Constitution Park

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Leaves scattered in the wind past his worn Vans and across the old spit stained concrete. A dried embryo laid next to the cracked shell and the fallen dusty nest it came from. It was ragged and weathered. It was the last sign of life she saw—before this boy today. The kids called her Consto, but it was the skaters who both named her and claimed ownership. Not so much in vocal proclamations, but they were there so often and on a daily basis, that it was implied. She belonged to them and everyone knew it, especially the locals. Even the cops knew it. They liked to pop in once in awhile to make sure the skaters knew who really held the reins. Each visit was always played off as a hello, or just a pass through, but it was implied. The kids knew it and they showed no respect.

“I don’t care if you built that or not and I don’t care if it’s yours either. You can’t bring that thing down here and jump on it with your skateboards. What if someone gets hurt?” she remembered one of the officers saying once.

“It’s not like we don’t know the risks.”

“Well, it just has too many sharp corners.”

“So—Were supposed to build round boxes made out of fuckin clouds then?” They argued with the cops like that often and every time they tried to embellish her with a piece of self made craftsmanship, law enforcement always confiscated it. They used the boxes as makeshift benches on the side of the station next to an overflowing standing ashtray. The kids always took them back. Consto had a nice open parking lot and it was perfect for stolen bike racks and box sessions. Until the Man showed up spoiling all her fun.

Today there was a decent breeze, the kind that usually kept the kids away, but this boy with a skateboard sat there in the cold—alone. It had been quite some time since she seen any of the skaters hanging around. But this kid sat there on one of her old waxed ledges, one of the many walls that surrounded parts of her cracking weed infested paths. She recognized him as one of them, one of the skaters, and he just sat there with his board he wouldn’t ride beneath his worn shoes. The boy carried it into the park spending far too much time kicking around the small rocks in his way with it tucked under his left arm, where it had roughed his shirt. It wasn’t that he couldn’t ride, he didn’t want to, she thought. The park was a graveyard of memories and he was the only one still around these days, but he never got on his skateboard. All the others had moved on to other places and bigger and better things. This boy simply existed in the past and he had been by several times recently.

Soon there would be nothing left of her, not that there was much to her anymore. Just a waste of space, she overheard once. The park was neglected and always empty. An owl had moved into one of the trees that still had some leaves left, picking off the rest of the life left in the park. The bird, perched in the tree, watched the boring boy as he sat. Why wouldn’t he ride her, she wondered. He had spent countless hours with her before, he and his band of misfits.

“Just go get one of the cups stashed under the table at the post office.”

“Why do I have to go?”

“They’re my cups. If I gotta skate over to Burger King and fill it up, then I ain’t sharing any with you.” They had their own hierarchy in which they were allowed to punk each other. If they didn’t comply, the oldest got licks on the perpetrator; two or three socks to the arm or thigh, depending on whether the defendant tried to flee or not. Sometimes, a couple of the boys got out of hand with their ranks, but they mostly stuck to skating. People always acknowledged her when they were there. They stopped and watched, sat in her grass and chatted and tagged on her picnic tables. She was popular—once, but that was then. Now, people walked through once in awhile, but no one stopped, no one spent time with her. No one even looked her way because she was no longer the garden of paradise she once was for a lost generation in another time.

She had seen countless of raspberries, twisted joints, broken bones and torn things. She witnessed them all and cherished every piece of themselves and the blood spilled in her name. They had all shared a bond, the ones that befriended her—and then they were gone. The boy just sat there gazing at the brown leaves as they skipped across the brick laid ground. The dilapidated nest rustled in the breeze and dirt had piled up in the corners where ledges met and squares were carved back to house large stone tables. They were all gone now. Just piles of newspapers and whatever else the wind brought in for a visit with natures waste.

The boy had grown up here. She remembered his first visit, when he learned to ollie up her curb and the first time he landed it. A part of him was born there at Constitution Park. In a way, she was sort of his mother, and a mother never forgets her children. But why would he not skate her? She missed the sounds of the wheels clickity-clacking along her cracks. The slams the small rocks would dish out, always keeping them on their toes. She missed all the stunts down her three stair amphitheater. All the laughs, the curse words, the insults and the cries. The late summer nights with parking lot sessions beneath her dull lights. But he just sat there.

Brakes squealed as the halted at stop signs and stop lights posted around her outskirts. Engines roared, splitting the silence that was the wind every minute or so. This was regular business while the sun was up. But people were always headed somewhere else and nothing interesting ever happened, even the children had found somewhere new to hang, they must have. She had been in solitary confinement with a view for oh so long, and now, here someone was, a prodigal son returned home—and he just sat there. For years this place was his home away from his empty home, and he sat there like he didn’t know her anymore. He had forgotten her as all her children had.

Finally, after she had almost forgotten that the boy was there, he and all the ghosts skating her grounds, he stood up in front of his board. She waited to see what he would bring. A board slide or nose slide? A fifty-fifty or maybe a crooked grind? She was anxious, it would be a ride for old time sake. But there was something different about him, something that she didn’t notice before. The trees had lost most of their leaves, and everything that was salvageable was removed and repurposed elsewhere. There wasn’t much time left, Monday morning, the jackhammers and bulldozers would be here first thing. In a week or two, Consto would be no more. She and all the chapters of her and her kid’s lives would be gone. Forgotten. And no one was around to say goodbye. Just this boy. It was just him and her. No—he wasn’t a boy, not anymore. She could see him more clearly now. He was older than she remembered him last. Faded tattoos climbed up both hands, arms and legs. The wrinkles started to crawl out from his eyes and there was a hint of a silver mane kept underneath his ball cap.

He stomped down on his board snapping the layers of his deck in half. The sides splintered and dropped little pieces of itself as the crack echoed through the antique park scaring away the owl. He didn’t say a word, not one word. The man looked down at the piece of wood and at the polyurethane wheels that he had slid across almost every square inch of her. The wheels that had manualed great lengths through her parking lot. He grunted a bit bending over to pick up each piece. She noticed his gut as he studied each  of them long and hard. He touched each worn sticker, each scratch and scrape, each groove and crack. So many memories trapped inside those layered slabs of wood. His hairy tatt’d arms swung back and chucked the broken plank up into the bare tree, over and over until they stuck.

The can of gray primer paint from his backpack was the only one he could find in his garage. The man removed it and scribed the words, RIP CONSTO on one of her ledges—it was just enough paint before it sputtered dry. He didn’t sign a name and left the empty can on the ledge, his shadow walked beside him down the empty road.

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