my park bench.
This is a departure from my usual blog post. I’m trying to write more fiction, which is what I loved to do when I was younger. This is a short (one page) story based on a simple prompt: “There is a man sitting on a park bench, reading a newspaper.” I… adapted the prompt a bit. Enjoy!
There was a woman sitting on my park bench, reading a book. And I hated her. She was not a stranger to me, though we had never met. The first time our paths crossed was two months earlier on a perfect spring day. I was at the park as usual, it being a Saturday of decent weather. Saturdays were my only opportunity to relax. For the last three years, I spent them on my park bench plucking away at a good book.
Until she came along. The first week, she was just an anomaly. A month later, she had become a routine vexation. Every week when I arrived, she was there in my spot. The closest alternative was a bench across the path. It was a lousy bench. The paint was peeling, it felt too stiff, and well, it just wasn’t mine. It was a regular reminder that what was mine had been stolen from me.
She stood now, putting the book in her bag. She did this every week as the sky turned rusty. Today, though, she did something different: she walked towards me. Our eyes met for a moment before I looked down at my book, frowning and trying to look busy. I heard her footsteps stop a pace away.
“Hi, how are you?” she asked. Her voice was delicate and graceful. It was awful. I looked at her blankly. She grinned uneasily. I managed what I hoped was a scowl and hmph-ed an inaudible response. “What’s that?” she asked. I ignored her prompting. She frowned and looked about to speak, but after another pause, walked away stiffly.
The next week, the bench was empty. It took a while to register in my mind – so long, in fact, that I had sat down on the other bench before it struck me. Was it over? Had she surrendered my throne to its rightful owner? I stood and craned my neck, looking for any approaching figures. No one was in sight; it was another quiet day at the park. I took several energetic strides across the path, my hungry gaze locked on my bench. It had been too long.
I sat and grinned at the familiar creak of the front-most plank. Then I leaned back, sighed happily, cracked open my book, and… Could she have been in an accident? Did she move? I stared at page 209 for what felt like an eternity. At some point I returned to the peeling, stiff bench, maybe to prompt her return. I don’t know why I did this, but it didn’t work. She never showed. My walk to the train station felt particularly long that day.
The next week, the bench was still empty.
The week after, empty, except for a brief visit from a winded runner.
Another week passed; this time, she was there when I arrived, wearing a blue sundress and that smirk I so resented. She was rather pretty, wasn’t she? I sat across from her and opened my book to page 209. But my gaze drifted away from the page and towards her bobbing foot, an infuriating perpetual motion of hers that today held me hypnotized. I shut my book, stood, and walked over. She saw me approaching and was eyeing me expectantly when I reached her.
“Hi,” I said weakly.
She smiled. It was the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. “Would you like to sit with me?”