My Bench Life

Joel Kottman

I sit here in the bustling park surrounded by many colorful sights and sounds. The laughter of children rings in my ears as I watch them playfully scamper by chasing pigeons. The pigeons escape with a cooing and a flutter of wings. The children, disappointed, soon see a brightly colored butterfly on the smooth green grass and toddle off to catch it. I smell the freshly baked funnel cakes the man next to me is selling. He wipes his brow, damp with sweat and sits down on me. He waves at a couple of teens skating by. I feel the whoosh of their skateboards and the cool air that comes with it.

A couple walk their tan colored dog as he jumps around barking excitedly. They laugh and soon unleash him. He runs cavorting through the bladed grass. He chases after an elusive squirrel who soon runs up the tree. It seems like the squirrel is laughing at him with its chittering. Looking up, I see multi-colored kites swishing gently in the wind. The funnel cake man, having rested, gets up and continues his walk through the park. An elderly couple shuffles along the footpath and gently sits down on me. The old woman rubs her hand along my metal arm and talks about how she used to have all metal furniture when she grew up. I listen intently as the loving couple profess their undying love for one another and reminisce over all the memories they’ve created.

They lean back, eyes closed as the wind rustles their hair. I sigh dreaming of a desire to have a partner to be with but soon realize that I have all of society as my company. Lots of people come to the park daily, especially in the summer. The couple get up and shuffle away. Soon I see a teen youth on a mad dash through the park. He is clad in black steel toe boots, pants with twisted skull patterns on them and an AC/DC shirt on, covered by a leather jacket. He’s wearing studded gloves, and his dark makeup alerts me to the fact that he might be a goth. His hair is shaved on one side, and he has it flipped over.

He stops and hides behind me as I see a girl rush in behind him. She desperately implores him to show himself and stop all this foolish nonsense. He calls back to her saying it’s over, and there’s nothing she can do. She looks around her eyes darting from object to object looking for where his voice came from. He sneaks carefully away and runs to the bushes. With a rustle, he disappears for good. She whirls around but it’s too late. She bites her lip trying to stay strong, but I see she’s on the verge of tears. She sits down on me and suddenly the waterworks explode as she starts sobbing into her hands.

I comfort her telling her everything’s going to be fine. She screams loudly before clamping a hand over her mouth to muffle herself. I explain that I’m a magical talking bench crafted by a sorcerer. I was sent to observe humanity and every month, the sorcerer comes and sits down on me as we telepathically debate whether or not I should remain in the park, or go with her. The girl apologizes for her outburst and marvels at my fancy metalwork.

I explain that sometimes people will be jerks. I relate a story of a man I had once known who sat on me for decades. He was overly optimistic and stayed with a woman he loved even though she was terrible to him and treated him poorly. He had wasted his life on her. I warned her not to do the same. She sniffled rubbing her nose on her jacket sleeve.

“Thanks,” she said. I told her not to let this get her down and to let this heartbreaking experience make her a stronger person. She agreed and empowered stood up confidently and strode away down the path, having a new lease on life. I love when I can change lives like that.

The mayor soon comes down the path with a group of his cabinet members. I wonder what they’re doing in the park when the mayor pulls out a sketch of a map.

“The new bench will go here, next to the old one,” he says pointing. “It will be the biggest community service project this town has ever known,” he continues gesturing wildly and grandiosely. A new bench! What wonderful news, I think. If I could dance, I’d be dancing, but because I’m bolted to the ground, I imagine myself dancing with joy in my head instead.

They walk away chatting, leaving me abuzz with excitement. A new bench means a friend for me. And, who knows, maybe there is still hope for me to find true love in the near future.