Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Neetu Malik writes

A Piece of Mind

I walk slowly through Cromwell Park. I knew it well when I was a student in this beautiful town where bridges connect diverse neighborhoods: Italian, Greek, Asian, and Irish. My daughter tells me it hasn’t changed much from the description I had given her of it before she moved here. She recently started working at the university close by. I am here to visit her for a few days.

I remember the fountains along the path. They’re still the same. I inhale the familiar scent of roses and follow it. It takes me to the section where I used to sit on the bench and breathe in the heavenly fragrance of exotic and native roses. Ah, the bench is there! There’s a lady sitting on it, and she smiles as I approach. “Mind if I sit beside you?” I ask. “Not at all, my dear,” she replies.

We don’t converse. Somehow, the silence communicates a shared peace. For the past few months, I have little inclination to chat with people. Mostly, I prefer solitude. I am aware that I have changed. So are others who know me. I catch them refraining from remarking on the alteration.

I think it was a few days ago that my daughter Elisa and I were shopping at a farmer’s market when we ran into a woman I couldn’t place at all. I saw her come smiling towards us, and quickly, I looked away, embarrassed. Elisa saw her too and immediately beamed at her and gave her a big hug.

“It’s so great to see you, Dotty! You look amazing!” Elisa said.

I managed a smile too, but felt hot in my face. Dotty thanked me for the herbs I had gifted her in the spring and all I could say was, “You’re welcome.” I couldn’t remember Dotty or the herbs.

I could see Elisa covering up for me by being gregarious and asking Dotty about her job, Rob and Chelsea, who I presumed were her children. I was blank. None of the names were familiar, and the sinking feeling that they ought to be made me dizzy. I barely managed to say “Bye, nice to see you, Dotty,” as she walked away, after giving us each a hug.

Elisa looked at me as if she wanted to say something, to explain something, but she just gave me a sad smile and said, “Come on, Mom, let’s get some strawberries from that stand over there.”

Today, I just want to smell the roses like I used to in my younger days. At least, I am connected to them. It’s serene here and I’m in no rush to be anywhere.

Tonight, I will write it all in my journal: the date, the time, the place; and tomorrow, if someone asks me about my day, at least I can look it up in case I forget.

Ah, there goes my cell phone. Elisa says she’s been waiting for me at the gate for twenty minutes. We were supposed to go have tea at Colburn Café at 4. My heart pounds as I look at the time. It’s twenty past 4. I panic. I don’t know where the café is! I rise from the bench and look for the gate.

Where was it? Which path had I taken to come here?

My head spins as I look in all directions. The kind lady still seated on the bench tells me the way. Thank goodness, she’s there. Walking up the path to the gate, I see my Elisa, the one who picks up pieces of me that keep falling.

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