There are some upsides to New York’s rainy season. Everything has been washed clean. It’s not too hot yet. The park is as verdant as you’ve ever seen it. The sunlight has that summer sparkle to it. It is, simply put, urban perfection.
This idyllic time of year always takes me back to 2003 when I was working as a financial journalist. The tradeoff to the long hours was the office’s proximity to the park, which meant evening runs. I remember I’d just wrapped up a very long day—Steve Jobs had burped or something and Wall Street was all a twitter with what that meant for Apple’s valuation—and all I wanted to do was lace up my sneakers and hit the park.
I ran up to the reservoir, breathing in the fresh air. I ran around the reservoir, fully appreciating the leafy canopy. I headed back south along the main drive and at the top of one of the hills, it was there in that amber evening light, with a soft little breeze, that the peace of it all hit me—it was one of those moments where I thought, Yes. This is why I live here. This is why I pay an ungodly amount of money for 250 square feet of personal space. This feeling right now. Right here.
And then I saw it. A big, fat rat on the other side of the street. It was so big and so fat it looked fake. It was grotesque in its size. I picked up my pace to get past him as quickly as possible. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the rat start running. Right for me. The frackin’ thing was galloping like a Belmont racehorse toward my legs. I ran faster, pumping my arms, convinced I that I could outrun him. The rat altered his trajectory and galloped faster and faster still. I looked to the left at the rat locomotive coming at me and then straight ahead, running faster and faster. Look left. Omigod, omigod, omigod. Look right. With each terrifying peek to the left I took, I realized the rat was gaining on me. The next look left confirmed what I feared most, it was gunning for me.
When the rat tank was about a foot away I started yelling. Kind of a low yell at first, still in denial that this was actually happening, that built into a shrill crescendo of pure panic. Then what I thought couldn’t be happening, wouldn’t ever happen, did: The rat smacked right into my legs, his bulbous ratty body and long, thick tail tangling up with my Sauconys. I screamed. I screamed louder. I screamed so loudly that the speedster bicyclists, who normally only slow down if they hit a child or animal, actually stopped to take in the horrific rat/screaming-girl wonder that was taking place before them. Then they laughed and rode away.
So much for urban perfection.