The bench

The bench

A brief moment on a bench


Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction


Otto Junior (United States)

I walk through the park. It’s kind of funny that I’m walking through the park alone because I hate to be alone. When I’m alone the thoughts start to creep into my head and no matter what I do I can’t keep them at bay. No matter how many walls I put up in my head they always begin to sneak through. It’s always better to be with other people because at least when you are with them no matter what is happening you pay less attention to what is really important. When other people are around you don’t think too much about the past. You don’t think too much about the future. They keep your focus in the here and the now, and they are life savers. If you were left to your own devices you would go crazy. Look at those people in solitary confinement and tell me that you don’t lose a part of your mind when you are left alone in the park for too long. I walk through the wooded trails of the park. There are always joggers around and it makes me tired just looking at them. I’m not fat or not athletic at least by my standards, but why would you willingly put yourself through that kind of torture when you could just not do it.
I walk to my usual bench where I like to sit and stare at nature. Nature is a truly beautiful thing. Even just staring at the trees that surround the bench I sit in awe. I approach my bench to find an old man sitting at my bench. It’s kind of strange because I’ve never seen the man before in my life, but he looks familiar almost. He sits in the exact spot I normally sit and looks out at the trees as if he could not imagine anything more astounding then the cluster of trees in front of him. I sit next to him and he barely acknowledges my presence, but I know that he does because he begins to talk to me.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” he asks me.
“Uhhh what exactly?”
“The bareness of nature. The simplicity of it all.”
“Yeah, it is. It makes me wonder you know, like what kind of stories do you think these trees could tell you know?”
“Yeah, I know what you are saying. I ask myself that question all the time.” He replies to me. “I think that if they could talk they would tell you all of the secrets that you’ve probably been wondering about for your whole life. The big questions you know? The ones that you almost don’t want to think about. They just keep entering your subconscious. You put up these walls and think that you can just keep it all out, but once you start down that path it is a slippery slope. What could I have done differently? All of the What Ifs. The god damn what comes after questions that will just haunt you. I’ve been doing a lot more thinking about that kind of stuff I guess. I mean I think that it is because I’m getting closer to the what comes after, but it used to eat me alive.”
How did he know all of that? He started rattling off all of the crazy questions that have been on my mind since the 9th grade. I had no idea how he knew that this was everything that I thought of on a regular basis.
“Ye—yeah, I know exactly what you are talking about.”
“I’ve learned that the best way to deal with those questions is to simply acknowledge that you have thought about them, and if you keep thinking about them they will just destroy the present. If you destroy the present then what’s the point of it all anyways. If you don’t live in the present while you can you will live your whole life thinking about all of the regrets that you have, and you will constantly be begging for more time. It’s not worth it in the end. It is better to just embrace and enjoy the time that we have here now.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of deep thinking lately, and I think that you’ve solved my problem, so I thank you for that.”
“Not at all. Just keep in mind that not everything is so simple that it comes with a solution. Your mom, it’ll all work itself out. I know you are worried, but chin up. You will be just fine Charlie, I know you will be.”
He got up and walked away from the bench. I was left sitting there puzzled. I didn’t know how he knew my name. I wasn’t wearing any identification at all, and I never once mentioned my mother to him. I never mentioned my problems to him at all. I don’t know how he could possibly know all of that about me. I was left in shocked silence. It took the last look at him for me to realize what had just happened. He was standing there in my shirt.

Competition: June 2015 Pen Factor, Round 1



The reviews for this submission haven't been published yet.