I Wish, Therefore I am

Cindy Rae



{ An April 12th Anniversary Story }





"I knew, now, that it isn’t safe to sit in judgment upon another person’s illusion

when you are not on the inside.

While you are thinking it is a dream, he may be knowing it is a planet."

Mark Twain








"I don't recall seeing that bench before," Vincent commented, eyeing the even slats of wood.  A brass plate was bolted to the topmost slat, but it was too distant to read.



The Bench in Central Park

“Even the greatest darkness is nothing…”



"They must have put in some new ones.  I imagine the park people do that sort of thing now and then.  Replace what's broken," Catherine replied, enjoying an anniversary stroll with her very unique husband.


They did, Vincent knew.  They did indeed "replace what was broken."  But no bench, broken or otherwise, had ever sat in this particular spot.


This one was new, then.  Which was odd, because something about it looked quite old, as well.


It was one thing to replace a broken bench with a new one, or to set a new one out.  But to replace one with another which had seen some years?  Or move an old one from its original spot?  Neither seemed correct, yet here the evidence sat.


“Perhaps,” was all Vincent cautiously replied, as he took in the appearance of the aged wood.  It seemed out of place.  And yet right at home, away from the shelter of the trees.


Paint had chipped away, in some small places.  Time had weathered the slats to a comfortable, patchy tone, and had given a brass dedication plaque a tarnished, green patina.  The seat’s varnish had worn away in the most used areas, so that even in the lamplight, some spots no longer gleamed with a protective shine.  It was definitely a used piece.  Well-used, if both the look and the general ambience of it were any indication.


The sturdy bench looked both out-of-place and utterly commanding, right where it was.


"The path to the wishing well has always been... special,” Vincent observed.  “But I'm sure this doesn't belong here," he concluded, sounding almost wary as they drew closer.


Catherine smiled at her love and stepped ahead of him on the path.  "Maybe it's like the Whispering Gallery.  Maybe it just... fell through from someplace else," she said, teasing him.


Or some time else, he thought, getting the distinct impression that the bench both was, and was not supposed to be on this particular path --  The one he and Catherine had decided to enjoy on this special April night.


"I doubt it is something so... romantic," he countered, taking in the object with eyes that often saw what others missed.  Nothing particular drew his attention.  No one detail stood out.  For all intents and purposes, it was simply a bench, one of hundreds in the park.  Utilitarian.  Armless.  Ordinary.

And yet... something...


Vincent's empathic senses often told him about people.  But they rarely told him about objects, since objects weren't living things.


Something about the bench however...


"There's something on it!”  Catherine realized, as they continued their approach.  “Someone left something behind.  Papers."


He realized she was correct, as they walked up to the well-worn seat.  She preceded him by half-a-step.

"What is it?" Vincent asked, unable to explain why he felt as if he should suddenly step in front of her, and prevent her from touching whatever was on the bench.  It didn’t feel like she was in danger.  But something about the old seat and whatever sat upon it didn't seem quite right, even as it seemed wholly benign, to Vincent’s heightened senses.


The mix was a strange one.  One that instinctively made him cautious.


"Just a stack of papers,” she answered.  “Hole punched and left to sit.  A student's term paper, left behind, maybe.  Or a short story," she described, reaching her hand out for the white sheaf.


The cover shimmered white in the moonlight.  He saw a single rose printed on an otherwise plain page, and one word, typed in an old style script.




“All that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream.”~ Edgar Allen Poe



“You should let me.”  Vincent’s hand hit the small volume first, and tugged it away from her reaching hand, quickly.  Catherine let him have it, even as she wondered at his abrupt action.


"What is it?"  Now it was Catherine’s turn to ask.  "’Beauty.’  I saw the title.  It said, 'Beauty,'" she commented.


Vincent stepped away from her and weighed the stack of papers in his hand.  Some seventy or so pages in all, it seemed to almost... glow, with some strange kind of enchantment.  His fingers began to tingle, immediately.  Like the bench, it felt very special, wholly good, and … like something he should not be near.


And for some reason, he felt certain he must play all this down, around Catherine, that there was something about this stack of papers (and this particular bench), that neither of them were supposed to know.


