Graphics by: Arianna Borromeo, Year 12
Words by: Crissia Po
The shrill sound of my alarm jolts me awake from my dream. I squint my eyes from the bright rays of sunlight shining through my window. My eyes widen as they take in the sight in front of me: a sea of green in the middle of the city. The thick, white snow that blanketed wonderland three months ago has vanished. Trees full of green foliage surround the buildings. People from different walks of life rush towards the nearest subway station taking them to New York’s different boroughs. In one corner, excited nine-year-olds cheer for the friendly cotton candy vendor, their “wows” enlivening the atmosphere. Central Park, my favorite place in the world, is back to life. Spring has arrived.
I open my apartment door eager to see the familiar violet azaleas lining the walkway nearest my apartment building. My lips curl into a smile as I pass by a large bunch of daffodils. I run my fingers across their velvety petals; each touch fills my heart with happiness. However, seeing a cluster of yellow tulips nearby, I tear up. Nostalgia washes over me as these delicate flowers evoke memories of my time with you.
I still remember the day we first met. Frustrated that I lost my wallet outside the supermarket and missed the northbound subway, I sighed, shook my head, and carried my groceries home. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t notice a group of cyclers zoom towards me. They slammed against me and sent my boxes of tea, cookies, and other goods hurtling through the air. I crashed onto the cold cement floor, my legs scraping the rough surface and my head pounding. Moments later, I was startled to hear a concerned voice beside me: “Miss, are you alright?” I looked up into hazel eyes framed by wavy black hair. You helped me up, searched for my scattered groceries, bought me some bandages from the local drugstore and carried them to my apartment building. Leaning against the open doorway of my apartment, you flashed your adorable dimples and waved, “See you around!”
I didn’t expect to see you again, two weeks later, in my office building in Manhattan. I was surprised that you still remembered me. I didn’t recognize you right away, but I was happy to know that you were my new officemate; I wanted to know you better. Over cups of cappuccino from Starbucks, you, with rapid gestures and twinkling eyes, described your life as a boy living in seven different countries; you talked about viewing Florence from the top of Giotto Bell Tower and eating fried grasshoppers in Chiang Mai. I admired your open-mindedness and appreciation for different cultures. Your delightful stories of your travels abroad opened my eyes to the beauty of the world beyond this labyrinth of skyscrapers and yellow cabs.
One fine day, you led me through an off-beaten path in Central Park. Dense shrubbery brushed against my ankles. Curious, I held my breath as my eyes landed on hidden waterfalls. Their steady flow down through layers of rock and shrub took me away from the stress and clamor of the city. Turning my head, I was speechless when I saw you with your hand on your chest, holding a freshly plucked yellow tulip; the sweetness of your dimpled smile touched my heart.
Yellow tulips quickly became our tradition. I spent many wonderful Sundays with you in Central Park, eating packed picnic lunches and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and listening to your captivating stories about your travel adventures.
I remember the first time you told me you loved me. The fluorescent lights from New York’s famous skyscrapers flashed like stars in a faraway galaxy. Gazing at the skyline from a rooftop garden, we took in the stunning view. I squeezed your hand tightly; my legs quaked and stomach churned. Your steady hand warmed my shaking one. You told me about how your father proposed to your mother here twenty-eight years ago. And your excitement to experience the same kind of happily-ever-after. With me. I felt my heart fluttering as I saw the familiar gleam in your eyes.
But then, the yellow tulips that cheered me up began to wither. Although I was elated at your job promotion in London, I dreaded the long distance and loneliness. You kept your promise to callSkype me regularly, but only for a short time. I’d open my Skype but never find any new notifications. You might have been caught up with work, so I didn’t mind. Until a mutual friend sent me a picture of you holding hands with another woman at a fundraiser. I confronted you on our Skype chat, and surprisingly, you gave me a call immediately.
Your answer broke my heart.
“Yes, it’s true. I’m so sorry.”
I was restless for days. I couldn’t stop the tears flowing from my eyes. I couldn’t bear to hear the love songs we once listened to on the radio. I didn’t have the strength to go to work in the morning, knowing that I wouldn’t see your cheerful smile, warm cup of cappuccino, and yellow tulips anymore. I didn’t want to start a new chapter of my life without you, but I had to.
The high-pitched “ding” of a bicycle bell nearby pulls me back into reality; my lost gaze refocuses on the leaf-strewn sidewalk. The yellow tulips slightly tilt sideways.
I still feel wistful every time I think of spring. I’ll forever treasure the Sunday dates in Central Park, chats while drinking cappuccino, and even those yellow tulips that once brightened my days. But I wish you all the best, wherever you may be.
Smiling, I take a deep breath. I walk away.