Russell Square

Russell Square

There are many plants in the square. Ferns. I wish I knew all their names. I think it would make me feel more at home here. I would walk through the gates and say hello to the different families of foliage, gossiping with the squirrels. When the wind blows I imagine I can hear Grandmother Willow telling me that these are ‘winds of change.’ I am a hand-me-down sweater made of all my cultural experiences and societal knowings. None of me is only mine, and yet so much belongs to me. I feel no ownership over the grass and greens and yet a strong affinity exists.

The leaves are not yet changing here. Only a few go yellow or brown and then fly to the paths. I wish they would redden and blossom— like a late in life crisis, headed out soon and yet just beginning their worldly travels. A second come-to-life. A celebration of history and experience. This is how I wish the colors to seep into the leaves, first creeping in from the stem in creams and yellows and then recreating themselves into flames of blood orange, crimson, and classic red. The trees would stand defiant at the sun, coaxing it to the compare its setting hues to their vibrancy. All at once, like a couple with nothing to lose, like a child’s first leap off the diving board, they would flip and spin until they landed, giggling, in the softened dirt. This is the freedom I want for the trees.

Mother Nature and I aren’t the only ones in the square. Young couples sit on the benches, and a black dog runs in and out of the fountain. Many people sit alone and read. It is a sort of isolated community. A woman approaches the bench, my bench, and asks if she can join me. She tells me it’s her sister’s birthday and this is her bench. I watch as she ties a bundle of balloons around the back of the bench, places a card on the seat, and pops a bottle of champagne. She says she would have offered me a glass but for her lack of cups. Her sister had eaten her lunch there every day before she died.

Disappeared. Left. The bench bore her name and years, giving room for others to enjoy their meals in her place. I wonder how many people had used this park as their personal space before moving on. I ran away from that bench. I do not sit on it anymore. I like to think about this woman unknown and keep the bench free for her. Now I sit on a bench nearby, gazing as couples take her place. Day in and day out. She’s been added to my sweater, and I think she makes the grounds feel a bit more like a home.

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