"It’s nothing,” he deflected.  “I'm sure it's as you said.  A sheaf of papers someone left.  Some student's term paper or hopeful author's short story."


"Let me see," she requested, stepping around him and tugging it from his fingers before he could hold it away.  She glanced at the plain cover, and the title.  The next page was the underlined, typewritten title again, though the dampish spring weather had caused some of the ink to smudge some of the words farther down the page.  If an author’s name was on it, she couldn’t make it out.


She managed to fan it for just a few pages before he deftly reached over and turned a large part of the story over to near the end.  There was a description of an apartment building, and of someone named "Stocky Guy.”


"No, not a story, not really.  More like a play," he said, as he took it back from her unresisting fingers and flipped the cover closed.  "Likely not a very good one."  His hand began to tingle, again, as he held the slim volume.  It felt like there was magic in it.  Magic he was not supposed to see.


His curiosity was as piqued as his sense of caution was.


"Yes, a play, or even a script.  A teleplay.  Something for a television show," Catherine stated.


“Curiosity” won, as Vincent flipped open the first page to see it better for himself.


The words “Panoramic view-Midtown Manhattan-Noon” leaped at his sensitive eyes.  It described a long camera shot of a New York office building at the noon rush hour, and a taxi pulling up to the curb.




The urge was too keen to ignore.  The bond was fairly screaming at him.


Listening to his finely honed instincts, Vincent knew he didn't want to read any further.  He flipped the volume closed again, back to the cover page.


"It’s probably badly done.  Maybe the author left it behind on purpose," Vincent said, wanting to return it to the bench.  Somehow, they seemed to belong together.  The ambience from each of them felt somehow similar.


"’Beauty.’  Sounds like a nice name for a story," Catherine observed.


She turned back and eyed the bench, wondering at her husband’s mild consternation about it.  He said nothing however, and Catherine’s focus shifted to the brass plate screwed into the top slat.


"The dedication plate is a tarnished, but I THINK it has the word "Beauty" on it as well," Catherine commented, scrutinizing metal that had gone quite green with age.  She began to read:


"’Even the greatest…’ something… something, something… maybe… ‘light?’” she discerned.  Or tried to.  “Then the word ‘Beauty’ and the last line has the dedication, but that’s kind of hard to read, too.

I really can’t make this out.  Can you read it?"  Catherine asked, knowing his eyesight was much sharper than hers.


Vincent reached over as if to rub a thumb across the engraved rectangle, then decided against it.  The plate seemed to vibrate with the same mysterious force that possessed the sheaf of papers.  He could feel it, before he even touched it.


Impressions shimmered along the bond.  Words.  Devotion.  Love.  Fealty.


Though the last one was an old word, he knew it fit.  Whoever had dedicated the bench had indeed possessed those things.


Vincent could think of no description more appropriate to describe the sensations which permeated his consciousness.


They were just words, just feelings.  But they were beautiful words and feelings.  And the words spoke of deep care, and deep understanding.


They were words he often associated with his incandescent wife, but which were not coming from her, right now.


They were definitely coming from the bench, and the sheaf of papers he still held in one hand.  They shouldn’t be able to, but they were.


Both objects felt very special, and very rare.  And again, like they both “belonged together completely” - and like they didn’t belong together at all.  Like one (or both) of them was in the wrong place, or time.  Like they’d never actually met, but should have.


And nothing in the sensations Vincent was experiencing bespoke of danger.  If anything, both bespoke of great love.  But for some reason, Vincent sensed that he and Catherine must not examine either the bench or the writing too closely.  Both felt like they should exist.  But neither seemed in the right “place,” right now.


Or the right time?  Vincent again asked himself, again wondering why such an old bench had been placed here, right where they would be walking.  And why the plain-looking stack of papers did the same.


"We should leave the papers here for the owner,” he declared.  “Perhaps he'll remember that he's mislaid them, and come back for them," Vincent concluded, not answering her question about reading the dedication plate.


"I suppose we should," Catherine agreed.  "Are you sure you don't want to sit down on the bench and read it to me?  Just until we hear someone come?" she asked.


