Excerpt from A String of Knots


…The next day, Venus and I planned a visit to The New York Botanical Garden. She came by my apartment about 1:00 p.m. where we departed for the garden. We had planned to spend the afternoon there, so we prepared some food for a quiet picnic. We picked out a spot near the rose garden. This was our favorite spot because all the roses were in full bloom. We admired the various hybrids as we began to eat some of the fruit salad that we had prepared. Several minutes later, we ate the potato salad and some fried chicken we had brought with us. The flowers were swaying back and forth in the gentle breeze. Our radio was tuned to the classical station of The New York Times, WQXR. An orchestra was playing a popular composition by the Russian composer, Tchaikovsky. Maybe it was The New York Philharmonic; I wasn’t sure, and it didn’t really matter, because it was a beautiful rendition.

The composition began with the jeering sounds of the English horns in concert with the murmuring harps spilling their aquatic sounds from the background. Then came the repetitive melody of the French horns like an inquiry, as I offered my outstretched arm to Venus posing an invitation to dance.

“Madam, may I have this dance?”

“You are crazy,” she chuckled as she got up from the ground where she was sitting.

“Not at all, but they are playing our music,” I responded as I took her hand and grabbed her hips.

“They are?” she said inquisitively.

“Yes!” I shouted frankly as I led her in my frolicking steps across the lawn in and out the grove of lilac bushes.

“That’s so sweet, Saul, but what is it saying?”

“Do you belong to me?” I chanted repetitively in a baritone voice, mimicking the melody of lovely French horns.

“Oh yes; I do,” she responded in harmony with flourishing sounds of the viola.

“Are you quite sure, my dear?” I reiterated again and again at the sound of the French horns.

“Oh so very sure,” she sang in a polka-dot manner in unison with the violas.

We were just making it up as we went along, sometimes nonsensically. Our voices blended as a multitude of strings and woodwinds sounded in the dialogues of the music. The flutes, clarinets, oboes, violas, and violins played her part while the horns and trumpets mockingly revealed my part.

“Isn’t he great?” I said.

“Who?” she inquired.

“Tchaikovsky,” I whispered in her ear.

“Oh,” she responded.

“Look! They are dancing with us,” I yelled as I spun her around to face the roses in the garden.

“Oh gosh! It’s the waltz of the flowers!” she shouted between her fingers where her hand slightly covered her mouth.

“Yes! Yes!” I yelled as I let go of her hand and madly bobbed and weaved while bending down to pick up two dinner forks. They became the clanging sounds of my improvised triangles, an accent riding the wind, an ode to the future bells of matrimony.

“Saul! You are crazy!” shouted Venus almost in disbelief while standing with her hands clasped about her parting lips.

“About you!” I yelled back at her from a distance, hopping on one foot at a time as I advanced toward her. I reinvented the movements in the waltz with my unpredictable out-of-step breathing and prancing like a bullfrog. I wondered how long could I keep up this antic before I expired and fell to the ground just as the music hammered in the last note in its crescendo. Venus was laughing uncontrollably as I lay on the ground panting with my eyes piercing the blue sky. Then I pretended to stop breathing.

“Saul! Saul! Are you OK?” screamed Venus lying on me, slapping my cheeks.

“Yeah, yeah. Got you!” I said kissing her.

“Boy, oh boy! You had me worried for a second. Don’t you ever do that again.”

“OK,” I said giggling.

As I lay on the ground with Venus beside me, I could hear the music echoing in my head. The timely refrain played by the viola in response to the French horns and the ever-changing dialogues between instruments conducted a sincere inquiry in many different ways. In the abundance of flourishes, Venus’s responses were always the same. I liked the way I asserted myself in the inquiry as the trumpets raised the refrain and hammered it in with a bang. It was awesome. I mean the ending. Even more sublime is how Venus was able to guess the title of the composition. She was very excited then, and I was pure imagination. For a brief moment, I felt liberated and one hundred percent creative. I soon became apprehensive when I had discovered that I had received a glimpse into my soul of a place beyond prohibitions and inhibitions. The formulaic life that I am accustomed to had recalled me from this sublimity, and I became my typical self again. Anything oblique to the sacred traditions and lofty expectations in this life was out of order, unexpected, uncertain and even blasphemous. I had to walk the chalk line– mother’s chalk line.

“Come on, Saul. It’s time to go,” said Venus getting up and dragging me to my feet.

“Really, do we have to…?” I said reluctantly.

“Yep! It’s almost closing time,” she responded.

“OK,” I said as we started to make our way to the main entrance of the garden.

“Saul, I had a good time today. Did you?” inquired Venus.

“Yep, and I wished it never ended,” I replied as I hopped into the car, and she drove off.

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