Cover Photo: Down in the Park by Alicia Zadrozny

Down in the Park

In the world there is a city. It likes to think of itself as the greatest city in the world. And in this city there is a park. Not its greatest park, but it has a long fine carpet of grass. All around the grass are people speaking all the great languages of this world.Theyare___ and ___ and ___. And nothing that you thinkof.

A lone brown leaf whirligigs down,

down,

A Girl sits down and pushes her hands into her hair. She is not having her prettiest day—having to wake at 5:30 to wait tables in a neighborhood she can't afford to live in. But she is very pretty in the way that young women always are.

In her lap there is a script—she is memorizing lines for a part in a play. This Girl is trying to become Lydia, a woman who is sad and defeated—a state she has never known. Back in Ohio, the Girl had been treasured. Her father loves her. And her mother told her: “go, make something of your dreams.”

The Girl tries to recall what she knows about pain. And mostly, she comes up short. Except. Once she had gone to a dance with an older boy. And after a few sips of vodka in the back of the gym she began to giggle and he to lean in. He touched her--too roughly--and then went off with his friends. She swallowed a sob. Smoothed down her skirt. In that moment, she told herself: this will not be my life.

She found her friend who was flirting with the new boy. She would eventually lose it to this new boy and eventually lose this friend and date the boy on and off all through college. She’d see him at Christmas if she went back home. But she might end up staying in the city with the director of the play in her hands.

The Girl turns to the next page of the script. She reads:

…The kitchen is dark. There is a spotlight over the table. Paul eats from a tray of cold cuts. Lydia grips the edge of the table.

Lydia

(The Girl writes: Lydia is invisible. But she crosses this out, pressing hard. Lydia wants to be known.)

Lydia

Please look at me.


You could come too but you’d have to change.

Lydia

Into what?

    

The Girl shivers as a breeze ripples through the park. Voices get loud. Get soft and softer still. Louder and louder.  A woman tells her friend to dress sexy for her man. A baby squeals. Beggars beg. A glass bottle rolls off a table. Shatters. A little boy kicks dust at a pigeon again and again and again. The pigeon flaps its wings and flies off. Somewhere west.

Downtown, the director rewrites the last scene of the play. Lydia says: Paul, I’ll change.

She rises.

Alicia works with words in New York City. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Manhattanville College.