The Forbidden Zone

A monumental change in Ted’s life

Ted the accountant walked outside into Central Park with his retinas still peeling back into his head from three hours of closed-end mutual funds, not ready for the blackbird chirping in the park. Ten years of rolling compromises made Ted a pretty dull guy, but right now a series of small changes was sucking back Ted’s decade of university studying, internships and M.R. Weisner & Co.’s 135 W. 50th Street office in NYC like measuring tape. Not ready for the warmest single moment of April sun he felt he’d ever known. The intensity of sunrays gripped his receded retinas and pulled them not to the rear wall of his eyeball but into the clear ecstasy that’s only felt on the first really warm second of the year. His life changed in the cavalcade of sunlight — he fell desperately in love, desperately in love, with the purling petals of cerulean blue hydrangeas before he even realized and believed that one could fall in love with plants. He wanted only to caress them, photosynthesize, touch. A flutter of leaves in the wind swelled his heart to unmanageable volumes. Next he felt his eyes water, not so much from ecstasy but from the nostalgia brought on by the hydrangeas, which he now had his face in. A nostalgia for events that hadn’t happened, it should be admitted, but where nostalgia comes from is less important than the fact that the nostalgia has arrived. Like a cigarette doubling up alcohol onset, the nostalgia for events that hadn’t occurred brought on by the hydrangeas Ted had fallen in love with due to his errant ecstasy quickly compounded his ecstasy and turned Ted into a gurgling flagellate flopping around the park and feeling all over everything. His retinas were ripped open into wide, thin discs that took in light from the wide, clear windows of his pupils and disseminated everything into vascular blobs of light blobbing in a rhythmic, warm-minute-in-April dance in his vision. Ted sat on the ground in the middle of the dirt pathway and absorbed, children with scooters and parents fanning around him. He took in all of it, none of it in focus but all of it clear in his eyes. He saw a woman sitting on a bench, hair like pipe cleaners and plain, pastel colored clothes maybe hand made and hands folded over her lap over a purse, squinting at him from the middle distance, lit up bright. She squinted while Ted took it in and she glared at him sitting on the ground in the park and called her son over to stroke his head, smiling, squinting, occasionally looking back and glaring at Ted. Ted heard her chastise her son — “Don’t play in the wet grass, your butt is all wet.” — and watched her son play in the grass anyway and heard her chastise — “WHAT DID I TELL YOU” — and smelled the breeze and the flowers and the floating scents of garbage from the trashcans by the hydrangeas, and felt her warm glare on him. ‘Is that all you are?’ he thought, cradling himself and rocking ecstatically. ‘Just a slice of light?’

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