George walked by Fiorello LaGuardia's statue in front of Citibank. The statue always cheered him up because the long past mayor of New York City seemed larger than life, and it made George feel that maybe he was too. But today he was somewhat distracted. He had noticed someone who seemed so interesting he tried to pursue her, but she was walking so fast. He was afraid that if he ran up to her, he would scare the daylight out of her. So he kept his distance.
There was such an air of mystery about her, a kind of regal demeanor, and foreign... That was it! She seemed like someone he might run into in Burma or Rangoon... or even Shangri La. George had a thing about the Orient. Oh, he knew that Orient was not politically correct... but his fantasies carried him on the Orient Express where he lost himself in countless Agatha Christie-like adventures of intrigue.
Always there was the dame, the one with the long cigarette holder who always asked him for a light. All of his romances, his loves, were at a distance... and even now, he followed this mysterious foreigner past the trees, past NYU's library. He watched her enter the park. All he knew was that she was carrying a book, and he thought maybe he could get close enough to see the title, and that could be his angle. She also was taking some pics with her phone as she walked.
She crossed the street to Washington Square Park and glanced back. Oh no! He thought maybe she had seen him following her, but she continued crossing, seemingly unaware of his pursuit.
It was a splendid summer day, he thought. This is a great day to meet someone new. Even though it was August, the air was fresh and sweet. The girl with the book seemed somehow approachable. He tried to imagine what he should say. Maybe, "What are you reading?" Oh migod! he thought, that's so lame!
Over by the fountain, two saxophone players were playing riffs back and forth. Actually, he noticed they were pretty good. They didn't drop a beat as they tossed phrases back and forth. Two or three people wandered by and put some money in a hat the musicians had put on the walkway. The fountain was punctuating the musical dialogue with a music all its own... gleaming in the bright summer sun. George fancied himself a composer, but no one had ever heard his music. Maybe his songs were the same kind of illusions as his adventure fantasies.
Damn! He had gotten distracted. Now he had lost his mysterious stranger! Where did she go? Frantically he started running the direction he had last seen her. How had she vanished so quickly, he wondered. But she was nowhere to be found. George began to doubt if he had really seen her. Maybe she didn't exist, he thought. He knew he was prone to fantasies. But he believed she was real. She had to be somewhere.
He searched the park and began to feel depressed and discouraged. She was so perfect, he thought. She looked like someone he could talk to. Talking to strangers was not easy for him. But he had lost her, and this made him feel sad. He closed his eyes. He could still see her in his mind's eye, her walk, her mysterious, foreign, regal presence.
He opened his eyes, and suddenly there she was... sitting beneath a beautifully green elm tree a little west of the fountain. She was taking some pics and held the book in her lap... he thought he might run up and strike a pose for her to take his pic... ohmigod, how stupid can I be? Yet, even though she was distant, his gaze closed the gap. It's easy. I'll just walk up and say hi. He started toward her. But then he froze.
The girl raised the book toward the sun like an offering and somehow wondrously, a splendid butterfly with black and red wings appeared above her. It fluttered around her and appeared to notice her presence. The girl lowered the book to her lap and the butterfly hovered tentatively as though to flee, but then in a moment of magical trust, the butterfly settled comfortably on the book. The girl and the butterfly communed in the silence of that summer moment.
George stood mesmerized. He had never seen anything so bewitching. He wanted to say something, but he was speechless. He struggled to regain his senses. He watched the butterfly soar high above him into the vividly green elm tree, a vanishing mirage.... and when he looked back down, the enigmatic girl of his dreams had faded away into a memory.
He knew the girl would never know all that had happened in this tiny Shangri-La-like moment, but he could never forget, and he would try to find her again, somehow.