This is the second part of a series I'm writing on a friend's visit to NYC. It should be read after the first part, "Hotel Peninsula."
I normally don’t comment much about my surroundings as I prefer to absorb whatever I see, take in the sights. It’s like if I talk, I’m afraid I will ‘lose’ whatever I’m trying to keep in my heart.
There was a Chinese garden in the Garden of
my memory: paper lanterns flying to the moon-
shaped entrance to an artificial, green lagoon
reflecting the pagodas and lotuses above.
Perhaps I fell in the lake after you said you cried
on seeing Hangchow’s bridges span its wide canals.
Perhaps a Chinese garden forms in all locales
where past and present, hurrying to meet, collide.
Perhaps. The fact remains my memory was wrong.
Also mistook the name of your hotel, Pennsylvania,
for my Peninsula. My vast metropolismania
constructs a virtual city where I may belong.
But you were staying in Penn’s Woods, and in the Bronx
we walked through native forest the geography
teacher in you explained, quietly—canopy,
understory and floor—then glimpsed two quick chipmunks
hurrying into the shrubs. Cheeky reminder that
we weren’t back home ascending Bukit Timah Hill,
chaperoning students, ignorant and shrill,
to a new knowledge of who they were: our brats.
You paused, and read a steel botanical sign.
That tree, a pine-like species, was deciduous—
a fact that contradicted the world known to us
who thought that every conifer was evergreen.
We walked on, slightly changed, around the real estate
camouflaged by daylily and rose gardens. Dazed
by the noon sun to silence, we walked on, amazed
before our bodies caught up with us at the gate.