He set the teleplay back exactly where it had been, and tugged her lovely hand so that they were walking back down the path, again.  "It's our anniversary.  I'd much rather do... other things with you, than read someone else’s leavings," Vincent said, dropping his voice to the lower register - the one he knew sent shivers up and down his wife's lovely spine.


She strolled beside him.  "Oh you would, would you?" She lowered her own voice in response to his, the slightly husky tone unmistakable in its familiarity.  She was about to flirt with him.  Still.  Still, and after all these years.  She stepped around his huge frame and began walking backwards, planting her delicate hands on his huge chest.


"And just what is it you think you might want to be doing?" she teased gently, stopping him for an embrace as she slid those hands upward, and twined her arms around his great neck.


He bent his head for her kiss, and knew a tingling sensation of a different kind.  Also that he wanted to be a little farther away from the bench, and the white, unbound volume that sat upon it.


"Oh, I don't know,” he teased back, disengaging them, gently.  He continued to amble forward with her, his gloved fingers entangled with hers.


When they were what felt like a “safe” distance away, he confided, “I think there is a coin in my pocket, and a wishing well nearby."  He stopped them this time, and nuzzled her neck.  The crystal of her necklace glinted against skin that he swore was still just one shade off of alabaster.


"I'm glad you can think of something to wish for," she replied, brushing his bangs out of his eyes once he’d lifted his noble head from her neck.  There was silver mixed with the gold of his hair.  "I know I can't think of a thing," she tacked on, the fullness of a beautifully lived life, one she was still enjoying greatly, in her eyes.


He linked his arm with hers and felt happy as they continued their walk.


"What day is it, again?"  Catherine asked.  It was an odd question, considering that their anniversary had been circled on her calendar for months.


"Tuesday.  How could you forget?" he asked, as they proceeded with their evening journey toward the area that held the wishing well.


"Oh, I don't know,” she mused.  “Just checking, I suppose.  There’s something about this particular stretch of the park.  Especially the closer you get to the wishing well.  It's like... time wants to play some trick on me.  Like it's 1987 again, and Jamie is about to come tearing around a corner, looking seventeen years old again, or I'm about to see you climb up to my balcony for the first time.”


She senses it too, he thought.  Even though her senses weren’t as sharply attuned as his were, she too sensed the almost mystical quality of this particular area.  Or perhaps it was the latent magic in the place they’d just left.


Her soft voice continued:  “Sometimes it seems like my life has been a glorious dream, and sometimes, like time itself seems to want to have a little fun with me," she confided, keeping her arm linked with his as they walked through the spring night.  A mist was rising.  It reminded him of the night he’d found her.


Vincent felt comforted by the very solid concrete path beneath his booted feet, not to mention his wife’s steady, if unexpectedly whimsical presence.


"If you're someone's dream, then you must surely be mine."  Vincent all but purred the compliment, keeping his steps short so she wouldn't have to rush.  Her answering smile was brilliant.


"Poe said ‘All we seem is but a dream within a dream.’  And Shakespeare used to say we were all characters in a play, with our own entrances and exits," Catherine replied.


"Ah, but they were poets.  It's then I have to remember René Descartes," Vincent stated.


"’I think, therefore I am?’"  she queried.


Vincent nodded.


"You can't exactly say it that way, you know," Vincent observed gently, enjoying how the moon painted her hair with golden highlights, rather than the silver ones he knew to be there.  She looked younger.  The kindness of moonlight, and a deep love, he assumed.


“’I think therefore I am?’  But that's the translation, isn’t it?" she asked, looking up to realize that in this particular patch of light and shadow, the silver she’d just noted in his hair looked utterly gold.


"Descartes was French, ‘je pense donc je suis’” he quoted.  “And even he realized you have to say it in Latin.  You can't argue that you exist, if the first word you use is "I" since you haven't proven that you are there yet, before you insist that you are.  So it’s better if you say--


"Cogito ergo sum," they both said it together.


"Which badly translated, means 'thinking exists, I'm the one doing the thinking, therefore I must exist," Catherine said, laughing a little.


"Ungainly, isn't it?"  Vincent observed.


Catherine simply nodded.


"Do you ever wonder that?  If we're just a dream?  Something someone else imagined?"  Catherine asked.


