Across the River
I took a walk this lunchtime, to a place I’d never been before. I walked to the park and crossed the river, reading my book as I went, then followed the river. I’d heard that there was an outdoor gym down that way and I was curious to take a look at it, but I’d never visited.
That walk was magical, and I want to put it down in writing before I forget.
It’s mid-March and the sun was shining despite a lingering chill in the air. I saw children playing on the climbing frames and swings and then encountered two young men–dressed in sportswear–stretching near the outdoor gym. One of them was very handsome and wearing knee-length red shorts with a double white stripe down the leg, and I must confess I couldn’t help but admire him even as I looked over the (muddy, seen-better-days) outdoor gym equipment.
The swing of his hips, the shine of sunlight on his red shorts when he did a deep bend to stretch his back and thighs… I feel ambivalent: one part ashamed for objectifying him and one part pleased I had the opportunity to watch as I walked, e-book held out before me like a shield.
I turned around and started walking back towards work, and on the way I saw a hand-written notice pinned to a fence to warn dog walkers that the writer’s dog had contracted gastroenteritis from flood waters there recently. “Happy walks!” the sign said, and I felt glad that someone had been so considerate to leave it there.
I met an older, gap-toothed woman with her two dogs, they lunged at me and barked but I was unfazed. Quickly she assured me that I had nothing to worry about; I reassured her in turn that I am not afraid of dogs.
I had to move around two ladies and their dogs as they paused to talk; the contrast between their animals comical. One had a large Akita/bull mastiff cross and the other a tiny little skinny pup about the size of a small cat.
Back into the park itself I wandered, still by the river, enjoying the sight of spring flowers blooming. Two punts in parallel were poled towards me and I heard haunting music rising from them. I thought it to be a radio playing, but as they came closer I realised that I was hearing the six or so young passengers singing Beehoven’s Ode to Joy in harmony. I grinned; there was something surreal and magical about the experience.
I returned to the city proper once again and started walking down the high street back to my office, passing two grimy, scruffy men trying to open a rubbish bin to extract the cigarette butts held in its top compartment; passing the Dinky Donuts van with its delicious, tempting smell.
And then back to my office, where I sit with my back to the window, faint reflections in my monitor showing me the sun-splashed buildings across the street.