A DATE WITH MY SKETCHBOOK
ROMANCE IN THE PARK
It was close to eight-thirty when I walked out of Free Friday Nights at the Frick. I was staying at a client's pied-a-terre on West 75th Street, almost directly across the park from the Frick. There's a crosstown bus you can catch on 72nd Street. It's how I got to the Frick earlier in the evening but at the last minute as I stood on the corner of Fifth and 70th I changed my mind and decided to walk back through the park. The night air was thick with humidity leaving only a few people still in the park. Clusters of families: some old, some with baby strollers, many speaking languages I didn't know sitting on benches lining the walks fanning themselves or relaxing weary at the end of the day.
It was the sound of the horse hooves and the horse's pungent smell that made me turn to look at the white carriage trotting up next to me.
That's where I saw that middle-aged couple. She was seated on the red leather bench at the back of the carriage. He was on his knees on the dusty floor facing her and holding her hand. The East Indian driver navigating the carriage was dressed in white pants, a striped vest and a top hat festooned with plastic flowers. He kept his focus on his horse flicking his whip slightly to keep his horse moving forward. Our pace, the carriage and mine, kept us in sync as the romantic drama unfolded like a movie beside me. It was a silent film. I had to fill in the dialogue. I didn't want to intrude on their private moment so I watched it with the jerky nature of an old film shot at an odd number of frames per second.
His intensity was only short of tears, Hers was sweet and trembling and then I saw the ring. Lit by the streetlamps that had just come on, a sparkle flashed from the ring and streaked across her face. I turned my head feeling too much the voyeur. I didn't see the kiss. I don't know if one even happened but as the carriage started to make it's turn on its designated path and I parted heading directly across to Central Park West I found my voice and whispered loud enough that they could hear, "Congratulations".
She beamed and he said, "We've been married eighteen years today".
Berenice Abbott, photographer
Represented by Howard Greenberg Gallery, NYC