Observation: Shake and Fries at Madison Square Park

It was around lunch-time and I had a small milkshake and my very first French fries on the table in front of me, as I sat waiting for a friend under the leafy tall trees that shaded the eating area of the Shake Shack at Madison Square Park. I was trying to read Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others, drink a milkshake and munched on crisp fries. The fries weren't as good as the ones I had begged off of friends in the past. The lively summer atmosphere being distractive, I closed the book and started looking about me with interest. I noticed almost everyone sat with someone else. A man walked to my table, grabbed the extra chair in front of me, and as he made to walk away with it asked, "Do you need this chair?" I replied that I did and he gave me a suspicious look, put the chair back and walked away. I started wondering about the conversations around me. Earlier in the queue to buy my lunch, I had been trying not to stare at a super skinny girl in a super short dress when  another girl behind me said to her friend, "That girl's dress is short!" I didn't look back.  Not immediately. And not directly when I did.  This same girl who had voiced out my thoughts was now sitting about a yard to my right, quickly eating a burger with her friend. From their conversation I deduced they were on their lunch break from work, and didn't have a lot of time left.  The super skinny girl was to my left, whispering to her own friend. 

The clear winking light bulbs threading above took me back to my last year in college when I had made the park my subject for my final photography class. I took several shots of similar bulbs at the Shack. I wondered if any of the ones above were present when I did my shots. I thought of that class, the people I had met, and some of the conversations we had. How important it all felt then. How exciting it was to walk into that class. I wondered about my photography professor. I never could form a solid notion of him. I liked him all the same, although, I was very confused in his class and learned everything outside of it. He was polite and looked somewhat like Alan Rickman. This thought reminded me that the last time I was in the park with another friend, there had been an interesting looking man sitting across from us reading Harry Potter!

So many times I have been in this park with so many different people. It started during my freshman year. With the first two friends I made through a pre-college maths class,  I sat in the park with them waiting for our classes to begun; these classes were about 2 -3 hours apart. It felt strange thinking of a past in a place I presently occupied. Knowing now things I once could not fantom: like how our freshman year would end, when I will graduate, and what would become of me in the few years after college. I heard the water splashing in the fountain and that drew up another memory of a meeting with a poetry professor, one chilly morning in January, on one of the benches near the water to discuss my writing and seek advice on applying to an MFA program.  I also remembered sitting about two yards from where I sat, with my pledge sisters for a sorority that I had ended up dropping out of. I recalled an evening  not so long ago with an ex-boyfriend and his friends. It was cold, and I felt we were out of our minds to be eating in the open.

I spotted the friend I was waiting for. She was standing next to the beginning of the queue——where I had noticed the girl in the super short dress——looking around. Her hair was shorter than the last time I saw her. She looked a little different too but I couldn't say how. I stood up and started waving. She didn’t see me so I rung her phone and directed her to where I was standing and waving. When she started walking in my direction, I hanged up wondering about the new memories I was about to add to the old ones.


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