By Sadaf Ayaz
In the heart of Midtown where work meets leisure, hundreds saunter into Bryant Park. Naked trees loom ahead with branches entangled into one another, fencing the park and the memories within it. In a place in the city where elaborate buildings made of glass, bricks, stone, and metal scrape through the sky and fill every avenue, nature makes its own fashion statement of classic, fabulous, light brown simplicity, nestling itself comfortably within the muted color palette of the city.
New Yorkers and tourists alike come alone, in pairs, and groups. Some are dressed in professional attire with a pretzel in one hand, a briefcase in the other, and a friend by their side. Others are clothed in jeans and sneakers with baseball caps, hats, and sunglasses. Their eyes on the new food vendors and ice rink installed for the season.
Today it’s a summer-esque winter wonderland and New York is quite confused. Half the crowd walks in layers of sweaters, jackets, and scarves, while the other half has jumped right in with short sleeves, skirts, and shorts.
They walk by each other making awkward eye contact with brief smiles, or they sit side-by-side on identical green chairs that had been empty the week before. Somehow, the chairs full of people have assembled into an orbit around the ice skating rink. Unwilling to settle, others carry chairs from various corners of the park to join the crowd in watching the ice skaters swift through their own orbits–swaying in rhythm to the music. It’s long past Christmas yet songs from the holiday still sneak their way into the playlist. No one seems to mind though instead, there are people nodding and singing along lost in memories of their own.
A man possibly in his late-twenties pauses near the food vendors. He takes off his Ray-Bans and slides on a chair. As he relaxes, his face tilts slowly from left to right. Searching. Before he can complete his scan of the distant galaxy, two toddlers with bouncy blonde curls skip across hand in hand. They forcefully push their way through the legs of the adults. The man smiles then lets his eyes wander.
The crowd before him sits entranced by the stage of the rink. Their eyes shift between ice skater to ice skater through their conversations and bites of lunch or sips of coffee. Now and then someone will laugh out loud and a few necks will spin in the direction of the sudden disturbance. Even in the middle of the park, New Yorkers remain New Yorkers.
In the park, the city’s voice comes out in barely a whisper. The honking and screeching of cars, the music, the murmur of the crowds all become a blur as each park-goer focuses in on the sounds of their choice.
Stepping back, it’s all mess. The ice rink doesn’t belong, the food vendors don’t either. The confused clothing choices of the crowd would confuse any foreigner.
There is no serenity in Bryant Park, but this is NYC–the City of Lights, the City that Never Sleeps, the Capital of the World with the busiest streets and people. If the park of the Great City doesn’t bustle like it’s own little metropolis, was it really a park in NYC?