Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Park of Perhaps, Maybes, and I Love You

Past the red brick and mortar and Clorox disinfectant, I slink my way along the street. Short, staccato sounds of whut-whut-whut hovers above me. The large mechanical bird with its whirling wings on top its head lands upon the building roof, the band of letters reading “Life Flight” disappearing among the eaves. Not good. Never a good sign to see that bird take off and perch there, the people inside the belly prepping the person on the stretcher with oxygen, blood, and tourniquets.

I near the back of the red brick and mortar. Women and men dressed in blue and green scrubs send puffs of smoke twirling into the air. They obviously heard the whirling blades of the helicopter. But they take their time enjoying cigarettes.

Perhaps the patient isn’t as bad off as I believe. Perhaps nobody needed serious medical attention. Perhaps they were dropping off a patient at another hospital for extended care.

I continue on my way toward an oval stretch of green. “No Dogs Allowed” signs greet me, along with a special water fountain designed to quench the thirst of both human and canine companions, defeating the purpose of the sign’s warning. Trees reach up high. Benches line the circular path. People are jogging about, lounge on towels stretched upon the grass, lean back on benches with faces lifted to catch the pleasant breeze.

I find a comfy place on the bench and relax. My fingers pull out a book as I set it in my lap. Yet the pages lay undisturbed. I study the parked cars on the other side, the woman in uniform going to each, checking the meters, and occasionally slipping a paper onto the windshield of a vehicle. A shout erupts from the other side of the park. A woman in scrubs rushes over, hands digging furiously inside her purse. The two women begin talking.

Maybe the meter maid will rip up the ticket considering this is a hospital worker. Maybe the vehicle next to the ticketed one really belonged to the woman in scrubs, and she was holding up the meter maid to buy herself some time to reach the expired meter before she herself received a ticket. Maybe they will work something out.

Their brief talk ends, neither face happy. A slip of paper rests in the hospital worker’s hands. Along the street, a different person asks the meter maid about things. The meter maid gives this person an earful about how nobody deserves special privileges no matter who they are.

The breeze playfully flips open the book cover. My eyes swoop down, skimming over the black lines and amusing anecdotes. People come and go. A few sit on the same bench, inquiring if it’s all right if they smoke. I nod and continue reading. A man walks by.

His face seems familiar, like one of those people you might run into along the street and just give a hurried hello in case they smile your way in greeting. He sits on the bench and I close the book as we engage in conversation.

He asks about the book. I ask about his piano music. We share meatloaf recipes. Then he asks more personal questions.

Are you married?
Do you have a boyfriend?
Are you seeing anyone?

I answer truthfully, although warily, as he lifts from the bench. He comments that he would invite me back to his place for a few drinks if I wasn’t going to be busy later. Before walking away with a smile and a handshake, he says, “I love you.”

Inside, I wince. The last time I was at the park after just meeting a guy who said those exact same words, I had later found his boxer shorts as a parting gift in a laptop bag.

I slip the book into my canvas bag before raising one hand and slapping myself. From a pocket, I remove a tissue to clean the bug carcass off fingers and furiously wipe whatever buggy remains rest on my skin. I walk from the bench and past the brick and mortar and Clorox disinfectant, vowing to return to the park on another day.

All images were taken from here. First image is of West Penn Hospital. Second image is of Friendship Park.


  1. Although perhaps not exactly what you craved at the moment, being told "I love you" is usually better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick :-)

    You're a people watcher, much as I am. Where I'm now employed, there isn't much opportunity for that sort of thing. Our business is fronted by a busy street, very few pedestrians. In much earlier years, I used to love to sit on a park bench on Boston Common and feed a few birds while watching life stroll by.

  2. Great description, Michelle. So many details, so many interesting scenes described. This is truly good writing.

  3. Fantastic the way you paint a picture of the happenings around you.


    What is it with these guys your meeting?

  4. Urban Cowboy: I don't know what is with these guys. I blame it on the water. I don't drink city water, and I'm kinda glad I don't.

  5. Inquisitive ... so how did you know to ask "...about his piano music"?

  6. Daryl: He mentioned offhandedly that he wrote music rather than liked to read. I simply asked more about it and found out he played the piano.

  7. I echo Eric's comment, very vivid writing. People make excellent subjects sometimes.

  8. Great writing! There are strange people in the park. Be careful!

  9. I'm cracking up over Jim's remark!!! Too funny...You are a magnet for people, dear are so kind and compassionate that everyone loves you...but definitely some should be AVOIDED like the plague...LOL...disinfectant, anyone? LOL...

    You write incredible description...and draw me right into the moment...You have all the qualities of a truly GREAT literary mind...I love your writing. Love, Janine XO

  10. Not much walking to be done in these parts... unless it's from the parking lot.
    That may be the only drawback to life in a rural area.
    The helicopters here are more of a whump-whump-whump and they're usually either the cops or the forest service.

  11. IT: I lived in a rural area as a kid. I remember the whump-whump-whump of those police helicopters skimming low looking for illegal drugs grown in the area. Then a day came when they actually found something. But that's another story...

  12. Always such a pleasure, Michelle. As Suldog points out, you're a people-watcher by nature, but you also have the knack of catching the people as they shimmer in the light AND the irony or comedy or tragedy - whatever emotion is involved. It's that second part, in my humble opinion, that makes you such an intriguing writer, unexpected and fresh and simply a delight to read.
    Love, love!

  13. Friendship Park? What a great name...was that really where you were sitting on a bench? If so, no wonder you got chatted up! :)

  14. Jinksy: Yes, the actual park is call Friendship Park right behind West Penn Hospital. The small borough where the park is located is called Friendship.

  15. you do encounter some interesting folks, don't you? "i love you" sure beats the crazy neighbors saying "i hate you" though. i am sincerely praying that whole situation is very quickly cleared up to your benefit.


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