Leonard Goldstein looked at people on the crowded train: Some writers, some bankers, some musicians (he could tell from their loud chatter about gigs they yearned to arrive at sooner than later). The woman sitting next to him was deeply immersed in her book and he could barely move, crammed between her and a rotund gentleman who was reading The New Yorker.
Had to love public transportation in New York City. He didn’t want to budget for a car and wait in traffic for hours, so this was, indeed, his fate.
Leonard stared at the clock in his cubicle in New York City: The lights blaring were giving him a headache as he typed the tenth article he had for Business Magazine this week. This was a rather dull, but well-paying job that he had once dreamed about during his youth.
At least he got to write for a living, even though, at this particular moment in time, all of the words on the page looked like an enormous blur, frustratingly bleeding into one another.
He stopped for a moment and put his head in his hand to soothe the pain, praying that no one would see him.
At that very moment, his boss, Mr. Ficklesteen, walked by.
“Mr. Goldstein,” he nodded his head.
“We have to meet our deadlines. I need your article by 5 p.m. sharp. Understood?!” he asked sharply.
Leonard Goldstein nodded, feeling like he’d already run three marathons in a week and his knees, or in this case his fingers, couldn’t move any more than they already had. His brain was fried, and all he yearned for was a good night’s sleep. It was Friday, and the day was dragging on.
It was precisely 4:30 p.m., and Leonard had been so immensely preoccupied with the ticking of the secondhand moving on the clock on the white wall that he was only halfway through his article, which, as he had been reminded so curtly and abruptly, was due in exactly thirty minutes —29 now, he realized as he glanced at the clock— and he sighed. He threw together some bullshit and looked over it once.
Better something than nothing.
He thought, which was unusual for Leonard, being Jewish, and, as a result, a bit of a perfectionist in all matters related to money. It was a stereotype, he knew, but, in his case, it was an accurate one.
He threw his mediocre article on the growing stack on Ficklesteen’s desk, and then nearly ran out of his office, catching a taxi back to his very nice apartment in the streets of Manhattan.
If only I knew then what I know now. Expensive whiskey won’t buy a person happiness. It will only drown the ever-increasing pain one is experiencing on a daily basis, due to running around on the hamster world of a gig in NYC that anyone could snatch up at any second.
That was precisely why Leonard could not catch a wink of sleep that night. The man was deeply concerned that he would be fired immediately for a piece that was subpar. It had happened before, and he was in a state of anticipating the upcoming doom that he was certain would soon envelope him.
He barely slept all night, thinking of the possible events that may occur on Monday, running through horrific scenarios of losing this life he so loved over and over through his mind.
The phone rang. It was Jill: his mother.
“Come to the farm. You need a break. The city can be overwhelming, even at the best of times, and you haven’t left for over a year. Maybe it’s time to come home. Your father and I have been working very hard on our lavender fields. The plants are quite large, and we could pour you a bath.”
His parents, Jill and Bob, a cowboy from the great state of Tennessee who had caught Jill’s rebellious heart when she was in her teens, had created this beautiful farm on a cabin with hundreds of acres in upstate New York, lavender fields as far as the eye could see.
“I think I will,” Leonard said, forcing himself not to call Mr. Ficklesteen and apologize for his perceived wrongdoings.
He booked a train and stared through the window, until it stopped where his mother had agreed to pick him up. She flooded him with a slew of questions about his “fancy job in New York City.”
“Were the people nice?” she asked.
“I hope you are taking good care of your finances, Leonard. After all, this is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, and your father and I want to make sure you’re comfortable.”
“I am quite comfortable. You should come over sometime. I can’t believe you haven’t yet. It’s been so long.”
Finally, he saw them: The lavender fields that went on for miles. Walkways of stone carved meticulously through them, the purple flowers towering towards the sky as they were blowing in the wind, and a bench constructed solely for the observation of the beauty that greeted him.
It had been years since he’d left the city, with its blaring lights and honking horns.
He sat on the ground and felt the earth with his hands. He took in the blue sky, sprinkled with only a few clouds, for the first time in what felt like forever, he breathed in the fresh air, completely inhaling and fully exhaling.
For that moment, he forgot all about his fancy job in New York City, his boss’s choice words that he was certain would await him the coming Monday, and the drone of his colleague’s voices on the phones that never ceased during his workdays.
He simply felt the sun on his shoulders and the smell of lavender on his nostrils.
As he was observing the magic of this place, getting lost in it, consumed by it, his mother began cooking her signature pumpkin pie and preparing her ice cream, which wafted beckoningly through the open cabin window, and every one of Leonard’s sense became simultaneously enlightened as a result.
That night, after a dinner that had been made with more love than any of the food in the many
Deli shops lining the streets of New York City, he snuck out of the cabin, and laid his eyes upon the stars before sleeping soundly, his worries carried away with the wind as he drifted into a peaceful slumber as he listened to his parents discussing the deliciousness of the homemade pumpkin pie in the process.
Everything was right in the world. If only for a moment.
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I liked this story. The contrast of the city vs the country life was very stark.
Thank you. 😊