Cloud Gaze With Me

Submitted into Contest #143 in response to: Write about a character who loves cloud gazing. ... view prompt

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Romance Friendship Happy

      Springtime in New York. It is a feast for the senses. Each season of New York City can be a feast for the senses, but Springtime in New York offers the vibrant views of pink spring time blossoms, the green grass that you can lie on as you cloud gaze in the park, the brilliant blue of the sky and the fluffy white clouds that peak out between sky scrapers, and the sounds of buskers and drum circles. You can taste Spring from the local restaurants who source their food locally from farmers, and you can taste Spring from the in season produce at one of the many farmers markets around town, and smell the local food on the breeze depending on what neighborhood you are in. When it rains, and you are caught in a downpour on a warm day, the warm rain is a delight on the skin.

               Today found me with my unruly wavy bordering on curly, died cotton candy pink hair in braids and a vintage Tribe Called Quest T, some faded old holy jeans, and some tinted lip gloss, my esthetic matching the weather. It was that weather that didn’t require a sweater or jacket, ready to enjoy a Saturday around Union Square. I packed myself a blanket to spread out on the grass in the park. My first stop of the morning was one of my favorite bookstores, The Strand. I had to regularly check the recommended reading display and find fun little gifts to mail home to my loved ones. I found a biography of one of my favorite actors, and a book from a podcast creator that I listened to regularly. I grabbed some postcards and pins too. The Strand on the weekend has a vibe. People seem to take their time looking at books, there is not a feel of hurry. I pay and head to my favorite little chain, Pret A Manger for lunch to go.  There is nothing like being single in the city, as well as just having a routine that includes no one else. It is nice not to be criticized or judged for enjoying eating at a chain. I used to go with my now ex and a friend of mine who moved away from the city. They made the experience so unpleasant for me I stopped spending time with them on Saturdays. I also love to just lay in a park staring up at the clouds and not everyone just wants to lay and stare up at the sky with me. I love gazing at the clouds during the day, finding shapes, and star gazing at night, finding celestial bodies. I grabbed myself a caprese baguette, and ginger juice to go, and then ambled to the farmers market not far, and got myself an iced coffee, and a cookie, as well as a bottle of whiskey, some fiddleheads, ramps, garlic scapes, mushrooms, spinach for a salad later in the day. The farmers market in Union Square is my favorite farmers’ market. You can find sweet treats, locally distilled spirits, cold lemonade, and in season produce and fruits. I found myself some green space and put down my blanket. I put on some Blossom Dearie, I’ll take Manhattan being my first song, and dove into my lunch. I don’t care what anyone says about Pret A Manger, their breakfast and lunch fair is comfort for the soul. Their sandwiches remind me of my favorite sandwich chain from Spain. They are hearty and filling. When I was finished eating, I tossed away my trash, and put on my black brimmed sun hat, and a pair of mod 70’s sun glasses. I reclined back, and rested my head on my backpack, for some cloud gazing. The clouds were white and puffy, like cotton candy. Maybe it is weird but, I’ve always been a cloud enthusiast. When flying, I like to try to get a window seat to watch the cloud formations pass me by. I will propose marriage to the person who can plan a fun date that includes cloud gazing or a date under the stars. No one has planned that for me yet, though I have planned both of those dates for others.

               “Is that Elle O’Brien I see”, a voice said, waking me out of my reverie. There was my college friend Frank standing over me. I sat up.

               “Frank! Hey! Join me”. Frank and I had attended the same upstate NY college back in the late 90’s. I knew he lived in my same neighborhood in Astoria, Queens, but, thought he and his partner had moved to Oregon. He really hadn’t change since college. His short curly hair was now just shoulder length and curly. I had a crush on him in my late teens. He has always been a very open minded person and evolved guy, which are the types of men I am attracted to since I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drummer, as my Mom puts it. “What are you doing in the city? Visiting?

               “I moved back. I kept my apartment here, and my brother was subleasing it, but, now that I’m back, he’s letting me stay on his couch, until I find a place. “

               “Oh. That’s cool. So, we are actually neighbors now?”. He hadn’t mentioned his girlfriend Allie moving back with him.

               “We are”.

               “So, did Allie move back with you?”.

               “No. We broke up.”

               “Oh. I’m sorry.”

               “It’s ok. We’re still friends. We just realized we want different things in life.”

               “Well, it’s good you are friends”.

               “How are you and Ben. I haven’t seen much mention of him in your Instagram feed.”

               “We broke up as well, about 3 months ago and he moved back home.”

               “I guess it’s the season”.

               “It must be”, I agreed. “I’m ok with it though. We were just different people.”

               “Well, that’s good. I see you have a Strand bag. What did ya get?”. I took my books out of the bag and showed him.

               “Those look really interesting”, he said. 

               “I have heard good things. You can borrow them when I am done”.

               “Thanks. So, what are you up to today?”.

