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Home DUCTS.ORG Issue 12 | Winter 2003 the webzine of personal stories
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Someone in the Park

Fiona Capuano

During my senior year at NYU, two guys and I decided to share our own place. We found a one-bedroom apartment across the street from school. I could wake up and stroll into my 8:00 AM class within five minutes.

The apartment was really old with thickly painted Van Gogh walls and a crooked hardwood floor, but it had these great big windows that you could push open and stick your head out to see Washington Square Park.

We had to decide who would share the bedroom and who would get the living room. Pete tended to stay up the latest; his motto being “Media is God.” He argued that technology and information advances humans towards superior Darwinism. So basically his computer, the stereo in the living room blasting Morrissey, and the TV, lined with Pete's Star Wars figurines, always remained on. Pete also didn't blink, which made me wonder if he was an alien and ultimately led to my decision to share a room with Dan.

Dan had just returned from a pensive year in the Himalayas, so he didn't talk much. We blocked Pete's noise with our combined quiet. The silence served to offset the awkward feeling of sleeping in the same room. We were minimalists in terms of décor. Fat melted candles covered makeshift tables and we hung faded Indian tapestries to separate my mattress from Dan's corner of the bedroom.

The kitchen and living room windows faced south. The kitchen had a large fridge, but Pete kept an additional mini fridge below his computer desk. On his better days, he lived off vodka and his mom's frozen cinnamon buns.

The coffee table was a slab of wood laid atop the cage of my rabbit Janis. When Janis lived with me in the dorms, she always seemed attracted to the heroin crowd or at least their taste in music. And if they were out, Janis would hop down the hall tracking the sound of wailing acoustic guitar and she'd stretch out in front of the guitarist, bopping her head like a groupie. We believed she was Janis Joplin reincarnated. Pete and Dan were not musicians so Janis didn't hang with them much. She just hopped around the apartment and ate carrots.


Our enclave offered little privacy but no one seemed to mind, at first. Then one day, while I was singing in the shower, Pete and Dan alternately knocked on the bathroom door to come in and piss. The shower curtain was transparent so I asked them not to come in and suggested they go watch TV until I was done. This was my only time alone and I cherished it. I consciously didn't interrupt their showers, but I also never wanted to see them naked. They had both asked me out within the first week of moving in together and even tried to put the other one down in hopes of impressing me. I rejected them both, nicely I think, by telling them I was into older men. I even started dating a guy who was ten years older. I didn't wonder why this older guy wanted to date me. I should have known something was weird when I first met him.

He was getting a vitamin infusion at the holistic center where I saw my first therapist. I was impressed that he could sit there so happy with a needle in his arm. He had such a warm, inviting smile and that's what I told my therapist, who confided in me that he was also her patient. Ethics out the door, the therapist set us up and he called me for a date. After he picked me up at my apartment and laughed at my tight living conditions, I stayed at his place some nights and we spent a few weekends visiting his parents in Connecticut. One weekend at his family's Stamford estate, I walked in on him giving a woman, who turned out to be his sister, a sensual foot massage. She was a few years older than me and I saw him try to make a move on her. She pushed him away when she saw me. Later that repulsive day he confirmed that he was in love with her. Then I came to realize that he only truly smiled when he was high on the vitamins. I studied psychology like a world map and this older guy was the classic middle child; neglected by his older athletic brother and ignored by his parents who were devoted to his precious younger sister. He showered his sister with twisted love hoping desperately to gain some parental affection or at least some acknowledgement of his own merits. He was conflicted because he hated his desires but gave in to them and his parents continued to ignore him. Then he developed Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a lifestyle one step above a depressed teenager. So I told our therapist, whom we both kept seeing, all my theories about his need for approval turning into love for his sister to gain some distorted attention in his family. But the therapist (whose real name I am slightly tempted to offer) didn't give me a commission for helping figure out his problems.


