Zayda arrives in New York City and gets a disturbing sensory experience.
|Zayda fought the urge to cover her ears. Sound pummeled her. Sirens, traffic, people. A never ending cascade of sound. She tried to drag in deep breaths as she fought to remain calm, but she could feel her heart thunder in her ears. Her body still vibrated with energy from the train ride into Penn Station. The crowds engulfed her. She felt sure she would drown in the sea of emotional energy that flooded over her as she made her way through the warren of corridors to emerge on the street level. Why had she thought this would be easy?
From the moment the train neared the city and the beautiful, natural landscape fell away, she had been gripped by a growing anxiety. A haze of grey that hung over the city. Buildings rose up in defiance. A stark contrast to the life she knew - a small, seaside community. Cozy houses, trees and forests and the sound of the ocean mixed with the salty breeze. The Aunt's lovely Victorian house with lush gardens and view of the ocean. That was her happy place. With her eyes closed a moment, she tried to visualize that very place, but the bustle of the world around her intruded forcing her to open her eyes and step swiftly out of the way of a group of teenagers. She could feel their glee and excitement, as well as their darker hidden feelings. Those feelings washed over her with a ferocity that stole her breath for a moment. The intensity was too much.
She gulped in air and forced herself to find her center. She could do this. She would do this.
As she moved on, she was careful to avoid bumping into anyone. It was hard enough not to absorb the myriad of emotions that swelled around her; many of them dark and frantic.
She hoped to find some semblance of peace, but it eluded her as the crowds throbbed around her. She fought the tears that stung her eyes. How could she be here? How could she manage in all this cacophony of sound? It was endless.
By the time she made it out of the building and her feet hit the pavement, she felt as if she was going to shatter. She took a moment to adjust to the brightness of the sunlight.
Her eyes took in the pale grey of concrete that surrounded her. Concrete Jungle. The thought bounced through her mind, jarring her.
If she looked up far enough she could see blue sky and pristine white clouds. The sky was reflected in the glass of the skyscrapers. It was disorienting, like she was in some kind of fun house that was certainly not fun. There was a reason she'd avoided that kind of thing. Too much distortions of reality.
How was she ever going to make it to the address Adwina had given her? She didn't dare tackle the subway system that streamed with people. The system itself seemed far too complicated to understand. The screech of trains over the rails had been deafening, and she had fought the panic of never seeing the light again.
She dragged in air and fell into a fit of coughing as gas and diesel fumes overtook her. She longed for the seaside breeze of Roseville. The peace and tranquility of open space and the beauty of the natural flora and fauna.
Finally managing to regulate her breathing, she moved to the side, out of the main throng of the crowd. Here she hoped no one would bounce into her as she consulted the map that she had crumpled in the stress of it all.
Adwina had told her it was less than two miles south. All she needed to do was find 7th avenue. It would be a half hour to forty minute walk. Why had she not asked them to meet her? She was crazy for refusing their offer to meet. She knew that now.
Still, she knew she could make it so long as she found the right street and got herself oriented in the right direction.
Scanning the area, she found the signs she needed and, grabbing her suitcase, she moved out into the throng, careful to keep herself separate as she headed south.
Away from the train station and all its heavy emotions, Zayda could feel the tightness in her chest loosening. As she walked by upscale restaurants and shops, she sensed a more light heartedness and freedom. People here were more relaxed and hopeful.
The closer she got to Greenwich Village the more hopeful she became. Her panic began to subside. The crowds dissipated. She saw more vegetation - though she had to feel sorry for the spindly trees that grew up out of a mound of earth cordoned off with paving stones. The buildings that seemed to dominate every angle dwarfed the poor trees.
As she moved south, the trees seemed fuller, less contained. Some buildings even wore vines that ran up and over every inch of their facade. That gave her hope. You could still grow here in the big city.
When she found the address, she was pleased to see it was one that celebrated with plants. The old Brownstone steps held two large planted containers of pretty flowers. Glancing up at the building, Zayda felt a sense of calm. She climbed the steps to knock on the heavy blue door that stood in contrast to the red brick. The building was 4 windows across and 4 floors. Sixteen windows and two smaller windows below street level added a basement. There was no space between it and the next residence. They were all crammed together as if guarding secrets behind.
When she knocked, it was not long before the door was flung open and she was pulled into the embrace of an exuberant Adwina.
"You made it!"
Zayda felt pulled in to the comfortable space. Adwina's greeting erased the horrors of the trip so far. She could only return the hug and be grateful for the shimmer of friendship and love she felt engulfing her.
The place was wonderful. Unlike the building's facade, the interior was open and inviting. Zayda felt safe; as if the space was a well of love and kindness. A sanctuary after the turbulent time of getting there.
"Come. We'll have tea in the garden with Mother. Then I will show you around."
Zayda left her suitcase and backpack at the front entrance and followed Adwina through a well-lit hallway that opened up into a living room to one side and a kitchen and dining area to the back of the place.
The garden was the size of postage stamp with each side a bricked work wall. Each covered with vines and other flora. It was almost easy to forget they were within the confines of the city. It was blissfully quiet back here. Adwina's mother, Fiona sat at the patio table surrounded by beds of flowers and herbs. The smell was aromatic and heavenly.
"Zayda so glad you made it. I had a fright when Adwina told me you would be coming here on your own," the woman stood and spread her arms for Zayda to walk into. The emotions where friendly, but contained.
They sat and Fiona poured the steeped tea into delicate tea cups with matching saucers. So formal, it seemed.
"I'll show your room later, but first.... you'll love this," Adwina said as they headed for the stairs to the upper levels.
Adwina lead her up 4 flights of stairs to emerge onto the roof. As they passed through the door, Zayda stopped. Her mouth dropped as her eyes took in the wonder before her. Lush plants filled the space with patio stones meandering through the vegetation. In the far corner was a paneled house of glass filled with more precious plants and herbs.
"Oh, my..." Zayda said, her voice barely a whisper.
"Our garden may not be as spectacular as the Aunts, but in the city..."
"It is that and now that we'll have a resident botanist, it will be even more so."
Zayda could not keep the smile from her lips. Her eyes glistened as tears clung to her lashes. "I was starting to think the city had very little to offer..."
"Oh, you'll be surprised by what this city can deliver... we just need to get you oriented to the space. You'll get used to it."
Word count = 1416