June 26, 2018
Shana Kahn stormed out of the Boathouse Restaurant, paying little heed to the path she was taking. The relentless sun beat upon her uncovered head like a burning skillet. Sunstroke would be a kinder consequence than reliving the venomous words her daughters had hurled at her over brunch. Humiliated in front of her son-in-law’s family whom she’d only just met, Shana planned to hop an Uber from Central Park back to the hotel, then book a flight home to North Carolina.
A hysterical giggle escaped her lips. Rachel and Becca had gifted her and their father David a weekend stay at the hotel where both families were staying. Hell if she could remember its name. A couple of seconds later, a memory marble rolled into consciousness: U.S. President.
Determined to Google each president’s name until one name resonated, Shana opened her cell phone. Shit! The phone was dead, and she’d forgotten to bring the charger. Little chance of locating the correct exit out of the sprawling Park sans GPS or street name to guide her.
Dirty little secret? Shana’s sense of direction was zilch, a fact she’d managed to hide from her last four Chicago Sun-Times editors before she and dozens of other reporters were forced into retirement.
Thanks to her pre-trip research, Shana did know that Central Park extended 2.5 miles and spanned 843 acres of gardens, meadows, and woods; information overload as she navigated her way through a maze of twists and turns. Finally, she hit a landmark: Belvedere Castle. Fanning her sweat-soaked silk shirt, Shana checked out a map board; its interconnected symbols and curvy lines made her eyes glaze over.
Exhausted and thirsty, Shana headed to a nearby water fountain and gulped its tepid water like Cheerwine soda. As she stepped away from the fountain, a young mother took her place. Shana gazed into the buggy. “Your baby is so adorable!” Her first white lie of the day.
The young mother’s eyes glowed with pleasure. “Thank you!”
“Listen, I got separated from my family. Could I borrow your phone to call my kids?”
Shana couldn’t fault the young woman’s wary expression as she took in her purple streaked hair and disheveled appearance; hell, she would have reacted in similar fashion had their situation been reversed. The young woman hesitantly pulled a leopard-covered iPhone from her Prada. “Here you go.”
Shana let out the deep breath she’d been holding and punched in Rachel’s number.
“Hello?” a voice asked breathlessly.
At the sound of her pregnant daughter’s anxious voice, Shana knew she was in for a lifetime of recriminations. She abruptly clicked off the phone. “No answer. Thanks, anyway.”
The young mother grabbed her cell phone from Shana and briskly stepped on the buggy release. “I hope you find your family soon.”
Suck it up, she told herself. Just one more humiliation through which she’d be forced to crawl.
Discussion Questions for Up Close And Gone