Walking

It felt like spring. Only, it was in the middle of January in Philadelphia. Perhaps it was the three layers of clothing and my wool coat, or the sun shining on my face, that I thought to myself what a fine spring day it was. I passed by this spot on my school’s campus countless of times. But, like most stressed out students, the beauty of the campus doesn’t settle in until one breathes in deeply and just listen. Perhaps what one may hear, is a secret song.

Footsteps were everywhere. Some were quick in pace, as if late for an important meeting. Others were slow or even dragging, probably belonging to a student who stayed in the library all night and just returning home. Joggers passed by with perfectly synchronized steps. Occasionally, there would be the distinct sound of someone breaking into his or her new shoes, which squeaked with every step. Then, pointy wooden heels pierced the ground, resonating with importance and commanding attention. It was the kind of a deep rich tone that rings in your ear even when the steps are far ahead of you. These were the beats to the composition.

The first verse belonged to the children that made a playground from the campus’ statues and sculptures. A girl, around six years old, was fascinated by the sculpture of the broken white button. She knocked on it, kicked it, stood on it, and finally, sat on it. She had a satisfied look on her face, as if she just conquered an unmarked piece of land. A boy, not much older than her, glanced at her from behind. He had a Mona-Lisa smile, well, perhaps more like a smirk. Was it attraction? Was it want of a friend? Or was it simply he’s waiting for her to get off so he could play with the sculpture? We would never know since it was the end of the first verse.

The refrain chimed in. This belonged to the lazy sparrows that perched on the hedges basking in the sun’s brightness. The sparrows looked like lint balls with their fluffed up feathers. A cool breeze brushed their soft down as they submerged themselves in their contentment. Staring into the brightness, they softly chirped to an unknown audience. Were they reciting poetry in respect for the sun? Were they chanting for spring and summer to come soon? How wonderful it would be if the listener were able to make sense of their secrets.

A church bell sounded, opening a path for the soloist.

A small, chubby, and furry grey squirrel seduced the listener with his intense stare. He had just hoisted up his treasure from a green garbage can. Immensely enjoying his piece of stale bagel, he nibbled on it while rotating the piece with his two stubby forearms. He stared at the listener, without moving his head and without blinking. It was eerie yet fascinating how this soloist was able to command the attention of the listener and those around him. It seemed that during this verse, the footsteps in the background became soft hums, the cool breezes stopped, and the chirps were silenced. With the piece of bagel devoured, the soloist came forward to the listener and offered a duet.

For a brief moment, the listener had a companion. As she turned away, soft scampering forearms and hind legs accompanied her footsteps. She stopped walking, he stopped scurrying. She looked at him, he perked up his head. The connection suddenly vanished when the soloist found a more enticing partner to share his song with – a thicket of leaves. Disappearing into the dense pile of dried out and unappetizing yellow leaves, the listener was left to be with her own thoughts, and so ends the duet.

The sparrows were still chirping quietly on the hedges. Then, silence. The sun was hidden behind a building and the disheartened creatures sat in the cold shadow of the day. The abrupt change alerted their senses. Heads turn to see what dangers approached. With their quick eyes, they became aware of the listener that was slowly approaching their territory. Like the brisk wind that weaved its way through the long thin branches of the trees, the sparrows burrowed into the hedges. Not a single chirp was heard, not a single flutter of wings existed. Thus ends the refrain and the song.

Cheeks numb, lips chapped, I briskly walked away from the silence. Perhaps on another seemingly spring-like day, the song can be played and heard again.

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