He made it all the way to the first park bench that day, forcing himself to fight the tiredness, the despair, the desire to go back to his room and sleep. He sat there deliberately, desperately holding on to a sense of accomplishment that he had managed to actually do what he had wanted to do. Glancing around to find something interesting to divert his mind, he saw her walk briskly on the path, her movements a little jerky and stiff. Her eyes seemed fixed and unseeing, her face frozen in blank misery, her shoulders braced as though ready to fight some invisible enemy. He watched her march all around the lake, without pause, and then climb into a car and drive away.
He had been there for over forty five minutes, and so pleased with himself, he returned home. The next day, he managed to make it back to the park at the same time, and sat at the bench, mocking himself for his silliness. He was about to give up, when she appeared, and just like the day before, she moved mechanically down the path. He noticed she was middle aged, her face and figure nothing to get excited about, but there was some luminosity about her that drew him. That day he saw faintly glistening tear tracks, such sorrow in her face, and yet there was an invisible wall all around her. He tried to reason with himself, but then gave up and followed her, some nameless fear bothering his rusty mind. She walked around the lake and then drove away. He shook his head and sighed, then went home, wondering about her and what he found so interesting about her.
The next day he nodded, and she nodded back faintly, and when he joined her tentatively, she hesitated a moment, then with a tiny shrug, allowed him to walk with her. He started talking to her about his life, the disappointments, and the betrayals. Friends who had used him, and some who had cheated him. She didn’t say anything, but from time to time she would lookup at him, her eyes faintly curious, remote, and somehow unaffected. But they started taking two rounds of the lake, then three. After years of loneliness, he found himself talking about his dreams, his upsets, his frustrations. And in her uncritical unresponsive company, he felt himself unclench, the knots resolving, the flood of anger and resentment slowly ebb away. He started taking a short detour, a little hidden vista point which looked out over the river, stopping there for a moment or two before she would turn away. He would babble about poetry and science and politics, provocative and teasing gently. And had the satisfaction of seeing her eyes focus on him, once in a while he would provoke a giggle.
As the days slowly grew shorter, the sunset would occur just about when they reached the vista point, and it became a ritual to stop there for five ten minutes, he would dig out a couplet or some blank verse, make her laugh at some silly joke, while watching the sun slowly set, the skies painted in hues of pink and blue, the trains honking in the distance. And then they would continue their walk around the lake and then go home. Slowly her face melted and she would smile occasionally, still not talking much, but her eyes looked up at him, wondering, watching his mobile jesting face.
When she had first seen him, he sat almost bent over, his hair unkempt, his clothes obviously dirty and mismatched. He was grossly overweight and walked in a shuffle. His eyes burned with bitter resentment, and his voice was an irritating whine. Over the course of the days, he had started shaving, brushing his hair, dressing still sloppily but clean, ironed, polished. He quoted poetry effortlessly from three languages, and seemed to instinctively know when she wanted to lose herself in mindless babble. On particularly bad days, he had jabbered on for three hours, while she recovered from the fight.
She was not prepared for the sunsets. They were the kind that happened only in romance novels, thoughtful kind periods when no words were necessary. They would sit on the bench or sometimes stand against the fence, and in shared silence, watch evening settle and the stars start appearing. She would look up at the vastness of the sky, and silently rail at God, defiant and angry. But slowly even that drained as she accepted the indifference of the universe. Her troubles were insignificant in comparison and slowly the clamor in her ears stopped, and that day, she finally heard all that he was saying.
They walked back to the parking lot, murmured goodbyes, and drove away.
Dec 11, 2015