The Bronze Man
George is a man who never finds what he’s looking for.
He wears a corduroy suit with a waistcoat and a proper button-down shirt. His hair is smoothed carefully over his head, like a helmet. His briefcase is deliciously antiquated: it holds a calculator, heavy pens, and a tape recorder as big as an island. He has been rifling through that briefcase for more years than I can remember.
The cold granite bench he never leaves is at the edge of Zuccotti Park (which is not in fact a proper park but a large square filled with hard benches and skinny trees). Tourists like to mill around; potbellies, bleached blonde hair, and drab coats paint an ugly picture. They often drop down next to him to take photos, wrapping their sunburned arms around him like a straitjacket. It’s degrading.
Sometimes I feel bad for George. He boils in the summer and frosts over in the winter. People leave garbage in his briefcase. He has a lovely view of the apocalyptic hole in the Earth across the street, where a shiny gray building is going up and construction provides background clatter.
One thing I can say, though, is that the air always smells like clean, fresh snow.
George’s skin, hair, and outfit are a dull bronze color. Some people consider him too kitsch to be art. And I don’t know where I came up with the name George, but it’s better than what his sculptor thought of: Double Check (“John Seward Johnson II”).
Don’t Be Stupid (He’s A Statue)
Hannah is one floor higher (the seventh) and one year older (fifteen) than me. When we were young enough to be shameless, we slid our Razor scooters onto the street and rode up and down Zuccotti Park for what seemed like days. Sometimes we stopped to sit next to George. We liked to pat his hair smooth, adjust his collar, and offer hugs (he must lead a pretty lonely life).
In the seven o’clock winter darkness, under stars dimmed by light pollution, we thought we ruled the world.
“Hannah?” I said one night.
“Well, if I was gonna run away, would you run away with me?”
We were maybe seven and eight.
There was nothing to run away from.
“Wait, but Lucy?”
“Where would we live?”
George, I thought while clasping his rigid shoulder, I could live with you, couldn’t I? I didn’t want a home, I wanted a statue to talk to and a bench to sleep on (it wasn’t too dirty, then). Home was so boring, so normal, so laden with privilege and love. How could an artist ever come from a home?
I didn’t want a home, but I wanted a constant. And George had been there since before the planes broke Manhattan, and he’ll be there long after I break something for myself. George didn’t have a home, and I was so jealous of him.
Sometimes my own thoughts turned on me: Don’t be stupid. He’s a statue.
I’m So Determined Not to Write A 9/11 Story (A Necessary Interlude)
We lived in a big apartment. A huge apartment. If you looked through a certain window, you could see Zuccotti Park; within that, a bronze-colored statue of a man rifling through his briefcase.
Across the street stood two twin skyscrapers. On September 11th, 2001, something happened that made us move away for a while.
My New York (Except New York Isn’t Mine)
George came back, after (“Zuccotti Park Opens at Broadway and Liberty Street”).
They found him buried in the rubble. They also found a twist of rusty metal that looked like a crucifix. Sign from God? There was a lot of debris. Something was bound to have a certain shape to it. But I don’t knock anybody’s healing process.
When they found him, he was a little battered, a little broken, but they fixed him up, banged out the dents and filled in the scratches. His corduroy coat keeps him cold in the winter. The anachronisms in his briefcase are undisturbed.
We moved out of our apartment for three years, threw out all the furniture, the stuffed animals, tore down the walls and rebuilt. The building was really battered, really broken. They fixed it up.
Lots of things changed, after. At least, I think they did. That’s what everyone tells me. I don’t know. I’m back where I started, coming home to the same house every day after school. I pass George on my walk home. He’s still stuck on a granite bench, looking for something that probably isn’t there.
Lucy Wainger, Age 15, Grade 10, Stuyvesant High School, Gold Key