The summer before my senior year, my paternal grandfather passed away and my grandmother moved out of their sprawling Park Avenue apartment. She offered me the chance to live there until it was sold. I told Pete and Dan that I had to move out and get my own space, away from men in general.

I left behind the artistic soul of Greenwich Village and moved into a deluxe apartment with a balcony across the street from Bloomingdale's. When we were kids, my younger sister and I used to sleep over and we were allowed to eat spaghetti on TV trays while watching Channel J with the old Cable TV remote the size of a TV. At our own house in Brooklyn, dinner was a more formal affair so we looked forward to a slumber party in Manhattan. Since I was a young girl, I have always been keen on bathrooms and their symbol of solitude so I will never forget the hand-painted Japanese garden scenes in the porcelain sinks of both marble bathrooms. The kitchen was huge with two doorways but that whole year I lived there, I just used it once to make vegetable soup for my depraved (when not injected with vitamins) older boyfriend before I finally left him and my so-called-therapist.

During that year, a corporate building was put up right next-door, so my bedroom window now faced a structure full of fluorescent-lit conference rooms. Due to the businessmen peering, a heavy flow of realtor visits, and occasional dreams of my grandfather's ghost, this was not the sanctuary I was seeking. To feel more at home, I put up a few postcards of my favorite artists, lit some candles and played Bob Marley songs while focusing on an early graduation. When that came and went, so did the apartment.

Within weeks, I got a job, assisting in a clinical study at an insane asylum by interviewing patients on self-awareness and, with the help of my grandmother's profits from the sale of her apartment, my own home.

I quickly got used to living alone in this charming Pre-War with a coral red bathroom. I was so happy with the checkered tile floors and the huge bathtub, that I didn't even mind the lack of light.

The neighborhood did shock me a bit; with its countless plastic surgeon offices, the distinct odor of Chanel on young girls in heels with matching personalities, and couples wearing loafers pushing fully stocked baby carriages. A downtown girl, replanted in the Upper East Side, I stood out because I typically wore androgynous menswear to prevent sexual advances from my criminally insane patients. I didn't consider changing jobs until the day I got stuck in an elevator with fifteen schizophrenic patients. We were on our way down to the garden when the doors got stuck closed and the elevator was stopping at every floor. Everyone was yelling. The huge woman behind me, with violent tendencies, told someone they owed her five bucks immediately. They all shouted their conspiracy theories that the FBI or God or some evil underlord had caused the elevator to fly. The fidgeting bodies were so unlike the introversion on stalled subways. I imagined the sunny outdoors and tried to calm everyone with a soothing visualization of the garden. But then I remembered that their outdoors didn't include trees or grass. A chain-link fence surrounded their cement garden. Then the nurse blurted out what a bad omen it was to be stuck in the elevator, undoing my calm vibe. When the doors finally opened, I simply stepped out on the random floor we were on, said I would meet them there and I took the stairs all the way down. After that day's schizophrenic interviews were transcribed, I started looking for a new job in a less insane environment. I temped for a few weeks in healthcare administration before landing a permanent job assisting a brain surgeon at Beth Israel hospital near Gracie Mansion. The hospital was a short walk along the East River, past the park where fancy little dogs scoff at squirrels. ***

One Sunday afternoon in August, I decided to explore Central Park. I put on a black sports bra under a white T-shirt, wore my running shorts and black sneakers, and pulled my long hair into a ponytail. I headed for the reservoir, where I had run years before with my high school track team. After a few laps, I headed toward a sunny spot of grass to stretch. I wiped my face with my T-shirt and bent down to tie a lace, when I heard a man telling a story of this certain celebrity with his wife Rita, who acted self-congratulatory on some TV award show. This was nothing new, but I liked his voice and I kept listening while I did my stretches. As I lowered my forehead to my knee, the man's voice penetrated my sweaty body. I pulled my ponytail tight, smoothed out my T-shirt and inched closer for a peek, at the man, behind the voice.