"No," Vincent said, with an unshakable kind of certainty.  "I think it's like in your story of The Velveteen Rabbit.  A deep, true love has power.  And it has the power to make something real.” He brushed another kiss across the top of her head as they wandered.


“And if that is the case, I can promise that there is nothing on this earth more real than you are, my Catherine.  For no woman was ever more loved."  Unable to resist, he stopped in the middle of the nightswept path and kissed her again, deeply.


"Nor you," she whispered back, aware they were getting close to the wishing well.  The mist was lessening, but was still there, the wider patch of concrete near the well giving the moisture less grass to rise from.  It was a perfect night.  All of them seemed that way, now.


“And we’ve switched from a teleplay, to poetry to philosophy to children’s fiction,” she observed, brushing any telltale signs of moisture from his cape.  She spared a touch for the leather thong that held her rose over his heart, eternally.


“We can do that,” he observed sagely.  “For we are large, and contain multitudes,” he paraphrased, loving her a little more as he wondered what the next year might bring for them.  More grandchildren, perhaps. Or more people who needed shelter in the tunnels.  More love.


Catherine slowed down on instinct, forcing her footfalls to soften.  The nearer they got to the well, the more likely they were to encounter someone else headed for the same destination.  Vincent mirrored her actions, as they drew closer to their goal.


The Anniversary couple hid behind a sheltering oak tree and peeked around its sturdy trunk at the lovely area before them.


Sure enough, there was someone in front of the wishing well.  A man with a shock of thick, dark hair.  Heavy brows framed deep brown eyes, and a strong nose bisected a face that looked both kind and thoughtful.  Catherine realized she would have been hard pressed to guess his age.  He just had one of “those” faces.


He wore a sweater vest, an open collar shirt, and a suit that looked out of style, the jacket draped over a battered-looking valise.  A newspaper was folded up near the bag.  And his expression was... wistful, for lack of a better description.  He was staring pensively into the deep, circular opening before him, thin lips drawn in a firm line.


"What do you think he's wishing for?"  Catherine whispered to her husband.


Her love considered the question, for a moment.  "What we all wish for," he whispered back.  "A great love to inspire us, and give us guidance; a love to give us purpose, and hope.”  He leaned closer to her.  “The thing I never have to wish for, again, since I have you."


She turned and wrapped her slender arms around his broad back, beneath the familiar cape.  The solid feel of the tree trunk was to her back, as the solid wall of her lover was to her front.  For a moment, she forgot about the man who stood some distance away, peering deeply into the well as if he could find some secret, hidden there.


"Is that what you used to wish for?" she asked, sensing an all but forgotten pain along what was now a very sensitive bond.


Vincent dropped his head, just for the joy of having it be nearer to hers.  "It was a long time ago," he soothed.  "Besides, did you not used to wish for the same thing?"


Such a question, and Catherine realized how right he was.  That even though she’d seemed to have “everything” when they’d begun with  each other, her needs had mirrored her husband’s, even back when they had first met.  Perhaps even especially when they had first met.


"Yes. Yes, I suppose I did," Catherine answered, closing her eyes in contentment at Vincent's warm closeness.


May we never be farther apart than this, she wished silently, too far away from the well to throw the coin in.


Vincent brushed a kiss across the top of her head, chasing the memories of the lost years away with a touch of his unusual mouth.  After nearly thirty years, the gesture had not lost the power to soothe.  He adored her.  She adored him right back.  Their bond warmed and shimmered, between them.


The man at the well sighed deeply, and the sound drew the lovers’ attention back to him.  They both watched as he reached into a plaid pants pocket.  The tailored suit looked like something that had come out of the mid-eighties.


Perhaps even earlier, Vincent thought.


The man tossed his coin in.


"He's wishing for something." Catherine stated the obvious.


He was.  Vincent all but felt the air shiver, with the force of the wish.


"Yes, he is," Vincent agreed.  "Like us, before we found each other, before we found our love.”  Vincent watched the man sigh.  “He's wishing for something impossible to happen.  Something impossible and wonderful."  He kept his huge arm around her shoulder, keeping her close just for the joy of it.


