Sometimes I take a circuitous route home. I walk three quarters of a mile on a wooded road, the scenic route, before getting on the #10 bus. Across the street is the Henry Hudson Bridge. Yesterday an old man at the stop began talking to me about the horns on my head. I inched away from him toward the bridge, which I was always curious about. “Yes we had Enchanted Weekend where I work. Okay, o-kay –bye bye now,” I said. So I climbed the stairs to the bridge and had a lovely constitutional.
There’s a building at the end of Palisade Avenue that I wanted to see from the bridge. At intervals I stared over the bridge at my lovely building, which overlooks the Hudson. At the Hudson River Museum yesterday, there my building was, immortalized in a painting – a sure sign that I am to inhabit this early 20th century dwelling one day. The wind was vigorous. The palisades were wondrous, and Inwood Hill Park invited below as the leaves are beginning to turn.
I stopped finally to look over the bridge at the water. At the end of the bridge, the paths led only into Inwood Park. I had assumed there was a path at the side of the parkway leading to the street. Should I go back to Riverdale after walking all this way? A woman was killed in the woods years ago. People had been attacked. I never go into the woods alone. A runner took the curved path into the park. Maybe he knew the way out. I followed the runner.
Inwood Hill Park is called a forest. There are cliffs rising high over Manhattan. The trees are so thick that you can’t see buildings. And there is no street noise.
The runner was gone and I was alone. I tried another path, but it led back to where I came from. I thought of the Blair Witch Project where they try getting out of the woods but go around in circles. They eventually die in the night. Now it was dusk. I heard crickets.
I walked quickly, uphill endlessly, scared as shit. I was sweating. I was relieved that the upward climb was over, but there were more paths up there. Trying to figure out which to take was confusing.
There was an ancient iron lamppost with a broken globe. I wanted a sliver of glass, a weapon. Still walking quickly, I pulled a pen from my bag, ready to stab. I called Eric, panting. “Eric I’m in the woods. I’m scared. I can’t find my way out. Can you stay on the phone with me? I need someone to know where I am in case something happens.” At times I jogged, grateful to be going downhill. I reasoned that I should stay to the left where the trails led to the foothills. Eric’s voice faded then I couldn’t hear him. The call was dropped.
The darkening woods menaced. It’s ironic about my creature horns — I told people at work that I was a wood creature. I still had them on — haha. An old tree on the right had a fantastical orange fungus. What other monster imagery would I see? A human threat? Even in fear I thought fleetingly to take a picture of the fungus. When would I see something like this again — get this opportunity? But fear propelled me forward as I couldn’t waste any light.
At Halloween, during Haunted Inwood when actors hired to portray monsters guide kids through the night time woods, festooned with fog and cemeteries, there is a ticklish horror. This was no ticklish horror. More dark green paths led to an area where I saw a building way below. I heard children. But were they phantom children, like in the Blair Witch Project? I took another path, trying to get to the building, but it went north. I planned if necessary to climb down the rocky hills to the streets, veering off of the useless paths, so what if I tore my pants.
I got back on the original path. At least I knew then that I was headed south where I would eventually get out. I walked faster, heading for the wide stairs with wooden edges. As a kid I got lost with my father and brother in these woods. We came out around here. I had shown daddy how to get us out.
Through the trees I saw the playground on Dyckman a way down. Would there be witchcraft involved where I’d continue to see the playground but never get on the right path? I winded around another path then I was out! I wanted to kiss the ground. I called Eric back, then left a dramatic message with another friend. I walked on the avenue at the border of the park, looking up at the dark menace of green looming over me. I saw friends on my block and told them what happened with an exaggerated spirit of adventure, leaving the horror back in the woods.