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A Conversation in the Park

by Jon Thomas 3 years ago in friendship

A Tale of Two Friends

The scene is set in a public park. Nothing special, but there's a small pond that is overlooked by an old wooden bench. It creaks if anyone over 100 lbs was to sit on it and it had cracks and scratches over what looked to have been a once-pristine paint job. There was a man that was always seen here. He couldn't have been older than his mid-twenties. Rough beard, and almost the same clothes every time he was spotted here. He wore hats often, but sometimes he didn't. His hair was greasy, but nevertheless jet-black with intense curls. His business was very simple: he would appear early in the afternoon and he would simple sit and gaze. Sometimes he would write something down in a notebook, sometimes he forgot the notebook entirely. How do we know so much about this man’s presence? Simple. He's often watched by another man that comes to this park regularly. This man, a father. Young, probably in his late twenties or early thirties. He would take his daughter to this park often, as it was one of her favorite places to be. She was just old enough to walk and talk, but she had that adventurous spirit that quickly led her to running and screaming. She was very independent, and her father usually sat back and simply watched her when there was no man sitting by the pond that caught his attention. However, today was a Wednesday, and his daughter was in school. It was early September and the father realized that his visits to this park would become more infrequent unless he came at a later time.

But something was burning in his chest. This man. Why was this man always here? He was clearly young. Shouldn't he be working at 2:00 on a Wednesday? Shouldn't he be anywhere? Why was he always here? He noticed something looked different today too… The man seemed, almost at peace. Normally, there was an unmistakable emotionless look in his eyes as he peered over the somewhat murky waters of this pond. But not today. He looked rested, even somehow he looked cleaner. The father had to know this man’s story. He couldn't tell why he cared so much. Perhaps it was the simple curiosity of human nature, but the reason didn't seem to matter. The father approached this man today, eager to hear his story.

Father: Nice day today isn't it?

Man: Wonderful. One of the best we've had in ages.

The man’s tone was strange. It seemed to lack gravity, but it carried more meaning than the words he spoke.

Man: Are you that man who comes here with that beautiful daughter? She's truly something else, that child.

Father: I am. Thank y- how did you know? I must admit, I watch you come here often, and I don't recall ever seeing your sight leave a straightforward position.

Man: One does not need sight to see my good sir.

This was odd. For a man that looked so young, he spoke with a wisdom that one would expect from an elderly citizen. The father was sure that he was in for a very entertaining conversation.

Father: Forgive me for being so forward, but I want to know your story. Why are you always here, sitting on this old bench?

Man: Well how much time do you have?

Father: At least a few more hours before my daughter gets out of school.

Man: Very well. I suppose I can tell you my story. I was born into a very modest family, but we had hardships of course. When I graduated high school, I went off to college to pursue the career of my dreams. It wasn't an easy road and I knew that from the start, but I went in headfirst all the same. I was a passionate man. I graduated college though, and to my dismay, here I still am: jobless. Not only that, but I'm in deeper debt than a country’s government. Sometimes I wonder… What if I skipped out on college altogether? Would I have been happier? Very possibly.

Father: What was your dream job?

Man: I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write stories that could move people. I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I wanted people to read my words and leave changed, enlightened. Maybe write for television or cinema. Make stories to watch come to life.

Father: What happened?

Man: All just lies! The higher education system is established to rip off the poor souls that are hopeful enough believe so much in their dreams, they’ll spend thousands of dollars yearly to not make that money back. I was no different. I looked into schools, yes, I did. I even got into my top choice! It was a bit of a stretch too, but they took me. Filled my head and my heart with more hope, only to break me down after my time as a student came to an end. There were no studios interested in my ideas, nobody interested in reading my novels, or my short stories. I wrote of course, but the fish were never biting. Several years passed. I lost my home. My father had been hospitalized the year following my college graduation, he died soon after. Liver failure… man lived for his alcohol. Mother was gone by the time I turned thirteen… as far as I care, she’s been dead a long time. With no parents, I had nobody but myself to keep me from bankruptcy. My rent bills kept piling high, and I had no means of paying it. I tried to hold down minimum wage jobs, but that left me with no time for my girlfriend. I loved her… but nobody wants to be with a man with no future. How could you start a life, a family, with a man that’s living out of his car? Don’t answer that, because she certainly couldn’t. “There’s no future for us. You have no future.” I’ve been ridiculed by many people in my lifetime, but those words I will take with me to my grave.

Father: I’m so sorry… If you don’t mind me asking, how long ago? Since she left…

Man: Two years. Last week I had just heard that she had gotten engaged. Good for her… I hope he can give her what I couldn’t…

The man’s voice turned cool. It lacked emotion, but it wasn’t exactly monotonous. But suddenly, he snapped back into that optimistic and wise tone.

