The Old Iron Bench
Older and alone is not a state void of emotion. It is, indeed, filled to the brim with self-reflection, longing, memories and dreams. Hours there linger. The sand of the hourglass falls more slowly. Perception is crystal clear and yet fades to shades and hues unseen by couples, friends and families.
There is an older person, whether a man or a woman is not important, it is a human being. I know you’ve seen them. They sit on that old iron bench which has held so many young lovers, mothers with their children, and the bodies, deep, in a wine induced slumber, that its metal has conformed to the curves of all who have spent time there. This old soul comes to sit as well.
You pass by them, hurrying to your destination unaware of the blessing of having somewhere to go, some place you are expected. You may glance at your watch and curse the shortness of time, never enough of it to accomplish all that needs done. They notice you though. They see everyone and they watch, sometimes with curiosity, sometimes longing, at each and every individual and especially the couples who walk by. In their minds, a kaleidoscope of scenes replay for the hundredth time and they are walking arm in arm with their lover or pushing their child in a stroller.
The sounds are a vital part of their visit to the bench. Laughter of children drifting on sweet currents of air cause a flood of memories and they are again playing with friends, perhaps a simple game of tag or a heart pounding round of hide and seek. Their strong young legs may be chasing after their own children who are running excitedly toward the playground or they may be balancing on a log, watching a bullfrog in anticipation of catching it in a jar and taking it home as a new pet.
Some memories may cause a bittersweet tear to form and slide down a face etched with experience, but if you look closely, the edge of their lips holds a tender smile too, for that which was.
Young and alone is a much more painful state of being, I believe. There are not so many times to recall that assure life will go on and there will be moments when all is well in their lives. Young and alone can mean you see only the thorns, every scene is out of balance and you are always missing from the picture. No one to eat lunch with at school, the party that everyone in the entire freshman class was invited … except for you, never having clothes or shoes that are in fashion but hand-me-downs that are ill-fitting and scream SOOO last year, or longer. Your body is growing in disproportionate spurts and your feet are so large you can trip over thread, your hormones have you on a roller coaster of having to hold your books over your crotch most of the day or you are crying uncontrollably because another pimple the size of Mt. Everest has appeared on your face … and it’s picture day.
These poor young souls come to the bench too, kicking at the dirt below and hit the bench with clenched fists trying to pound out the complete hopelessness of their lives. The metal is as unyielding as the group of popular kids who push others into lockers as they rush past to meet their friends between classes. Alone on the bench or alone in the empty house where parents have to work too many hours and too many jobs just to survive, it doesn’t matter. These young people are alone.
There are other people who come here. Their ages as varied as their stories, yet, they are woven together by the invisible thread of regret. They may be divorced, many self medicate with drugs or alcohol or turn to food for their comfort, some even cut themselves to control where the pain comes from and how deep it will scar. Their view is obstructed and distorted by pain, unforgiving of others or themselves their eyes fall upon nothing that brings peace or even a small bit of joy. They take no delight in the laughter of children nor do they notice those who stroll past and allow memories to take them to a time when their souls were still gentle and hope was always an option. Some sit alone because the backs of loved ones is all they ever see but some have broken away, running from or running to means the same as long as they can remove themselves. Sounds come from within, a whimper builds to a groan and they struggle to hold in the scream that they would let free if only they could be assured that it would ever end.