Once upon a time, a woman lived in the city that never grew old, though it never slept. The woman had lived here for just about a year and it was her first summer. It felt like magic; the sun was bright but not churlish, the breezes were kind to her hats, and goodwill enveloped the city so that even the legions of travelers that descended on it were not always given the finger.
What shall I do in August now that I have experienced so much this summer already, the woman wondered. The open air repasts, the cheerful beach excursions, the revelry in parks–what could possibly make this fairy tale better? And lo! A friend suggested they visit Spa Castle. It was a magical place even in the magical city. Three stories of every sort of pleasure one might visit on the body. (Well, not every sort, just the kind legally permitted by the city.)
So off they went in her friend’s chariot to the northern reaches of Queens (a fairytale name if there ever was one). And they paid at the castle gates, had bracelets put on their wrists by the entrance guards, and then stepped into a world of hot tubs, massages, smoothie bars, pools, and saunas. Though many parts of the castle required that they wear the modest dress of short gray trews from Bermuda and loose shirts in flamingo pink, others called for towels and whatever nature had conferred.
Then with a delicate snap of their wrist bracelets, they could be scrubbed within an inch of their lives, have their feet prodded, sweat in hot rooms on rushes and drink rice mead. After several hours of these ministrations and then dunking in cold pools and being pummeled by jets in jacuzzis, they knew it was time to depart. On the way out, they surrendered the bracelets and went slightly more in debt to their money lender, but they glowed.
The rest of the month might have indeed felt like a let-down; after all, she had already seen royal processions such as the Ecuador Day parade, where she caught sight of colorful banners
and disgraced nobles.
There were trenchers with delights from the New World
of which the woman partook but little (abashed by her inability to speak the common language).
She had also travelled in August to the city’s great forest for an evening by a tranquil lakehouse where the great unwashed were rarely granted entrance except to serve the lords of the Street of the Wall.
What else could there be to delight the senses?
And yet there was more August gave her:
Sights of ladies at their morning lists, practicing with swords
a passion play by the water
a tapestry hung out in the open for all to enjoy
a chance to enter one of the city’s looming towers to see a wisewoman who liked her scribblings
a visit to an atheneum with turrets and stained glass
and her very own pink steed.
Truly, she thought to herself, this has been a hell of a year in a hell of a city.