I looked out our bedroom window, overlooking the park 15 stories up. The sun was setting, so bright it seemed to scream as it disappeared behind other monstrous buildings scraping the sky. I turned around and glanced around the well furnished room as if to give it my approval. Our apartment consisted of 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom, a living room, dining area and kitchen. My gaze stopped at Chris who was finishing work on his elegant white laptop. On the night table next to him sat a perfect dozen of long stem red roses in a sparkling crystal vase. I glanced down at my hands and stared at my ring. Perfect. It felt perfect. I felt CONTENT. I was leaning against the window now, still staring at my ring smiling. Before I could finish my thought, I was falling. The feeling of perfection and contentment had gone and I was screaming…I wanted that feeling back. I saw his face above me and all other colors surrounding me began to swirl and streak as they rushed by. I was gasping for air and could no longer hear myself scream. My surroundings instantly went black and I continued to fall.
For the fourth time I awoke from a persistent reoccurring dream. It had been a restless night. Was there really any point in going back to sleep? Well, anyway, if I was late again this morning Marlene would kill me. I turned my head and stared at him, his beautiful face illuminated by the suns morning glow yawning through the single window of our studio apartment. Slowly I slid out from under his arm that was gently draped across my stomach. I dressed, picking up a pair of worn-in jeans that were starting to rip around my right back pocket and a plain red tee-shirt that were untidily scattered across the dull gray carpet the night before. Gently I leaned over the bed and kissed him, and whispered, “Cozi,” softly in his ear. He was awake as well, only pretending to sleep. Grabbing my faded green bag I opened the door, slipped the strap over my shoulder and stepped into the hallway. Closing the door slowly behind me I took in a breath of stale dusty air.
After my short journey down two flights of stairs I walked into the morning sun and onto the street. We were in an old building, a 3rd floor apartment on Chestnut Street, just off of 17th. The city was already awake and busying itself with a new day; unnoticed I slipped into the morning rush.
Crossing 17th, continuing my path down Chestnut I noticed a rose lying up against the curb. It looked wilted and out of place lying there on that dirty street, though it still held its vibrant red hue. I looked around trying to see where it might have come from and a small flower cart a block and a half down caught my attention. Although I found it odd to see a flower cart out so early I picked it up. If someone had dropped this one rose out of a bouquet there was almost no chance that they would come back to get it, let alone notice it was missing.
I craved a cup of coffee, well actually any kind of stimulant would have done the job. I slowly made my way to the Wawa on 20th, the one below the old Koresh Studio. Luckily I found enough loose change in my pocket to cover the cost of the $1.10 cup of coffee. My destination was Rittenhouse Square, at this hour I was destined to find a certain bench reserved just for me.
Every time I entered the park it brought back memories, memories of the days when I sat in this park and daydreamed. Then I had this crazy idea that when I moved into the city I would have been able to live in one of the ‘glamorous’ towering apartment buildings that surrounded this very park. This city was always my dream, I always found something magical about it. The diversity of the people the city contained always intrigued me.
When I first met Chris he took me into the city for my first time, I was 14 then. We came here and sat on this wooden bench, the one donated to Mary Anne Lange (whoever she is) and he told me to look up at the sky. Obviously there was no extravagant star gazing, instead the sky was a light glowing shade of pale pink. For breast cancer awareness month the Liberty Towers of our beautiful Philadelphia skyline had pink lights which reflected off of the clouds and illuminated the sky.
I jumped to my feet after glancing at my watch. I couldn’t believe I had been sitting here for so long. These days time seems to either fly by or appear frozen. Tossing my long gone cold coffee into the trash can I crossed 17th street and quickened my pace down Walnut Street. Sometimes I fall into a daze while walking through the city, mesmerized by the whir and whistle of the passing traffic and pedestrians. Streets simply fly by; 17th, 16th, 15th. Honestly, once I really did love this city, even during my first year here when I commuted. I actually found it relaxing to ride the train in and out every day. Every ride in, seeing the city in the distance and then walking up the steps from the underground station into the center of everything was what it was all about. All of the passing people, wailing sirens, and high rise buildings separated the city from home; they were two completely different worlds.
