It was one of those Sundays in early March where everyone and their great-grandmas get dressed in their summer finery– tie-dyed maxi dresses, flip flops, and spaghetti strap tank tops that haven’t been worn since their last beach holiday– and Marcia wanted in on the fun. She lived alone in a studio flat, and had no family in the city to suggest a day out to, so she grabbed a book she had been wanting to read for a few months now but just never found the time and headed out to the nearest green space– Orleans Park, a twenty minute walk away. It was a nice walk, and the park was full of families and groups of students from the local college, all having picnics. There were a few solitary bikers, or joggers, or weirdos, but people were mostly in groups of three of more. Marcia sat on the nearest empty bench she could find, which wasn’t easy, and shut her eyes temporarily to listen to the sounds of nature, as was right to do on a day like today. It stank of weed- probably from the group of white kids with dreadlocks and harem pants that sat barefoot and swayed as one of them, a blonde man far older than the rest, played some mediocre Radiohead on his out-of-tune guitar.
Thinking to get some exercise to make her day productive, Marcia closed her book after finishing a few chapters and started walking. She had no reason to be in a rush, so she dragged her feet and looked up at the trees, trying to feel as many things about this day as her senses would allow her to. Marcia trekked uphill and the tulip and daffodil buds fought to poke their heads out of the ground and meet the sun wherever there was an open space, wherever they weren’t being trampled by picnic blankets. Marcia knew to avoid them and let them grow; when she was a child her mum would plant tulip and daffodil bulbs in the small patch of fertile soil in their allotment, and on the rare occasion that Marcia would go outside she would inevitably step on the patch where they were buried. Her grandmother, having nothing better to do than look out the kitchen window toward the allotment to catch sight of the outside world, would berate her and call her inside, screeching that she had no respect for anything beautiful or natural, which was just as to be expected, because Marcia had no respect for anything feminine. She never had, which is why she was not married, nor ever had a boyfriend at the ripe age of 35. She was independent, and would rather focus on her career, she would tell her aunts every Christmas when asked for justification for the lack of rings on her hand, as if cold calling pensioners to confuse them into buying Tesco Bank insurance was a career that was worth focusing on.
As she passed the riverbank of the Thames, Marcia thought of how to better spend a day like today. In a country like this, where the sky was rarely ever nice to look at, it is absolutely paramount to take full advantage of whatever beauty one is gifted. Pausing at the riverbank, she opened Instagram and browsed through stories, taking note that her co-workers had gone to another park half an hour away. They were having a barbecue on a disposable grill, and those sausages looked burnt to charcoal but no one around was paying any attention. Harry, the newbie, had brought his guitar and was playing Radiohead, and Amy was basically slobbering over him, as she usually was. She had a thing for overgrown children with commitment issues who would eventually break her heart– back in November it had been Olly from HR. He still was living with his parents. The breakup was brutal for the whole office. Marcia had lost count of the amount of times she had walked into the breakroom to find Amy sobbing over a cup of weak tea and a stale biscuit, and the amount of times Amy said she was going to quit, to get away from “that lousy baldy dickhead”. She didn’t, obviously, because Harry joined the office in January and she stopped crying in the breakroom.
Marcia thought for a few seconds about texting Amy, under the pretence that she didn’t know what they were up to and inviting her for drinks. Amy would then, if things went to plan, invite Marcia to their barbecue, and she could sit in a group of three or more and properly take advantage of the sun. But she scrapped that idea fairly quickly. She didn’t want to see Amy make a fool of herself, she didn’t want to listen to Radiohead, and she didn’t want burnt sausages.
The tulips and daffodils at her feet looked like tight-lipped mouths. It was a shame that they were halfway sprouted, as the park would be so much prettier with purple and pink and yellow accents. Regardless, the buds whispered to the sky to wait for them because the earth, in her almighty knowledge, would let them out soon.
And all of a sudden, Marcia had never felt so alone.
Something about the refusal of the tulips to bloom made her feel like a child who has lost her parents on holiday and thinks she will never see them again, that she will either die hungry on the street or she will have to live out the rest of her days in a foster home with bigger, crueller children that speak an unknown language. Or like a homesick university student but she didn’t know what home she was sick for– she’d been going to this park since she was a toddler. Like she was an alien, homesick for another planet altogether, where the sky was never blue enough to warrant a day out. Her legs felt heavier, so she sat down on another bench, because she was sick of walking, and opened her book, although she had lost her place in the chapter. By now, her own frustration was taking up too much space in her head to allow any other stories in, so she stared into space and felt something hot push on the inside of her eyeballs. She pushed her eyes further out to avoid it spilling. It was now approaching midday, and the park began to liven up. Conversations around her blended into each other. She couldn’t hear the birds anymore. Others were walking their dogs, laughing with their friends, cycling, or skateboarding somewhere more important than here. She continued to try to pick out specific subjects worthy of her observation.
Every so often she’d see lone passers-by walking, slowly. Looking up at the trees as if they were searching for something. Smiling at dogs as though they’d never seen pure kindness before. Barely moving their legs as if they dreaded getting somewhere definitive. They were usually the ones better dressed for the weather (although it was sunny, it wasn’t particularly warm), perhaps with a beanie or a light scarf, like any good pseudo-intellectual. The weeks right at the beginning of March are always an odd time to sit on a bench in a park and listen to nature with a book in hand. It’s windy, and uncomfortable, and unpleasant– muddy and dead, as the leftovers of Winter still haven’t been cleaned up by Spring. But there’s an unspoken understanding that things will be okay soon– they will be beautiful– but it’s not the time for people to profit off that beauty just yet.
She looked back down at the tulips and daffodils close to her feet that she had taken great care not to step near.
“Alright,” she whispered back.
[Goose Masondo – they/them – @musgaria]
[Photo credit: Aidan Cunnington]
The rest of the pieces from the theme of Nostalgia can be found here.