“Aria, come to the park with me.” Dominik all but demanded on the other end of the phone.

“Huh?” I asked trying to stall for time.  Parks and other outdoor activities weren’t really my thing, but Nik didn’t know that. I was trying to think of a way to say ‘no’ gently.

“If you can ‘huh’, you can hear.  Don’t you ever just go to the park to chill and take a load off?” He could tell I wasn’t feeling it.

“Nope, can’t say that I do.  That’s what coffee shops and bookstores are for.”

“Well, what about to think and plan? Where do you do that?”

“Usually in bed.”

“Ok … how about to run?  Where do you go run?”

I laughed then, “The treadmill.  I don’t go to the park for anything.  I don’t have kids, so I’m not taking anybody to play. I don’t enjoy bees, so I’m not going to look at the pretty flowers.  Don’t have many friends, so I don’t even go there for weddings. I don’t go to parks.”

“Will you make an exception for me?  Will you go to the park with me?  I’ll make it worth your time if you come.”

“Ok … yeah. It’s a nice day out.  What time do you want to meet up?” I asked giving in.  I loved Nik’s energy.  Because of that, I would go to a place that I didn’t really fool with, like a park, to soak up some of his good vibes.

“At 2p.m. and wear a sundress.”

“Wear a sundress? Why?”

“Because I like the way you look in them.” He answered simply.

“All right. I’ll be there.”

Dominik and I weren’t exactly in a relationship, nor we were really dating.  We were in that weird stage where it was clear we were interested in each other, but we didn’t know if we wanted something as heavy as a relationship.  Talking, that’s what we were doing, we were talking, feeling each other out.

Our busy schedules were rarely in sync enough to meet up for a outting, so for that most part, we tried to squeeze in,and I do mean squeeze in, a happy hour or lunch here and there.  Our most common and frequent form of communication was either via text or snapchat.  Yes our 30ish year-old asses were snapping.  He didn’t have an iPhone, so that was a way we could see each other while we talked when one of us was out-of-town on business.

At 2 o’clock on the dot, I was at Loose Park. The place really was gorgeous.  The flowers were in full bloom and the fountain added a romantic feel to part where I was supposed to meet Dominik at.

He showed up with a huge wicker basket in his hand.  He didn’t … did he?? I thought with a huge look-aid smile he when got to me. Then he said, “I thought it would be nice if we had a picnic out here. I hope that’s cool.”

Then he looked me over. I had on a simple, teal, strapless, sundress like he asked. “You look good.” He complimented with a smile.  He had a slight gap, but I thought his smile was amazing.

Was it cool? I had never been on a picnic before, but it was definitely up there with candlelit dinners in terms of romantic gestures to me.  It was thoughtful and intimate.  I was impressed. I felt special and beyond flattered. Now I was glad that I had complied with his one request, that I wear a sundress.  The dress fit the occasion.

“Where do you want to set up, Aria?” Nik asked as we both looked around.  Any spot would’ve been good, because the spring weather had the whole park picturesque. I picked a spot over by the lake.

He pulled a nice sized striped blanket from the basket.  I helped him spread it out, before he told me to get comfortable and let him handle the rest. This was by far one of the sweetest things a man had done for me in a while.  Guys didn’t really do this kind of stuff anymore.  Romantic gestures were rare.

We made small talk about how we were glad we finally had a chance to have more than 30 minutes together as he set up our food.  I had forgotten that Dominik was a health nut, so there wasn’t anything unhealthy in the basket. That was ok though, I like fruit and he had a lot of it.

We sat and talked for a couple of hours. Dominik was a realitor, so today, he taught me about gentrification. The short version is that gentrification is when people with a load of money come into the black, Hispanic, and other impoverished hoods and buy it up for cheap. Then they turn around bulldoze everything that was there originally, and build up stores and living complexs that the people who were born and raised in the area can’t afford to live in or patronize. That’s how they drive them out.  It’s like a never ending cycle. They start out in the city then move out to the burbs and as lower class people come up, they move out to the burbs too. That leaves the people with the lower income who can’t afford to move out there. The property value goes down and the neighborhood deteriorates. Then contractors swoop in and buy the land up for the low. It just goes back and forth, because then, once the people, mostly single or married without kids, get a little bit of money they want to move back to the city for lights, action, and floor-to-ceiling windows.  

I added to the conversation by telling him that I had noticed that a lot downtown. Developers were coming and building up luxury apartments that very few of us could afford. Don’t get me wrong, the condo and apartments were beautiful and I definitely aspired to live there, but I could tell by the prices that they were trying to attract a certain type of person and keep out a certain type of person.  The demographics were changing dramtically. 

“They also do it when they are trying to build up college campuses because for some reason they are most always smack dap in the middle of the inner city.” Nik noted and it was true so, we both laughed. 

“The tell-tale sign is when bike lanes, Starbucks, and Whole Foods stores start popping up.” I added. We were joking now, but serious at the same time. 

“And Chick-fil-As, Genesis gyms, and smooth side walks too.”  He added with a laugh. 

I had never thought of it before, but there were certain stores and amenities that were only available in “good” neighborhoods. 

That easily flowed into how much we like Chick-fil-A because they had the best nuggets. Then it went to how expensive it was to join Genesis gym, but how Nik loved it because of all the special services it offered. Then it went to how he liked Whole Foods and how our picnic spread had came from there. Then we went to being silly and people watching. It was nice to unwind after a long work week.

We were packing everything up and getting ready to leave, but I couldn’t let go of one fleeting question. “How do you, as a realtor, fit into all of this?”

“Me?? I’m a businessman. I don’t go into neighborhoods and Debo land or structures. I’m commissioned to sale homes, lots, storefronts, and whatever else can be sold as real estate. I also buy land that I think will return me a profit if I ever chose to sell it. I’m out here like everybody else, trying to make a living.”

I smiled at that. “I learned a lot today. You know I love to learn new stuff. When can we do this again?”

Dominik answered with a laugh and a smile of his own. “Hopefully sooner than later. I enjoyed this too.”

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