, but I get excited and run around and then no one believes me.” The boy said with a sad smile.
“Believe you?” I tilted my head.
“Yeah!” The boy brightened with enthusiasm now. “This flower,” he pointed to a rose inside of the gate, “changes every day. The color of it. One day blue, the next red, then pink, then white. It changes every day then repeats. Sometimes there’s even two. One blue and one red. One yellow and one purple. My favorite is green, but that one’s rare.”
Oh this poor boy and his imagination. Well, he needs someone to believe him and I still feel I owe him somehow.
“Really? Well I have to go to work, but I will come back here tomorrow at the same time and we’ll look at the flower together. How’s that sound?”
His smile was too large for his face and I felt a tug in my heart.
“What’s your name? Mine is Miss Stanton.” I asked.
“William. William P. Walker.” He replied with the same bright smile.
He skipped away without another word and I watched him with a small grin.
I continued with my day and forgot about the boy as I plowed through my daily work load.
It wasn’t until my walk home until I thought about William again. I decided to walk through Central park for the second time. Sophia mixed up my papers today and I need a break from the city. As I got further into the park the sounds of cars and people were drowned out and replaced by crickets and bird chirps.
I walked past the place I met William and saw something catch my eye. A man with white hair was kneeling by the rose William had showed me. Once again my curiosity made me walk over to the man. Once closer I saw him remove the flower from the ground with a shovel.
“Wait! No! What are you doing!?” I yelled.
The man fliched and turned around, he wiped sweat off his brow as he stood and turned to face me.
“In Central Park the community is encouraged to make their mark on the environment.” He explained politely.
“You don’t know this, but a little boy comes by here everyday and looks at that flower. You have no right to take it out.” My words caught me by surprise. I typically would not care this much about a small boy. Maybe the news of my high school reunion has me vulnerable, but I refuse to let this man break William’s heart.
“You are the one he was speaking of today. Hold on let me finish my work and then maybe we can grab a slice of pizza.”
I opened my mouth to interrupt him again until I saw him fill the hole with a light green rose. It was a beautiful full flower and looked lovely with the bright grass.
After he was done patting it in and making it look as though the flower had been there for years he grabbed the pot that held the old rose and walked away. I followed him around the block to a small pizza place I had eaten at a few times before.
Once both of us had our pizza we sat at a booth and started to eat. In between bites he explained the story I was eager to hear.
“Will told me about you today. He speaks with me as much as he can which is almost every other day after school. He is young and doesn’t understand the world. He’s only ten years old ya know. His Dad skipped town 8 years ago and his mom works as a nurse at the hospital all day, so he’s alone lot. His mom doesn’t want to try and go through the troubles of getting child support, so it’s all on her. I found Will in the park about 7 months ago. He was being harassed by a group of white kids. They were calling him names and offending his race. I told them to get lost and tried to calm him down. He was crying. He told me everyone hated him because he was a different color. I told him I didn’t hate him. He wasn’t convinced. I asked him to look around and tell me what he saw. He pointed to a pink rose in the middle of the park. I told him to look wider than that. That rose was a different color than the others in the park and the park is the most beautiful thing in New York. He was slightly comforted now so I told him to come back the next day to the same spot. He did. I had planted a new rose in the same spot. A red one. I told him that the rose was the same thing. Same count of petals. Same stem. Same leaves and it was a different color. So people may be different colors, but they all are the same. Never think of someone hating you from your color. Because if they do. Well that’s like a purple rose hating a blue rose. Will was bright again and if he ever got bullied he never thought of being lesser than anyone. As you have probably figured out I am the one who has been changing the roses and making them look the same. Sometimes I’ll plant two flowers to show two colors can be beautiful together. He believes it and he always will.” The old man stared directly at me as he said the last sentence.
“Of course.” I said without hesitation.
“Will’s birthday is tomorrow so I planted his favorite color.”
The old man explained he owned a flower company and he lived in Brooklyn. His name was Jack Harris. We talked a bit more about our past before he walked me home even though I assured him he didn’t need to.
On the Subway we sat in a comfortable silence and we only talked once more when we said our goodnights. He walked down the dark street into the night that was lit by orange lamps. He turned the corner and that was the last time I saw Mr. Harris.
I woke with a smile and quickly did my morning tasks. I grabbed my Chai and left for Central Park. William was waiting for me there with a huge smile on his face.
“Look Miss Stanton! The flower! It’s my favorite color!”
I acted surprised for him even though I was very aware of the rose color change.
We talked a bit longer about his birthday and I shared my roasted nuts with him.
“William, you seem smart, I’m going to ask you a question.” I said as I finished off my bag of deliciousness.
“Okay, what is it?” He said as he turned to face me on the bench.
“I was invited to a party with all of my old school friends. I wasn’t going to go, but now I’m reconsidering.” I told him.
“How many friends?”
His question spiked my interest, but I replied.
“Oh wow! That’s so many different colored roses in one place. Oh imagine the colors of the petals!”
My heart ached for the boy and my decision was final. I was going to the reunion.
“Yes, so many different colors.”
8 months later:
“Go ahead Will.” I gave him a small nudge and he tightened his lips as he placed the roses by the headstone that had a white flower by it.
He came back to my side and stepped behind me.
“He’ll never be forgotten William.”
“At least the flowers still change even though he isn’t here to care for them.” He said with a heavy sigh.
“Yeah.” I replied with a small smirk as I brushed some dirt off of my hand and put my glove back on. We walked away from Jack Harris’ grave. I knew I would be back here tonight to plant the blue rose I had Sophia buy yesterday.