The man looked into the wishing well a few moments more, then picked up his rather battered leather valise, adjusted its shoulder strap, and collected his newspaper.


"Just a little inspiration.  I swear that's all I need," he said, tucking the paper firmly under his arm.


He walked back down the path the same way Vincent and Catherine had just come up.  It was impossible to penetrate their concealment, given the size of the oak, the sheltering quality of the mist, and the depth of the man’s cares.


"He had a kind face," Catherine said, as he vanished down the path.


"He did," Vincent agreed.  "Thoughtful.  Like he means to do something great, some day.  Or at least something very, very good."


Catherine considered the now-empty walkway.


"His clothes looked old-fashioned.  In good shape, but… old.  Old in style."


"Indeed," Vincent agreed, drawing her out from the shadow of the sheltering tree.  He looked at the wishing well, before them.


"Do you still think Jamie's going to come tearing around a corner?" Vincent asked, drawing her closer to the structure.  Its mossy stones gleamed green and white, in the moonlight.


"Yes.  With Mouse right behind, chasing Arthur," Catherine smiled, remembering the old days.


"Father never has forgiven Arthur for being an Andrea.  One of her descendants made off with two pawns and a bishop, last week."


Catherine grinned wryly.  The more things changed, the more they stayed the same.  She thought.

The moon-cast couple stepped closer to the well, and Vincent fished a coin from his own pants pocket.


“I wish, therefore I am?” Catherine took in the old stones.  Like everything else this evening, they seemed to contain their own kind of... enchantment.  Like they were exactly as old as they were supposed to be, yet much, much older.  Like they’d come from a local quarry.  Or as far away as Ireland.  Farther.  Never-Neverland, perhaps.


“There may be no finer form of thinking than a heartfelt wish,” Vincent answered.  “I know I’ve made many.  Or I did, once upon a time.”  His single coin glimmered in the soft light.


“’Once Upon a Time.’  The best way there is to begin a story,” she said.


His subtle nod was one of agreement.


"So, did you decide what to wish for?"  Vincent asked, pressing a gleaming quarter into her palm.


She held it up, George Washington's head glinted silver, in the moonbeams.  The year “1987” was clearly stamped under his strong profile.


"This has been around a while,” Catherine observed.  “1987. That's the year we met," she smiled again.


"I found it in some old clothes of mine.  Some of them may have been from that year.  It would have been new, then."


She cupped his cheek with her graceful palm.


"What's new is old, and what's old is new."  The smile never left her face, or her eyes.  "Maybe that's what happens here," she surmised, looking down the well, the way the man had done.  It looked impossibly deep.  "People throw coins in the well, and for them, the date on the coin... happens.  Just a little.”  She chuckled at her own fancy.  “Wishing well magic," she tacked on.



“Reality is merely an illusion.  Albeit a persistent one." ~ Albert Einstein



"Wishing well magic," he agreed, planting a kiss in her palm and then stepping behind her.  His arms went gently around her waist.


His deep voice was a beloved rumble of encouragement, amid his instructions.  "So.  Make your wish.  Just one, and send it out into the world, and down into the water.  See what happens.  See if it comes true.  See if it all comes true."


"Will you hope that it does?"  Catherine asked, feeling the coin warm her palm.  You couldn’t “feel” something shine.  Except she’d have sworn she did.


"Of course I will," Vincent answered.  "As long as it isn't another round of two o'clock feedings, I think we can manage," he chuckled softly, reminding her of the initial months of their mutual parenthood.


"I think those days are behind us," Catherine grinned, looking up at him as he looked down at her.  He swore he could detect no trace of the deeper laugh lines he normally saw around her mouth, and there was just the barest hint of her dimple.


"Moonlight becomes you," Vincent intoned.


"Moonlight becomes all of us," she said, realizing that the scattered light revealed more blonde at his temples than the grey she knew was threaded there.


"I really do think I have absolutely everything I will ever want," she said.  "I meant it, what I said before."


His head tilted to one side, in an utterly familiar gesture.  "Then what will you wish for, my beautiful wife?"  Vincent asked.


