Contrast

by Nathan Ko '23

          It was autumn in New York, a demanding season between the cacophony of summer and the excuses of winter, an exhausting season no man should ever face. Yet there was the summer discord of city kids and policemen bickering over childish incidents. There will still be the winter lies of workers trying to bypass necessary work by continuously fabricating that their “kids are sick.”

          I took a short break from my company due to autumn’s demands. In a quick huff, I sat in the middle of a bench that was open to the scenic view of Carl Schurz Park, concentrating on the puff of smoke rolling off the head of my dated cigar in addition to the collective gaggle of Greylag geese, all swimming towards the same destination.

          “It’s unfortunate that nature must perish for money,” I laughed.

          Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted with minimal interest the wanderings of a reluctant man, hovering like a wary pigeon searching for any possibly edible morsel. It appalled me how little the man could be bothered by human social life. His hideous clothing, his uncared-for skin, and his aggressive stench defined what I had noted about him. Every step came with repulsion, until inevitably the man sat in a secluded corner of the bench.

          For a while I fixed my eyes away from the man to avoid his begging eyes, those deceitful eyes insinuating a need for help, yet due to my lack of patience, my voice broke out.

          “What do you want,” I said.

          As my statement received no response, I altered the form of my sentence to a question.

          “What do you want?” I asked.

          “I want people to understand,” said the man, “understand the actual privilege we get to enjoy. A present would be nice too.”

          Of course, the petty opener that ended with a request for money—I had expected that from a man in need.

          “I’ll give you $100 and call it a present, then goodbye,” I said dismissively.

          “Nowadays we forgot what a present means,” said the man quietly. “The men and women before technology and obscene wealth, men and women who understood human effort as well as human passion, had known better about the definition of a present more than we do now. I can show you what a true present is.”

          The man moved uneasily in his seat, escaping the secluded corner. With glittering and anxious eyes, the man took from his pocket a beam of warm colors contrasting with the dark shadow that failed to bring sorrow to a determined man. He showcased the many carnations, irises, daisies, all of which looked like they had been removed with care.

          “This is a true present,” he said with an extra soft chime attached to his voice.

          I attempted to leave, maybe as a result of not enjoying being educated by a lesser man, yet a certain melody combined with the man’s voice made me believe there was a reason to stay a little longer.

          “I’ll give these flowers as a present to my daughter, once she returns. Then, I can give myself my own name. Maybe Indigo would complement me well. I will look forward to that day,” he said.

          If only I had the deceit to make my cries of anguish sound mellifluous. Taking a last glance at the man’s trusting eyes, I went back to my office to follow the harsh demands of autumn no man would ever enjoy.