The world can be a scary place. Granted my life, as a bench on the football field, has barely seen anything beyond Student Housing – 5 and the Bistro, but being rooted to a spot has its advantages. There are the football games I get to watch every day, and the conversations with the egrets. Sometimes the sparrows stop by too, but they’re not as friendly. Proud little birds, but I’ve seen too many of them come and go. They only make me laugh.
It does get lonely though. Sometimes I don’t see anyone for two months straight, especially when it gets too cold and there’s too much of a nip in the air for anyone to enjoy my company. I’m left to talk to the grass, but they’re suspicious creatures. They prefer sticking to themselves in their tufts. Of course there’s the other park benches, but we’re too far away to have meaningful conversations that go beyond just the “Hi, how are you” pleasantries. There’s nothing lonelier than being around your own kind but still being alone.
That’s why I started collecting stories.
You see, most people use me for conversation. And when their conversations are over, they tend to leave behind parts of themselves. While no one has left behind a prosthetic hand or a leg (so far) that would have made for a great pun, they do leave bags and books and maybe even pieces of their thought. I’ve heard more cries than dormitory room walls and I’ve heard the sound of a lot of hearts breaking. It’s funny, most wouldn’t spare a second thought to my existence, but I probably know more about them than they realize. When the weather changes and the warm air is punctuated by laughter and excited chattering about something other than how cold it is, I feel my spirits rise too. It means there’s going to be more stories for me to collect.
And I’ll hold on to them. The stories have kept my cogs turning all this while, even as I grow another year old, and another shade of red light . I keep these pieces tucked away in a corner of my brick-lined back. Some come back, years later, to collect their pieces. Some don’t. Some, well, try to find the parts they’ve lost but they don’t know where to find me. I want to tell them that I’m right here, but I can’t. And so I have their pieces. I never let them rust.
Maybe it’s deliberate. The people here move and grow and find that they’ve outgrown parts of themselves which they shed only for me to collect. This is a kind of growth spurt that does not stop. It comes voluntarily – first with moving away, second with learning and third with giving the old parts of you for safekeeping. I like to think I have this very important job, besides being a great place to take pictures. And maybe we only grow because we know that we haven’t lost those parts of ourselves that we didn’t think were worth keeping. We’ve just relocated them.
But hey, what do I know.
I’m just a park bench