The N train pulled into the station at 14th Street and Union Square, and Kayden had already relegated the scene at Times and 42nd to the bowels of her subconscious. While it had been entertaining, it had largely under-fulfilled her appetite for Voyeurism. Drunks vomiting in subway stations was relatively par-for-the-course in New York. The only thing that had made it stand out was the man’s brief tirade regarding the Glockenspiel.
He might as well have decried ice cream sundaes, Kayden thought as she disembarked the train.
The wind met Kayden as she returned to the city’s surface, its anxious approach striving to knock her off of her feet. She faltered slightly, but remained planted to the steps of the station. She lifted the collar of her coat so as to shield her face, pulled down on her charcoal cloche, and stepped out to greet the yawning night.
Union Square was bustling, despite the late hour. Kayden had always been drawn to the park. It was even one of the few places she frequented during the day, as it was always home to interesting goings-on. Two days after she moved to the city she had come out to set up her bank account, and across from the park sat a podium. There was a small sign on the front of it that read: Take a moment to say something nice.
Kayden hadn’t the nerve to participate, but she was taken aback by the countless men and women who opted to follow the sign’s direction. One after another, the men and women leaned into the microphone mounted on the podium. They thanked friends and loved ones for past kindnesses, professed their love for significant others, and so on. Their voices carried across the small park, and echoed off of the buildings that surrounded it.
The sight had surprised Kayden, as every one back home told her to be wary of the cold indifference that was trademark of those living in New York. The way those back home spoke about New Yorkers, one would think that they were constitutionally incapable of observing the good in life — let alone take a moment to acknowledge it. And in public of all places!
Granted, this was an unusual occurrence in the city. Union Square was susceptible to such situations, a fact that Kayden charged to the neighborhood’s more relaxed dwellers. It certainly wouldn’t happen on 5th Avenue. Nor would it happen in Times Square, where city residents were more likely to spend their time dodging gawking tourists who watched themselves gawk on the one story tall LCD screen plastered atop the Disney Store.
Even at night Union Square seemed to keep its unique company from the rest of the city. Teens skateboarded along the steps, hardly drawing notice from the old timers who played chess at city-supplied tables. There were a few bar-hopping stragglers who would wander through the area, but they were typically stopping off at the T.G.I.Friday’s across the street. They would imbibe chicken poppers and Blue Moons, and then promptly hop back on their trains in order to continue their care-free quests.
Kayden took a seat on the steps leading down from the park. For a moment she found herself lost in the hypnotic cadence of skateboard wheels and trucks as they glided and scraped along the concrete. She closed her eyes and listened: The tapping of skateboards met the gentle howl of the wind, and they came together with the quiet conversations taking place at the chess tables. In the distance, faint and hollow, the echoed chorus of car horns.
The city shared its symphony for those who took the time to notice — a gift to those who dared to abandon their hurried routines. If Kayden’s beloved podium had still remained, she was convinced she would call upon all of her courage to thank the city for that much. But there came a tense moment — the symphony was rising to a crescendo!
Amidst the zen-like harmony of the subtle sounds, two voices rose to the forefront. One belonged to a woman, the other a man, and both were impassioned cries. Kayden clenched her eyes, trying hard to accept the ruckus as part of her song, but could maintain for only so long. The shouting became too great.
“You freegid bee-itch!” The man hollered, his words burdened by his accent. Eastern European, perhaps?
Kayden’s eyes opened to the sound of the woman, his target, stifling the coming tears. She had no words of retort.
The vulgar man continued. “You tease me, you filthy slut! You waste my time, and you waste my money!”
Kayden watched with disgust as the Man threw out his hand in an effort to grab his partner. She recoiled, upsetting the Man. He spit at her feet, rubbed his hands together and threw his arms into the air before departing.
The woman remained frozen in place as she watched man disappear into the night. She was not struck still by sorrow over his leaving. Rather, she seemed stuck in place at the fear that he might turn back and approach her with more fervor.
Kayden shared the woman’s intense discomfort, but she had to admit: This development went further in feeding her need to observe. She wallowed in anxious delight as the woman finally stumbled from her spot, taking a seat next to Kayden, and began to cry.