Sunday, 12 January 2014

Park Life

It had started five days ago. Greg had seen a beautiful woman doing Tai Chi in Central Park - he'd left his office half an hour early for lunch and gone his usual route to the sandwich shop, then back through the park.

She was alone, her whole world enclosed in headphones and she smoothly moved through a collection of moves. Every now and then a smile flickered across her face. Too soon the path he was walking along curved away from her and he reluctantly turned away and carried on with his life.

The next day, he happened to finish his work and glance at the clock to discover it was half an hour early for his usual lunch break. Justifying it on the grounds that he had nothing else to do, he went to the sandwich shop. Soon he was walking through the park and he just happened to glance over. She was there again. Her clothing was the same as the previous day in style, but she had exchanged her neon pink top for a blue version. Taking more notes this time, he observed her blonde hair was scraped back in a pony tail. She was wearing no jewellery and her skin was slightly too pale to be called tanned.

She was wholly absorbed in her activity however, so he never even considered approaching her, he simply walked on and returned to his office with a smile on his face.

On the third day, he left for lunch twenty minutes early and reached her place in the park later than previously. He was looking out for her now and the second he saw her he realised she was being approached by another woman. This woman touched her on the shoulder, and the two briefly conferred. Then she took her headphones out of her ears and stretched while the other laid out her mat. Once both women were set up, she handed over her MP3 player to the newcomer who plugged it into a portable speaker. The second the contact hit, he saw the shock in the newcomer's posture, but she placed the speaker and player on the ground and the two women restarted the session.

As Greg neared, he diverted onto another path that took him nearer to the two, feeling bolder now that someone else had disrupted her isolation. Soon he could hear the music and he suddenly understood the newcomer's shock. He was close enough the see their faces and both women smiled as they extended their arms upwards as the lyrics proclaimed "Trust in my self righteous suicide".

Slightly bewildered, he watched the two women and realised that they both moved in time to the music, but very, very slowly. Every now and then there would be a synchronicity between the lyrics and the move and it was a pleasure to watch and understand the smiles that lit up her face.

Without realising, he'd stopped and propped himself against a lamp post as he watched the two women. It was only when he became aware he wasn't their only audience that he was recalled to a sense of himself and returned to the office.

The next day it was his normal lunchtime before he left the office and Greg reluctantly told himself that there would be no sign of her. Instead, he was startled to observe that there were now ten people gathered in her spot, moving through a tai chi sequence to the sound of, unless he was very much mistaken, Rage against the Machine.

Today, he was determined to meet her. He'd arranged an extended lunch break and, requiring moral support at the last moment, he called up a friend of his who, as an artist, could be relied upon to be available at short notice. Only giving instruction to the other man to put on workout gear and meet him at the large fountain immediately, he nervously made his way to the park. The two men met and Greg hustled Frank to the Tai chi area. When they got there, the woman was alone and stretching with her headphones in. Frank admired the woman, but questioned Greg's purpose. He merely shushed him and looked for the other woman. Soon she arrived and the two women went through their setup routine.

Greg pulled Frank forward and as they neared, he called out. The two women looked quizzically at the pair, but Greg apologised and explained he'd hoped to join them. They simply nodded and finished their setup. He was a little disappointed that they started by playing Fireworks, but the crowd built up around them regardless and the routine itself was still fun and relaxing. The next song was a Foo Fighters one, followed by a rap piece which had a particularly stand out line "Thou shalt never question Stephen Fry" - the rest of it was a little indistinct through the speakers but he made a note to Google it later. Next was a bit of MeatLoaf until finally the blonde ceased her routine and began stretching out to the words: "This is my Earth". It was a completely different sound to the rest of her playlist - not that there seemed to be any connection between the pieces generally - but he listened more to these lyrics and decided that it was simply an illustration of how eclectic her taste was.

Frank, however, had been mouthing along to the words and he and the woman both sang along to the third verse: "This is my body and I live in it". At the end of the song, Frank went straight over to her, shook her hand and enthused about her music tastes. Gutted, Greg watched as Frank asked her out to dinner commenting that if she didn't he'd probably find someone else instead. Hoping she'd slap him, Greg was surprised when she laughed and Frank did a peculiar hip wiggle.

They rapidly made their arrangements and Greg sighed, but before he left, asked if he was welcome to meet with the women on the following week for another session. Thus began his introduction to the most random collection of music and people he would ever meet.