Her gaze returned to the well before them, and she cocked her head to one side as well, thinking.  "I think I'll wish for that man.  That he finds what he's searching for.  That somehow, some way, the inspiration he's looking for finds its way to him, and makes him happy.  Maybe makes other people happy, as well."


Vincent considered his amazing bride.  His bride of more than twenty years.  Still strong.  Still selfless.  Still… utterly his love.


"I think that is a kind and generous wish, my Catherine," Vincent said, watching her hold the coin aloft.  "And when we're done, we can return home.  And I will show you what I have been wishing for." He brushed a familiar kiss along the line of her scar.


Her husband.  Her helpmate, and friend, and teasing lover.  As smitten with her now as he’d ever been.  Moreso.  Catherine could only marvel at him.  At him, and the blessing that was her life.


Vincent was right, she knew.  No woman was ever more loved, she thought.


"I wish that man finds what he's looking for," Catherine said, tossing the coin into the air.  Vincent’s hand shot out, and caught it before it dropped into the water below.


"May he find what we have found," he added, then opened his palm.


The coin dropped down and carried the wish to where it would.  Vincent turned Catherine so that she faced him once more, and kissed his love, soundly.


"Happy Anniversary, my Catherine," he sighed happily.


"Happy Anniversary, my Vincent," she returned, no less content than he.




A few hundred yards down the winding, mist-strewn path, a man with a well-travelled brown valise slung over his shoulder and a newspaper tucked under his arm walked along through the mystical landscape that was Central Park, in April.  There was an airline ticket in his pocket, but it was for the red-eye flight to L.A., and he had time to kill, yet.


And as far as he knew, the time he was killing was in the 1980’s.


The suit was new, but his dreams felt old.  There was a story inside him, trying to be born, but it wouldn't come.  It might, as many stories did, simply die an unlamented death.  Something inside him knew that would be the worst kind of shame, if it happened.


Just a little inspiration, he repeated, mentally.


For every idea he had that grew into a completed story, in his fertile imagination, a hundred fragments that never germinated sat scribbled in notebooks or half-typed on bond paper.  He had a creative mind, one that sometimes bounced from one project to the next, as his bright intellect bid him.  But not every idea evolved into a complete picture, in his mind.  Not every inspiration panned out, and into something more…whole.  More real.


The odd bench loomed just ahead.  But sitting down in the park was unnecessary for him.  He hadn't walked far, and he wasn't tired.  Besides, this was Central Park at night.  It was unwise to linger, alone.


It must be nice to have a safe place, he thought.  A safe place, amid the madness.  How odd it would be if that place was right here, in Central Park.  Right here, yet… not.


As he thought it, a feeling swept over him.  One he’d had in inkling of  since he’d passed a certain drainage culvert.  One that said this was a good place, and that he was safe, here.  It was a feeling that had only increased, the closer he’d gotten to the wishing well.  A feeling of security, of warmth.


Of love?  His nimble mind wondered.


A sheaf of papers sat on the seat of the bench, and something drew him over to the typewritten pages, as if he was on an invisible string.


"Beauty,” the man read aloud, taking in the cover.  He wondered what it was about.  Was it about a safe place?  Was it about love?


He settled himself on the weathered slats, not even noticing the dedication plaque that was a few inches away from his shoulder. He placed the journeyman’s valise on the ground beside him, so that it rested against his long leg.  The monogram "RK" was burnished into the leather, at the corner.


Ron Koslow

“Cogito ergo sum.” ~ René Descartes



He thumbed through the papers.


"It's a teleplay," he realized, frowning at the words.  Words which seemed somehow familiar, yet utterly not.  Words that seemed imbued with... magic.



It was familiar.  It was.  Yet it very much wasn’t. 

"Once Upon a Time in the City of New York..." he began, as the misty April night swirled around him, and time lost all meaning.



Dedication plaque on the Bench in Central Park

“… so long as we share the light.”












And who’s to say it didn’t all happen… well.  Something like that... (smile)




Ron Koslow pictured with his original script, “Beauty,” and a Special Bench in Central Park.

Loving thanks to Judith, for the photo montage and the script cover page. 

We are all a part of each other…









No matter where you are in your own fairy-tale, I wish you love.~ Cindy




Illustrations supplied by the author



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