Parallel Lines

Rebecca Reeves

 

Cathy stepped out of the shower in her new apartment. She was trying to be on time for the concert this evening. Jenny had suggested they go, and Cathy was more than ready for some time out with one of her dearest friends. This would be a pleasant change from her nights at the opera or symphony – this was a rock concert, for the benefit of the Central Park Conservancy. The park was in dire need of renovation, and this was the first event to benefit that restoration. Since Cathy had grown up in New York, and had fond memories of playing in the park with her parents, she was only too happy to combine her sincere desire for the park's welfare and an evening of good music. She dressed in jeans and a new casual top of a deep green and then sat to tie her high-top sneakers. A few touches of light makeup, a spritz of cologne, and few strokes of the brush, and she was as ready as she would be. Just as she finished, the doorbell rang.
 

She opened the door to Jenny, who was similarly attired, her top in a shade of yellow. She looked excited for an evening out. Cathy had just taken the bar exam and was waiting for the results, but was relieved to have completed the long years of studying. Jenny had opted for a career in publishing and art, and had completed her studies earlier, after getting her master's degree. She looked at Cathy with a wicked grin and said, wagging her eyebrows, “Well? Do you think we'll meet any good-looking men at this thing tonight?”
 

Cathy laughed back at her friend. “I sure hope so- I bought this new cologne just because it is supposed to attract the opposite sex!” She held out her wrist to let Jenny sniff. “What do you think?”
 

“Oh! If that is definitely the final touch on your plan to find the most wonderful man in this city, you’ll at least be going out for a drink after the show!” Jenny replied, still grinning. “But we'd better get a move on, if we want to be able to see!”
 

Just about that same time, in a cavern deep below the city, a young man was preparing to attend the same concert. He was one of many who made their homes here, away from prying eyes. He stood well over six feet, and had long, golden-amber hair. His broad shoulders were clad in several layers more than those Above needed for this time of year. The temperature in the Tunnels was always around 54° Fahrenheit.

 

His name was Vincent, and he was nearly thirty years old. He had lived here since he was found as an infant behind St. Vincent's Hospital, for which he was named. He was an unusual child. His facial features were feline, with a bifurcated upper lip and elongated canines. As he grew, the child's feline face changed to resemble more that of a lion, with his thick, heavy amber hair much like a mane. The hair covering his body was more prevalent than on most men, and his fingers and toes ended in sharp, non-retractable claws.

 

He had, of course, grown up with many other children here Below. They accepted his differences, and he didn't think overly much about them, except when newcomers were introduced to the community. Then, he would stay away from the common areas until they had acclimated a bit, and heard about him. The first time they saw him, he always saw fear, even though it was quickly replaced by a smile when they realized he was a part- indeed, the heart- of the Tunnels.
 

But tonight, all that was far from Vincent's thoughts as he prepared to go to the chamber under the Great Lawn. It was near enough to the stage to be sure he could hear well, and even catch a glimpse of some of the crowd if he wished. This was a bit of a departure for Vincent. He usually preferred classical music, but Pascal and some of the others had teased him about being a “fuddy-duddy”, and encouraged him to try some music that was popular with the younger people now. Not wishing to be seen as stuffy, he agreed. He had finished working in one of the lower chambers that were being prepared as homes for some of the more recent families and had washed in the bathing pool. He out on fresh clothes- they resembled medieval costumes, with many patches and clever use of fabric pieces. With a final fling of his head to settle the mass of golden hair around his shoulders, he walked to the dining hall to meet Pascal and the others.

 

The easy grace of his passing did not go unremarked by Rebecca and a few other young women who had also grown up Below. Despite Father's discouraging, many a young woman cherished a secret hope that she would one day be Vincent's chosen . . .
 

Cathy and Jenny left Cathy's building and walked across the street to the park. They turned left and continued to walk down West Drive toward the Great Lawn. There were a lot of people heading the same way. They had heard that about 300,000 were expected, but this seemed like it could have been even more. The two women had hoped to get a good spot where they might see the show, but people had been filling the area since daybreak. It was clearer now - it had rained earlier in the day. They made their way as close as they could, and ended up at stage right, but many rows back. This was a great place, considering the sheer number of people, so Jenny and Cathy spread the blanket they had brought and settled down.
 

