By Andrea Terres
It’s hard to find a quiet place in the city. It’s even harder to find grass and trees. Being from the south where trees and nature surround me from every angle, it’s hard to believe people here settle for this life. Central Park is said to be one of the most iconic places America, and it is, if you buy into the illusion. Every tree is the perfect shade of green; every trunk has the perfect standing strength; every bird sings the perfect melody; every squirrel has the perfect fluffy tail. It’s a fantasy that mankind has created for our future generations, so they believe that natural beauty is perfection.
Valentina and I walk around for a few minutes trying to find a place for our picnic. We finally pick a spot where we won’t get run over by bikers or joggers. I unfold the large red and white-checkered blanket and, thanks to the wind, have trouble setting it on the grass. We place a sandal on each corner to hold down the blanket and quickly hop on top. As we stumble down to our knees, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that I am in New York City. The idea of me being here in the flesh is unreal.
Valentina and I had always dreamed of coming to New York City together. It took us about eight months of hardcore diaper changing and burger flipping, but we finally had enough to book two flights to Newark, New Jersey and take a taxi to the Big Apple. We had this big elaborate plan to do as many New York tourist things as possible in four days. Today, we planned a nice picnic in Central Park. We bought a stereotypical wicker basket and filled it with stereotypical picnic food so we could have a stereotypical picnic in the park.
Unwrapping the sandwiches and stripping the grapes of their vine we settle into our spot. Pouring cheap champagne into plastic glasses to give the illusion of adulthood. We raise our plastic glasses and cheer. I take a sip from my glass and close my eyes to enjoy the taste of cheap champagne. The bubbling of the champagne sizzles down my throat and I release a short breath of pure joy. My eyes open and meet a slice of watermelon on the plate. The watermelon is seedless. How lazy we have become that watermelons must be seedless. I grab one of the sandwiches and lay on my back to take in the sky. I take a bite. My mind starts to rest away from my body.
“That one looks like a flower,” says Valentina. I had forgotten I had company. I look at the cloud she points at. A flower? I don’t see it. I never see the shapes. I only see grey clouds. People don’t like to believe in the grey. They like believing in the shapes. I roll over to my stomach and take another bite. The creamy peanut butter attaches to the top of my mouth; I reach for my champagne. The crisp champagne flushes the left over peanut butter away. My eyes are drawn to a pile of ants marching in formation.
Even small animals like ants have order and structure. They march towards the plate with pretzels and hummus. I wonder if ants only eat human leftovers. They couldn’t have possible always lived off of our leftovers. Maybe they got lazy too.
A thought crosses my mind. What would happen if the entire human race were to die off? Would they die of hunger, or would they adapt? Would we, as mankind mourn the disappearance of ants? If it’s not a dog or a cat then we aren’t crying.
What about the trees? What would their destruction inflict on our daily life? Will we be telling tales to grandchildren about the tigers that once roamed the earth, or about the blue whales who swam free in the ocean, or will they be able to see them for themselves?
I spill my champagne on the line of ants. They scatter and break from their routine, just like we would. I see some ants fighting for their lives; others are floating at the top of the bubbly champagne.
A rush of guilt flows down my spine. I just drowned ants, small innocent creatures with beating hearts. I made a choice to eliminate them. As if I owned this patch of grass, but this is something that comes so easily to mankind. We claim land that is taken. Mankind has made a society that wants three things from life: power, glory, and money. We live with nature and yet we don’t acknowledge her. Nature gives us food, water, and life. We give nature chemicals, oil spills, and death.
I turn over and look up at my view. I see buildings looking down on trees; I see the sun getting more vicious from the grey clouds that feed it. Nature is growing more violent, and it doesn’t seem to hide its force. We cease to see the growing fury of nature because we are too hypnotized by the illusion that all nature can be replaced artificially. Nature fights back; she tries to drown us with tsunamis, instead of champagne. She tries to bury us with snowstorms in winter and burn us with bloodthirsty sunrays in summer. She has become a savage forgetting the four seasons and only giving us two, but is she the savage or do we believe ourselves so superior to Nature that we blame her for the destruction and suffering? New York is sold to the dreamers who wish for wealthy, but the sellers understand the filt it takes to make those empires surpass the limits of skyscrapers.