I saw two guys wearing shorts sitting on the grass. The one with the voice had curly blonde hair and I love blondes, especially when they have deep voices. The blonde was describing the celebrity's phony wife's compassion for a revered handicapped person.


Normally I wouldn't talk to park people, as there are stalker types abound, but the adrenaline from running in the warm air and his pheromones compelled me to join their conversation- if only for the sensation of the moment.

I walked into their shade and said, “Excuse me, but I heard what you said and.”

“I hope I didn't offend you” Blondie intervened.

I told him I overheard his wit and they asked me politely to sit, they being the blonde and his friend who seemed a bit stiff.

When the subject of occupation arose, as it invariably does in this economy-paced city, the stiff briefly mentioned content in medical journals, so he really was a Stiffie. The blonde claimed to work in TV production. I told him that I like the concept of TV but I only take Comedy Central and cartoons seriously.

When asked what I did for my living, I told them I worked for a neurosurgeon by day, and was a Columbia writing student and poet by night. After I described some brain surgery miracles I'd witnessed, Blondie blurted that he couldn't believe that I was a poet.

“What kind of poems do you write? Who gets poems published?” he wondered.

“Surreal poetry. And I get published, but I really prefer to perform.” I informed him.

He nodded his head but asked me a question. “Who goes to surreal poetry readings? French men?”

“No turtleneck Frenchmen needed. The last reading I attended featured five Chinese-Italian women who didn't speak English but waved at flags, remorseful as the rain.”

He smiled. It felt good to be sitting in the sun talking to people in my neighborhood.

We chatted about the usual presumptuous topics such as the world's overpopulation and natural theories to avert it, religion and its unknown ill effects, and then we agreed to what a nice, sunny day it was.

Finally, Stiffie rose and blocked the sun. “I have to go now and walk a dog,”

Blondie explained quickly that he had to go too. Stiffie said, “No you don't.” Then Blondie said, “Yes, I am coming to meet your parents too.”

Then Stiffie said, “My parents just got into town with their dog” or some such mumbled excuse.

I felt a bit self-conscious, as if my interrupting their park sojourn had driven them away. Blondie looked at me and extended his hand. We shook before he stood to go. He said, “By the way, my name is Dave. What's your name?”

I held his hand and said, “I am Fiona.” He repeated my name ‘Fiona' and turned away. I sat on the grass a few more minutes absorbing the fact that I mingled in Central Park. Suddenly I really wanted a shower. My thighs felt tight as I walked east. A foreign embassy later, and Blondie was walking towards me, without a dog. He said, “Hey” and smiled. I said “Hey” and we kept walking. I turned and looked back and saw him looking back at me, then he disappeared into the park.


A week later, I was checking my mail and saw a letter from Dave Goldberg, Blondie from the park. He didn't write like a stalker when he explained his tracking method. His letter told me how he searched through the student locator in the Columbia University website and looked for all the girls named Fiona. After he found a few Fionas in the Writing Dept, he saw only two listed as part-time students. He cross-referenced both with the phone book and checked the addresses. He saw that I lived near Central Park and hoping I was the right girl, he offered his phone number.

I called and left a message.

“Hi Dave, it's Fiona, from the park. I guess you're a Jew… but that's cool. Cuz so am I. Well, happy Jewish holidays coming up. Call me back. Bye.”

He called me back and told me what happened after they both left the park. His friend Rob, the Stiffie, berated him for not getting my phone number and forced him to walk back. Blondie began walking then sat on a stoop to rethink his motives. He pulled out his cell phone and called Rob for support.

“Hi, it's me. I was just thinking, maybe I am not interested.”

Rob said, “Dave, you always say your love life sucks and now you just let this cute girl walk away?”

“You think she's cute? Was she too cute?”

“Go find her and talk to her for a few minutes!”

Well, she did have nice, clean nails.”

After Rob hung up on him, Dave started practicing opening lines in case he saw me, including ‘A funny thing happened on my way to a surreal poetry reading.”

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