The park was there as it was always there. The park on the hill with the train running up and down its side. The park where I sat a thousand lifetimes away. The park where I tried to remember the details of every single one. The park where I was supposed to learn something. The park where I could see the city and the city did not see me.
I walked there, my heart limping along with me. I couldn’t help going. I tried to resist. I thought I should discover some place new. I knew I should. I knew that would have been better, somehow. I knew that I could if I tried. I knew that I didn’t have to spend so much time revisiting.
Revisiting and revisiting and revisiting. Had I even really left this place? Perhaps I had just stepped into a different world. Into one where everything looked the same, but everything was different.
I touched my face. I looked at myself in windows. I looked the same. I was me, as I always had been. I was still myself. I had the same features. My skin was the same color. My hair was the same color. I did not look any different.
Except in the eyes, perhaps. The eyes are always where the difference lies. Where we search for the difference. Where we look to get a sense of what is going on inside them. The eyes are windows, or portals, or something. The differences are not hard to see if we look. How often does anyone bother to look? How often do we bother to see the truth of someone else’s self?
Perhaps it was more often than I thought. Perhaps everything I thought was wrong. Perhaps everything I thought about myself was wrong. Perhaps I was not myself at all. Perhaps I was not the self I thought I was. Perhaps I was someone else entirely.
The chance to be someone else was there. It is always there. You only have to grasp at it. You only have to reach. You only have to decide that in the next moment, things would be different. That is all.
So much time spent lamenting. So much time avoiding the fact that the future was happening every day. That every day was the tomorrow I dreamt of. Every day had the possibility of being the tomorrow I dreamt of.
The sidewalk had the same cracks. I didn’t know them well. I didn’t know them. I stood at the base of the hill. The staircase was there. Concrete, still. It had not crumbled yet. Whole eternities had passed, but it looked the same. How that could be, I didn’t understand. Rain should have eroded it all by now. If not rain, then someone’s intrepid desire for destruction and rebuilding.
I was surprised that it hadn’t happened yet. That someone had not yet decided that this small hill, this remnant of a time long past that lived only in photographs and books, that this small hill would not be better used as the foundation for a building. That more concrete and steel and glass had not been laid.
Something was changing in this city. I knew something was changing. I could feel more color seeping in. Seeping back. Returning. It was returning. Life.
I turned away from the steps to the familiar bench. I walked away from the brightly-colored train. I headed in another direction. I stayed on the sidewalk. My feet did not move swiftly. Each step took effort. The incline was not extreme. Just enough to be challenging. I thanked the texture of the concrete for holding onto the soles of my shoes. Who knows how far I might have slipped. I would have slid off the hill entirely.
There was something else to look for. I kept walking west. Uphill and uphill and uphill.
And there it was. Another place. Another set of stairs to climb. A thin stream had been built into it. To ornament it, perhaps. To bring a bit of nature in. I had been there before. Of course. This place was familiar.
How strange it was to know that so much of this city was familiar. How unexpected it was to know that we had found so much of it together. I knew what was at the top of the staircase. I knew that a fountain sat there. That it opened up onto another street. That it served as the courtyard for more of the dwellers of those tall buildings, for those who worked in those tall towers.
What was there left to see? I would just see the same things over and over again.
Could I love this place again? Could there be love here? Could there be anything other than repetitive memory? The old memories would always remain there. Everything would be built on top of it.
Built atop love. Built atop the memory of Eve. Built atop the wonder that we felt together.
And then, Mel. Who provided a place in which to heal. Who cared for me. How could I accept all that she was giving? What was I doing here, in this city filled with memories?
People in suits walked by. Did they think of me? Did they wonder what I was doing there? Did they think me strange? Did they find it unusual that I was there, staring up at this staircase, face blank?
Always thinking of what other people thought. If not Eve, or Mel, then strangers. What did it matter?
The sun’s light had begun to fade. I walked to the top of the steps. Eve and I had not spent as much time here. I faced south. In my peripheral vision, the sun made its way through the western sky. I didn’t understand what I was sitting there for. I didn’t understand what I was trying to see.
So much not-understanding. So much not-knowing. So much wondering and so little wonder, now. It exhausted me. I did not want this city to do that to me. I did not want to feel this way about it. Somehow, I had to tear myself away from this.