Below, Vincent, Pascal, Rebecca, Sandra and a few others walked to the chamber underneath the grate by the stage area. It was a wonderful place to hear these concerts held on the lawn. They brought out several pillows and blankets, and made themselves comfortable. Vincent was curious about the duo that was performing tonight. They had been making music together and separately for almost thirty years. The group of friends talked and laughed easily together, and waited for the music to begin.
 

Even from their spot far back in the crowd, Jenny and Cathy could see that the stage was set up to resemble a typical New York rooftop. Just about twilight, the band entered and they heard the announcement, “Ladies and gentlemen, Simon and Garfunkel!” There was a roar of applause, and in a few minutes, the concert began. The girls relaxed and settled in to listen and watch other concertgoers. Lyrics from the songs floated around them, each lost in her own thoughts.
 

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.

Remember me to one who lives there.

She once was a true love of mine
 

The words that Vincent heard were from a tune that was very old. He had heard it before, but now it was intermingled with another song. The song had been a favorite and was the story of a man who asked his love to complete a series of impossible tasks, and she answered him in kind. This set Vincent to thinking- since he was a man - a creature? - unlike any that come before as far as they knew, would perhaps such a quest find him a true love, a soul-mate? Father had said that such a thing was never to be for Vincent, but he longed for someone to share his dreams as did any other man. He sat musing as the concert continued...
 

The next song brought tears to Cathy's eyes. She had just broken off another relationship that had been amusing for a while, but was going nowhere. Not that she was in a hurry to settle down, but she knew she wanted more than a superficial romance. It seemed that every man she met was either after her money, or if he traveled in the same social circles as she, was either hopelessly dissolute or controlling. Either way, he turned out to be completely wrong. The song continued:
 

When you're weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes, I'll dry them all

I'm on your side, oh, when times get rough

And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down
 

When you're down and out

When you're on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you

I'll take your part, oh, when darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down
 

Sail on, silver girl

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

Oh, if you need a friend

I'm sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind
 

As the last strains died away, Cathy was filled with new hope, funny how a song could do that, just change your way of looking at things. Maybe this was her time to shine- maybe she would concentrate on her career, and not expect to also find her true love, all at once! He would come, of that she was certain. All in good time.
 

Below, the same song meant similar things to Vincent. To him, it meant finding someone who would be able to support him during his “dark times,” when he questioned his humanity. Someone who would love music, and literature, someone who would not think his courtly ways too old-fashioned. She must be out there somewhere! He would continue helping his community, in whatever ways he could, also take the time to improve himself, to make him worthy of a woman's love.
 

Realizing some time had elapsed, he concentrate on the song they were singing now. Oh! This was how he felt when walking the city streets at night. Father had never approved, much less understood, but this song did. How wonderful to hear your very thoughts expressed so well!

 

New York, lookin' down on Central Park

Where they say you should not wander after dark...

But there's a heart, a heart that lives in new York

A heart in New York, a rose on the street...

 

Hello, darkness, my old friend,

I've come to talk with you again,

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains -

Within the sounds of silence
 

Feeling renewed, Cathy - no, Catherine, she told herself - she had to start taking herself seriously, sighed and felt better than she had in ages. She even felt a touch of excitement about corporate law. Maybe her father was right; she just needed to concentrate on it. She turned to answer Jenny about a shopping trip the next afternoon to buy some more things for her new place. At present, it only held the bare essentials. Another few trips would make it much more to her liking. She liked a set of two small settees that she had seen in an ad the other day. Hmm, what store was that again?
 

Vincent thought about his nighttime wanderings, they often started in the park. Perhaps his rose would be there one day if he were patient, and observant. The idea comforted him as the group of Tunnel dwellers collected the cushions and started walking back to the hub. There was a slight smile on his face as he walked. Someday...


~

 


 

 

Author's note- The Concert in the Park was held on September 19, 1981. There were over 500,000 people in the audience. The Central Park Conservancy still holds events that benefit the upkeep and restoration. All lyrics by Paul Simon except A Heart in New York by Gallagher and Lyle. This is intended solely for the enjoyment of fans of Beauty and the Beast, and no copyright infringement is intended, and no profit was made.

 

 

 


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