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We buried my grandpa in Central Park.
It was October, and my breath hung in the air, creating a fog suited for the occasion. I was bundled up, all in black, walking to the family bench. This visit to Central Park was different from any other I’d ever taken, but it’s stained every visit since.
When I visit the city, I always go to the bench. Preferably alone and sweaty because I’ve run there. Going there requires a sprint. There’s an urgency to visit. To have a talk. The second I land at LaGuardia, my legs begin to twitch.
Many who visit New York City put “Bow Bridge” on their checklist. It’s iconic, having appeared in every romantic comedy based in NYC since the ’90s. The view everyone sees – I know it well. That’s where my grandparents have their benches. You may as well put “visit Roger” on your checklist of sights to see.
Of course, when I arrive to visit grandpa, there are about one million people there. Because I am now older and wiser, I’ve changed visiting hours. Now, I like to go at a god awful hour in the morning or late afternoon, nearing sunset. Somehow, though, when I visit, the weather is always fringed regardless of the season.
I remember the way my grandma held the box. It was as if his ashes were a baby, delicate and new to the world. A small soul you want to smother in love and keep safe. We all gathered around the bench as she sprinkled my grandpa all over it. A squirrel came by, hoping it was bread crumbs. It was very mistaken.
Together, we walked to the bridge in a harmonic sway. Long slow steps. So long you feel as if the ground’s disappeared and you’re falling. Everyone was crying. Then, grandma threw grandpa over the bridge and into the water. If he weren’t dead, this would have been much more dramatic. Instead, it was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Air parted him, and he drifted away, clouding the water below, but methodically. It was as if a frayed string was being tugged ever so slowly through the water. I stood there and watched him fade away.
When I visit the bench, I talk to him between gasping breaths, because let’s face it, I am no runner. He was, which is hilariously ironic (14 NYC marathons to be exact). We laugh about how very illegal it is to put human ashes in the park. I tell him I’m gay and hope he’s cool with that. We talk about my brother, Weston, and how all of those tennis lessons paid off. Of course, he asks me about Gigi (my grandma), and I say, “she’s never stopped missing you.”
The crazy thing is that our “most real” conversations happen on that bench, post mortem. My face scrunches writing that, but I’m thankful too. To have somewhere to visit, quiet, in the city. To know someone who’s a part of it’s DNA.
R. R. Noall
R.R. Noall is a world traveler, tattoo collector, wine drinker, and occasional writer who pets all of the dogs. Noall lives and writes in Denver, and is an English professor and the founding editor of From Whispers to Roars. Past work has been featured by Drunk Monkeys, The Closed Eye Open, Chaleur Magazine, Genre: Urban Arts, RANGE, CEO Lit Mag, and in Her Heart Poetry publications.