Man: But it doesn’t matter now! I’ve found my solution, and I won’t have to worry about my place in the world any longer!

Father: Good! What did you have in mind?

Man: Oh no, not yet. You know my story, now let’s hear yours.

Father: My story? Well, it’s truly nothing special.

Man: I’ve seen that daughter of yours. You’re good with her. A man of your morale most definitely has a tale worth telling.

Father: Oh well, I guess there’s no reason to not share. I was raised in a suburban home. Father was a doctor—cardiologist—and my mother stayed at home. I graduated high school and went off to learning more about computers. For some reason, technology always came naturally to me. I graduated from a good college, and became a tech consultant. Nice and flexible hours, always lets me spend some time with my family. I met my wife at the company I worked at before the one I’m currently at. Within a year, we were married. Three years later, we had our little girl.

Man: How beautiful!

The man was exceptionally sincere with those words. He was smiling. It sent a warm feeling to the father.

Man: I always wanted a child. I wanted to be a father. I apologize if I come off as strange in my interest in your family, but it comforts me so greatly knowing happy families are out there.

Father: It’s quite alright. So are you going to tell me what your grand plan is now?

Man: …

The man’s eyes became cool and distant once more.

Man: There’s so much beauty in this world. This park, it’s a microcosm of this beauty. These trees, so… real. The way the branches sway ever so slightly in the wind. This pond, the way these fish view it as their entire universe. They have no idea that there’s bodies of water larger than this, even a whole world out of the water. Yet they swim, and they eat, and they repeat. So simple, yet so wonderful. Oh, to only have to exist. For us humans, it’s not so simple. Fish will never have to deal with debt. Trees will never have to deal with loss. Water will never lose sight of what it is when its world comes crumbling down. I’ve enjoyed talking with you today, I truly have. Thank you for your interest. It’s the first time someone has asked about my life in a very, very long time. You hold that little girl of yours close, she’s got a bright future ahead of her with a father like you. I must be leaving now.

Father: Are you sure? You haven’t finished your story!

Man: My friend, I have indeed finished this story. You get back to your family, tell them the man from the park says hello.

The father had no chance to say another word. The man had left, rather abruptly.

A week had passed and the father had noticed something was strange. The man wasn’t sitting in his usual spot. The father thought that this was weird, but maybe he was sick. Who knew? Maybe he even got a job. Yet, there was this weird feeling in the father’s stomach.

The next week, the father got a knock at his door. It was a woman. Her face had looked as if she had been crying. Her makeup was smeared and her eyes looked big. She was holding a letter in her hand. She informed the father that his friend from the park had passed away. The police found his body with a rope around his neck. He had letters in his car, and the man’s name and address was on this letter.

The father was taken aback by this news. He thanked the woman for delivering the letter and she was on her way. He opened up the letter. It read:

My friend! I hope this finds you in good health. If you are reading this, it means you have probably heard of my passing. I hope you’re not too upset by this news! You’re probably wondering how I got your address. You gave me enough information in our conversation for me to be able to look you up. At least I sincerely hope I found the right tech consultant… Otherwise whoever is reading this is certainly in for a treat! Well anyway, thank you for our talk the other day. For years, I sat at that bench. Thinking, watching, waiting. Until one day, I noticed a man and a beautiful child. They started coming to this park and for the first time in a long time, I had heard what laughter was like again. It was the life I always wanted. When you approached me, it was a wonderful ending to the story that I was waiting to finish. I told you I had always wanted to write to move people. Sadly, none of my work got to see the light of day, but I hope that this last piece can make you feel something. You hold that daughter of your close, no matter what. You make sure that every waking day of her life, she is given love and support. You let her know that when she’s sad, she can always turn to her family to brighten her day, even if it’s just a little bit. And lastly, I want you to know that I am not upset with my passing. I’ve been planning this for quite some time now… I’ve seen all there is for me to see, I can’t bear to live the same day over and over again. But your little girl… she has many days ahead of her. I hope you are doing well my friend, thank you once more for our conversation in the park. You take care now, and hug that wife of yours. Tell her you love her. Make sure she always knows. I have to be going now, I have a father to catch up with. Goodbye!

Sincerely,

Your friend from the park.

The father found himself in tears. He had known this man for a total of maybe an hour, but it felt like an eternity. But he understood. He folded the letter and placed it in his sock drawer. He still reads it from time to time. His wife came home with his daughter, she had picked her up from school. The first thing the father did was pull his wife in close and kiss her. It was a passionate kiss, the kind you would see in a romance movie at the end of the film. He lifted his daughter up high over his shoulders and threw her up and down while she joyfully laughed. His wife asked him where the sudden affection came from. His reply:

“An old friend.”

friendship

Jon Thomas

Musician, teacher, writer

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