I was naïve. Now the crowds are just an annoyance, the traffic delays my daily journey to and from the studio. The Stations smell and are full of bizarre people and beggars asking if I have spare change. The city makes me feel so dirty, as if I can never get myself clean. Walking through it now is like touching money; it makes you want to wash your hands compulsively when you think about how many people touched it, sneezed on it, coughed on it, etcetera. Instead of happy travelers and beautiful urban city dwellers you come across these miserable human beings who are out to make you miserable just because they cannot cheer up. What happened to my dream? Why was it haunting me?
Now 6 years later Chris and I both live here together and both attend school here. He’s a senior, I’m a sophomore, and we’re engaged. “It’s too early, your both too young.” His mothers words would echo daily in my mind completely contradicting my own mothers advice. But this is what we always wanted…right? Sitting in Rittenhouse we dreamed of how we wanted our future together to be like and now looking back, how dreadfully far off from our dream we are today. So life isn’t the perfect wealthy dream, I still have Chris. But why do I feel so lonely, so scared of the oncoming future? When did I grow up? Everything is just happening so fast. He graduates within a month and then what? What is supposed to happen then? He’ll be out in the working world and I’ll still be dancing until exhaustion to come home to find he’s too tired to make dinner, letting that role fall on my knotted shoulders.
RED LIGHT. I reached 15th street just to realize that I left the rose on the bench in the park. With out a hesitant thought I turned around and sprinted back to the Rittenhouse. A light breeze had blown the rose off of the bench and it lay wilting in the dirt. I snatched it, turned around and ran even faster down the street. By the time I was stopped by a red light I reached Broad Street. Desperately trying to catch my breath I watched 3 petals fall helplessly to the ground.
I looked up at City hall just to realize I’m going to be late…again. The light turns green so I cross and seconds later I’m in front of my building. I push my way through the heavy glass double doors and slip to my left to run up 3 flights of stairs, skipping steps every stride. I could hear music playing in the background. Practice for the spring performance is today at 9:00a, and here I am not even dressed yet. Eventually I make my way into the 3rd floor dressing room, carefully placing the dying rose in my locker. It desperately needed water and was starting to loose its color. I swore when practice was over that I’d find it a vase, preserve whatever life was left. I could even give it to Chris when I meet him later for lunch. Running back down to the 2nd floor I heard Ned holler, “Honey I just saw Marlene walk into the building, hurry up and she’ll never know you were late again.” I gave him a sarcastic smile as I adjusted my tights and swept my hair up off of my shoulders and away from my pale face. “Thanks,” I replied as I slipped into Studio A. Unnoticed I made my way behind the crowd of students and looked out the window. What am I doing here? The last time I checked I was still in high school complaining about being stuck in suburbia.
Clouds were rolling in and the sky was darkening, the welcoming morning sun was slipping away. I sat down on the floor to stretch, surrounded by long lean legs. I felt lost, I was in a foreign land and no one spoke my language, NO ONE understood. I was so tired, I felt like I was wilting away. Petal by petal, piece by piece, I was falling apart. How did I get here? Why am I still here?
I was startled as a crack of thunder echoed through the room and glanced at the clock. “All right, all right, lets warm up,” Marlene shouted as she made her late entrance, closing the door behind her. I turned my head away towards Broad Street as the rain poured down. I saw my distorted reflection in the tall mirrors, the sadness in my face. “No more,” I silently whispered, “No More.”
Without a hesitant thought I grabbed my belongings and ran out the door. Up those stairs I flew and into the locker room to grab the rest of my things. Within minutes I found myself running in the rain, the wilted rose clutched to my chest. It wasn’t until I was on the R5 platform that I stopped running. I knew what I should do, what I had to do. It was time to go home, reorganize myself. The answer was truly very simple. I needed a new dream.
The lights of the train came into view as it rushed to the platform. Sadly I stood, drenched, hair plastered to my face and neck, and watched the rush of wind from the train blow the last remaining rose petals onto the dirty floor.