Published in the January Piker Press
I spend most of my mornings sitting on a park bench. A particular one in Gypsy Hill Park. Now that I’ve quit the rat race and been off the treadmill for awhile, it’s become a regular part of my morning routine.
My very early morning routine.
There’s a promenade around the duck pond, and the bench affords a very nice view of this, and all the other goings-on of the scene. The bench gives one the best vantage points in the whole park, so I enjoy it. My time on the bench hasn’t gotten old yet either, like many things often do. And while I’m here in this place and this time in this life, it’s a good enough place to just sit and be.
Good as any other.
I arrived later than usual today. It was already light out as I made way toward my bench, passing the amphitheatre and carousel and ballfields. The morning mist was by now long gone and the sun was already getting high. Townsfolk were coming out and the park and promenade were starting to bustle with activity; friends walking together making chit-chat, dogs walking their bleary-eyed owners, mothers and kids feeding the ducks and geese and making a ruckus on the playground.
A perfect slice of suspended Americana.
When I saw my bench I could see someone was sitting on it. Oh, this is going to be a problem. I stopped by the pond in a grove of trees, took a sip of my coffee, and watched. A young woman. Unassuming. Reading Mademoiselle.
I walked up to her. “Miss, you know I usually sit on this bench.”
“Well you can sit next to me on it if you want to, I’m not gonna bother you.”
I stepped back and considered this. ‘She’s not gonna bother me’.
For some reason this statement of hers itself bothered me. I stood tongue-tied and rooted, not knowing how to proceed. When I felt the sweat break out on my brow, I turned on my heels and what was not at all discretely, walked my way over back toward the pond. I got in stride on the promenade with the walkers and dogs and mothers and kids, and tried to appear casual while I walked and sipped my now lukewarm coffee.
This woman, this woman. Why in the world is she tormenting me?
She’s got a lot of gall.
If she knew the joy I’ve spent there on that bench. If she was getting one iota of any kind of long-lasting satisfaction from her time there even approaching mine, she ought to be accountable to me on it, no? This is something I ought to know. I completed a full loop around the pond and walked straight back to my bench.
“Miss, I sit on this bench most every morning. Unfortunately, I ran a little later this morning than usual. So I’m here to sit on it now.”
She lifted her eyes from her magazine, looking over her spectacles and landing on me. “I told you I’m not gonna bother you. It’s not your bench ya know. Anyone can sit here. The government put it here for that purpose.”
I crumbled my coffee cup and threw it in the wastecan. This was too much now. I was filled with hubris for sure and my nerves were shot. I knew my reaction was irrational, but I simply was too bothered to let this all stand.
I looked all around me and there he was, working his beat over by the fountain. A flat foot.
“Miss, we can have the government settle this then. I’ll be back.”
I walked toward the policeman, feeling her eyes on my back. I had a short and perfectly civil conversation with this good man in blue, where I filled him in on the details of my morning of injustice. His reaction was flat, which doesn’t surprise me. So much of the world is flat nowadays. He looked at me as if to ask, ‘anything else?’ I turned to look at my nemesis on the bench who was now walking toward us.
“Sir, I told you that you can sit on the bench too and that I’m not gonna bother you.” She looked up at the policeman. “With all due respect Sir, is it against the law to sit on a bench? I’m not looking to get into any trouble.”
I looked at the policeman questioningly, as if to convey ‘see what I mean?’
But then a wicked thought overtook me. I rubbed my hands together feeling suddenly diabolical. While the two of them started into a meaningless dialogue about nothing, my mission became clear.
“You two figure it out.”
I walked back to the bench and sat down. Nice and roomy and comfortable. And affords a very nice view. I crossed my legs and picked up the Mademoiselle and began to leaf through it.
My obstinance lifted.
I looked up to see the bane of my existence walking back toward me. “Can I sit here with you Sir? I promise not to bother you.”
I looked at her sternly and then a surge of gentleness welled up.
“Sure you can sit here.”
She smiled and sat down while policemen resumed his posture at the fountain, and the sun signaled it wasn’t far off till noon.