The wildlife in Riverside Park is truly beautiful.
As Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” Because of you, I now have pawprints in my heart.
The “you” I’m referring to is the friend I met in Riverside Park on a breezy fall night. I’d just finished running, and the cold sweat gathering on my brow became chilly as a gust of wind pushed me back on the path. Night had fallen, and I was trying to hurry out of the park before the ghouls and gremlins of Riverside emerged from the crevices. As I approached the stairs leading to Riverside Drive, I heard the family walking in front of me squeal. Their baby began wailing, the father ran down the stairs in fear, and the mother froze in place. My instincts kicked in, and I channeled my 15-year-old cross-country-running self. By this, I mean I quickly walked in the other direction, making sure not to strain myself too much. I’d rather face death than break another sweat. After walking a few feet, a cosmic, supernatural force urged me to turn around. To this day, I’m still not sure why I returned to the stairs, but I thank the heavens that I did. That’s when I saw him. In the darkness, I first saw his bright yellow eyes illuminating the area around him. I climbed up the stairs, and his full body came into view.
If you can’t already tell from the photos, it was a raccoon. I’d only ever seen a YouTube video of a raccoon brushing its teeth, but as soon as I laid eyes on this one, I knew he was different. He was sitting on top of the stone wall staring at me, and I was standing on the third step staring at him. At that moment, everything froze. His mangy fur, plump body, and crazy eyes made me want to flee, but his aura urged me to stay. I became transfixed despite the people around me begging me to back away from the rabid creature. I crept closer, and he looked me up and down, trying to determine if I posed a threat. My nose ring threw him for a loop, but he knew I was a docile creature. After a few minutes of this, I decided to return to my dorm. As I ascended the stairs, he followed me up the wall, making sure to remain a foot or so behind me at all times. I bid him farewell and returned to my room thinking I’d never see him again.
The next day, I returned to the park around the same time for another run. (I realize this post is making me sound far more dedicated to running than I actually am.) Shockingly, I’d forgotten about the raccoon and even took a different path. I finished up my run and began walking back towards 110th street when I saw something dart in front of me. I jumped back, alarmed at the sight of the furry creature. It turned around to reveal its face, and, to my surprise, it was him. Yes, it was the same raccoon. He ran around me shaking his tail, almost as if he were doing some sort of jig. I sat down on a nearby bench, and he stood on the ground next to me, gazing at the stars.
It’s been a week, and I’ve seen him a few more times in the same spot. We always acknowledge each other’s existence and occasionally share snacks, but the conversations are fairly one-sided. I can only hope that one day he will feel comfortable enough to open up with me. Until then, we’ll continue stargazing.
a new friend via Bwogger