Thursday, September 03, 2015


Elysa was out of breath. She had run down Fifth Avenue and now paused beneath the Washington Square Arch. At the right angles the arch could frame Fifth Avenue looking north and uptown, and Freedom Tower looking south. She remembered a day more than a decade ago when the arch framed the destruction of the World Trade Center, smoke billowing just before the towers collapsed.

It was the last days of August and the park seemed amazingly fresh and full of energy. As she regained her breath, Elysa walked through the Arch and headed toward the fountain. She loved the fountain and all that it seemed to inspire of everyone nearby. The sound of running water was so soothing. She had been inspired to create site specific work in the context of the arch and fountain, which had been warmly received.

But she couldn't afford to linger. She was late for an appointment. She glanced at her smartphone. There were a number of messages, but Elysa needed to hurry on. She was annoyed by the seemingly endless intrusion of her smartphone on the continuity of her day. She glanced around and noticed so many people sitting on the park benches, lying on the grass, tapping away on their phones, almost oblivious to the splendor around them.

Then a text from her colleague and friend popped on the screen. "I'm sorry," his text declared, " I won't be able to meet you today at Dante's." Elysa was furious. She had been running to make this appointment, and at the last minute he calls it off? She angrily hit the face of her phone, hoping her gesture would be translated at his end.

Gestures had been on her mind a lot recently. She had begun to notice that human gesture seemed to be disappearing into the mysterious space inside the smartphones. As a dancer, the relevance of gesture to her craft seemed obvious. She often watched people in the park. Her body would capture and translate the gestures into a vocabulary she would eventually choreograph. Everything, everyone seemed relevant.

But Elysa had increasingly become disenchanted with her life. Everything seemed to be conspiring to distract her from her creative work, which was what she really cared about. Her world seemed to be accelerating out of control, dictating and shaping her life in directions that she did not want to pursue. And yet, she seemed trapped.

She noticed an interesting woman walking past the fountain with a book in her hand. She thought it odd, because she seldom saw people carrying books anymore. The woman was Asian, and she had a quiet intensity that was intriguing. She was also carrying a smartphone and somehow was managing to take images of the park, even though both hands were full.

Everything about the park was idyllic.  It seemed to her to be the epitome of Elysium, an enchanted oasis in the middle of Manhattan. She realized that this alluring woman must be attracted by the calming magic of the afternoon.

Then she noticed a man who appeared to following the woman, cautiously keeping his distance. But there wasn't anything sinister about his demeanor. He seemed somewhat in awe, and was clearly interested in pursuing her. Then she heard some musicians playing and he was momentarily distracted, watching them and listening to their music. He turned to watch.

Elysa was also distracted and when she looked back, the woman had disappeared.

When the man turned and saw that the woman had vanished, he seemed to panic. Elysa watched him as he ran back and forth, trying to catch a glimpse of her, hoping to find some clue.  He turned away and held his face in his hands in despair.

All the gestures of anguish and headache flooded her mind. Elysa surveyed the surroundings. A misterial majesty enveloped the moment.  Then from nowhere the woman appeared. Elysa watched as she commanded an errant butterfly to suspend its flight and settle on her book. The butterfly submitted to her gesture and landed quietly.

Elysa could see that the man was captivated by this enchanted spectacle. He was deeply moved, but also stunned and paralyzed.  It was almost as though an incantation had transported this moment to an enchanted world, an Elysium, a Shangri La where miracles really do exist.

Elysa turned to see if the woman had noticed the ardent despair of her admirer, but she had vanished without a trace.

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