The Bench

The Bench

A Story by BeckyBoodles
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A short story about a girl, a boy, and a bench.

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Remember that bench at the park that we used to sit on? You would always be on the left, I on the right. The sun would rise and shine on the duck pond, casting light upon shadows, and we would talk about the meaning of life and why we’re here and not somewhere else. We would sit there pondering, as if we were geniuses, as if we were philosophers solving the world’s problems. And I suppose we were, in the self-indulgent way of making our world the world. We were the Einsteins of our corner of the city, sitting on that bench, with its peeling paint and rusting arms. We played God on that bench, creating lives and destroying them at will, with our poetry and paint.

                I sit at that bench now. It’s been a year. The sunrise is touching the duck pond again, but there’s no ducks there this late in the winter. The paint on the bench somehow seems brighter this time, as though someone had repainted the blue of it. It doesn’t feel familiar anymore, as if the painter had erased all the memories. But I can still feel them lingering. They are inherent in the gilded wood.

A woman walks by, giggling to her husband beneath her black mitten. His mouth tightens, and he gives a short laugh. Beside me, you say that she’s cheating on him and is trying to make light of it, saying it just happened because she was drunk. You tell me, in that silky voice, arms stretched lazily across the back of the bench, that he’s secretly a schizophrenic and is going to kill the other man and hide the body in the duck pond. I laugh and say that you’re probably right.

                A brave soul in a t-shirt bikes past, music blasting in his headphones. He races past, going frantically, as if his life depends on biking as fast as he can. Slurping your Pepsi, you tell me he has a pregnant wife who is in labor right now, and will divorce him if he’s not there for the birth. Your red hair fell over your freckled cheeks. I traced a constellation in them with my finger, teasing you, saying that you had stolen the stars from the sky, and that’s why they don’t come out during the day. But you say, no, you picked some of the paint off the bench and stuck them on the whites. I wrinkle my nose.

                And now it’s summer, and you’re being pushed into the duck pond by your brothers. They throw your skinny form in the middle of a flock of ducks, and they all fly away. But it’s okay. You just laugh and swim out, taking your soaked t-shirt off, and come to sit on the bench next to me. You put your dripping arm around my shoulders and your brothers hoot with laughter, seeing my face grow red. But you’re just kidding, and you say that you’re sorry you got my shirt wet. You tell me you can beat me in a race around the park, since I’m a girl, and therefore weak. When I’m finished with the race, I have to wait five minutes, lying against the cold metal arms, for you to catch up. Someone’s radio nearby is talking about the war, but it seems so much further away then it is. When you finally run up, panting, you stop for a moment to listen.

                A boy walking by is being scolded at by his mom for bringing pot to school. We skipped school and smoked it for the first time at that bench. Your older brother said it would be great: we’d get so high we wouldn’t know our own names. And I suppose he was right. We got so high that when I forgot what time it was and we didn’t get home until after dinner, your father spanked you for being both late and stoned, even though you were sixteen by that time. It was my fault, but you didn’t blame me. You just laughed and said that you’re going to stand this morning instead of sit. The metal would make the pain worse.

                I drink the cola I brought. The first sip fizzes against my tongue, and I watch a middle school girl walk quickly past, tears rolling down her round cheeks. That day, the queen bee had told me to give her some money for lunch. I told her to shove it, so she punched me. I couldn’t see out of my eye, it swelled so much with the bruise. You met me at the bench and put an ice pack on it, telling me that, four hundred years ago, they would have put leeches on it to reduce the swelling. I had looked into your eyes and realized that I could see the summer’s day in them.

                The young couple under the oak tree across the pond are gazing into each other’s eyes. You had a bottle of tequila that day that your brothers gave you. We sat on the bench at midnight, watching the stars and drinking it. It burned and the taste was horrible, but I drank it because you were drinking it with me. The stars were blurry instead of bright, and we started confusing constellations. Then there was a moment when you kissed me, and my world exploded.

                After that, I didn’t see you for a week. I waited on the bench every morning and watched the sunrise without you. On Monday, you told me that you didn’t want a relationship with me. I said I didn’t care, as long as we stayed good friends. The next day after high school graduation I saw you kissing the girl you said you hated. I let the jacket you gave me soak up the tears.

                When we saw each other again, almost all the paint on the bench was gone. Years of sitting in the same places had worn grooves in the wood. We watched as a group of soldiers marched past the pond. The ducks were hiding among the reeds and gazed up at us pityingly. You told me, in an unusually quiet voice, that your dad wouldn’t stop telling you that you weren’t worth anything. He had kicked you out of the house again. You laughed humorlessly, your pink lips held frozen in an ironic smile. Playing at toughness, you said you didn’t care. But your darkening eyes and limp hands sitting on your knees begged for an escape. My arms ached to hold you.

 

                That was then. I remember it. I remember when we were little, and you gave me flowers you pulled from the neighbor’s garden, even though he yelled at you every time. You loved me then. And, although it took me a long time to acknowledge it, I loved you as well. And when your parents divorced and you spent every night at parties instead of the bench, I understood. I sat there alone and looked at the stars, wondering if you were okay. And, some nights, you would remember, and sit beside me in silence. You would hold my hand, even though you said it didn’t mean anything.

                But I suppose saying no ruined it all. You left without me. But isn’t that why we’re here? To learn lessons, to realize that being hurt is inevitable. And now I sit here, a year later, watching pink dragons paint the evening buildings.

                And I know it’s okay.

                Sometimes a bench is a better support than love.

                When the recruiters came and many of our classmates heeded the call of honor, dreams, and sometimes martyrdom, you went with them. I remember your lopsided smile when you said�"practically shouted�"that you were going to war. Your wild red hair, touched by the sunrise that morning on the bench, glistened like semi-dried blood staining a tablecloth. Dreams of glory stained the blue of your irises. When you asked me to go with you, I said no. I watched the light spark in your eyes as you called me a coward, and headed to the train station. The bench seemed to groan as I sank down in it. There was a crack in the wood.

                Three months later, you would be dead, your body dragged from a ditch underneath a tall tree. And I would receive a phone call from your mother, telling me the date of the funeral. Closed casket.

 

© 2010 BeckyBoodles


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Whether this is true or based on/inspired by something true, you deliver the story in a keenly sensitive, introspective way that seems authentic. I find the way you describe the boy as he's telling you about his having joined up to be especially good writing. Being one who served in Vietnam, I can tell you that this kind of story played out all over America and there were countless would-be relationships that ended with flag-draped coffins.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 9 Years Ago



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Added on February 7, 2010
Last Updated on May 20, 2010
Tags: love, bench, memories
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Author

BeckyBoodles
BeckyBoodles

Homer, AK



About
Hey everybody! I'm Becky~ I live in a small town in Alaska, where I write my poetry and stories and practice my spirituality =] I hope you all like my writing, and I love constructive criticism, so do.. more..

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