               “This is about it. I went to The Strand, grabbed lunch at Pret, and am just enjoying some prime cloud watching”. 

               “That sounds like a good day”.

               “I enjoy it”.

“Since you enjoy cloud watching, how about tomorrow, I pack us a picnic, and we can head to Coney Island and take in the sun set?”. 

“That sounds like fun. I’d like that.”

“Do you have any food allergies or is there anything that you don’t eat?”

“I will eat anything”.

“Great.”

“I will bring desert. Do you like chocolate?”.

“I do”.

“Good”.

“You don’t need to bring anything though”.

“I want to”.

“Ok. So, how about I will drive us to Coney Island at 7:00pm tomorrow. I live next to the Chinese restaurant on Broadway.”

“You really are my neighbor”.

“I am!”.

“Shall I insta message you when I arrive to your place.”

“That sounds like a plan. Well, I am going to head to the market. I will see you tomorrow!”

“I look forward to it!” I packed up my stuff, and headed home via the N train.

                                                         *************

               6:45pm Sunday rolled around, and I headed to the bakery near me. I ended up with 2 chocolate cupcakes and a few 3 color cookies. I stopped home and changed into a pair of jeans cut off slightly below the knee and grabbed a sweatshirt. I walked the couple door down to Frank’s. He was loading the trunk of his car.

               “Hey! He said”

               “Hey yourself. Ready for a trip to Coney Island?”.

               “I am.” We hopped in the car. “This is like the college days, driving around, listening to music”.

               “I can’t believe college was so long ago.”

               “It feels like yesterday”, Frank agreed. We found a parking spot on the street. Frank grabbed the picnic basket and we walked to the beach. We put a plaid blanket down and Frank took out a well planned out dinner. A container of black olives, bagel chips, hummus, and two sandwiches made on baguette. One of tomato, mozzarella, spinach and basil, with a drizzle of balsamic, and then Manchego and jamon Iberico with honey butter, as well as a drizzle of hot honey. I had half of each. 

               “These are so good. Your sandwiches are like restaurant style”.

               “I feel like I should have baked dessert! I just went to Parisi.”

               “Well, Parisi is the best bakery in Queens in my opinion”, Frank said.

“I agree”. I looked out at the horizon. The clouds were thin like pieces of cotton candy and the sky was a mix of peach, vibrant pink, and a hint of purple.

“Look at that sky”.

“It is like something out of a painting”. Besides Spring being a feast for the senses, it is also a time. It is the time it takes for the sun to set and disappear completely. Spring is a number, the number of breaths taken away by the sun as it sets. Spring is a place. It is this place. Right here right now, with someone I had missed more than I had known.

               “So, can I tell you something”, Frank said in a hushed tone so as not to disturb the setting sun.

               “Sure. I’m listening”.

               “When I heard you were trying to move here, that time you and Ben got together with Allie and I, I was so psyched. Then when I found out you would be moving here and I would be leaving, I was disappointed. I think Allie could tell I was vibing on you and wanted to move to try to start new someplace new, try to fall back in love.”

               “Vibing on…..is that your way of saying crushing on?”. He looked at me with a sheepish look on his face.

“Uh yeah”.

“Well, now it is time for me to tell you something. I had a crush on you in college. Like, kind of a big one.”

“What? Why didn’t you tell me?”.

“I guess I thought you wouldn’t be into me.”

“I was totally into you. I just didn’t say anything because I was afraid of rejection, and afraid of losing my lunch bud.”

“Me too!”, I said.

“Well, we are here now. So, it all works out.” I turned to look at him.

“It does”, I smiled.

“Can I kiss you now?”, I whispered.

“Please do”. And I did. It was a kiss as breathtaking as cotton candy clouds, sweet as cholate three color cookies, my hands in his hair. I pulled away to look at him.

“I wish I had said something to you sooner”, He said.

“Well just think, we have a lot of lost time to make up for.”

“Have I mentioned there is a fabulous view of the sunrise from the roof of my building?”. 

“You don’t say”, I said with a smile. 

April 26, 2022 19:10

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2 comments

Thomas Auen
10:15 May 06, 2022

Hi Laura, Let me just say, you sent me down a Memory Lane trip in your description of Manhattan in the spring! When I lived out east in Boston, I enjoyed weekend trips to visit friends in New York City. Being an early riser, I often set to the streets for morning explorations. You are correct in mentioning how unique it is to be single and in the city. Your submission was a nice balance between description and dialogue. My inner critic would suggest the follow to take the piece to the next level. By no means are my suggestions meant to b...

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Laura Eliz
13:31 May 06, 2022

Thank you so much for your feedback. It is always appreciated, and I am keeping these things in mine for my next story! I am so happy this brought you back to Manhattan in the Spring. I try to get back to the city as often as I can to experience the seasons. China Town is a fest for the senses in and of itself! Thanks again for your thoughts and feedback! :)

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