The bench

Published: December 7, 2014
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The chilly autumn wind blew away the hair from her face and she clasped her hands together, revealing her appearance. PHOTO: STOCK

My crutches sank deep into the muddy grass, the result of a downpour last night. Without tumbling face first into the mud, I yanked them out— it must have rained until morning because the puddles in the garden could still be seen as the day’s sun was about to set. I managed to make my way to the rocky path. The ashen coloured trail of pebbles led me to a bench overlooking a mesmerising pond.

I trotted along the trail down to the bench and sat there with a great sigh. I pulled the magazine out from under my arm and set it down beside me while examining the water in front. I loved sitting on this bench, looking across the pond at life and nature. I saw the water swaying slowly along its way towards the edge of the pond and then back, and the flock of ducklings swimming proudly and following their mother. One of the ducks had trouble catching up and quacked at its mother to wait. It was fascinating to see how wordless creatures were still able to convey their message across.

Fall was upon us. The changing colours of the leaves indicated it wasn’t long before the huge oak tree that shadowed my bench would be bare and naked again. I looked up and examined the patterns nature offered me, but not until recently had I begun to appreciate it.

My train of thought had taken its toll when I noticed that a woman stepped out from the building I came from and headed my way. I decided to act like I was busy reading the magazine I brought. I could hear the woman inching closer to my area and it wasn’t long before she was in my presence. Her footsteps halted and I broke my gaze from a Mercedes Benz to look into two beautiful crystal blue eyes. A gorgeous face was looking back at me with a warm glow and a soft smile that somehow lit a kindling fire in my heart. I didn’t know what was happening or where this woman came from, but she seemed familiar; like a half recalled memory I just couldn’t remember.

It was a moment before we spoke.

“Can I grab a seat here?” she asked.

She pointed at the pond,

“I love the view.”

I happily obliged and pulled the crutches towards myself. She sat down and crossed her legs. I sunk my head back into my magazine, pretending to examine the nifty new features of this Mercedes, only to look at this woman from the corner of my eye.

“What happened to your leg?” she inquired pointing at the cast that wrapped my left leg like a cocoon.

“Car accident,” I replied.

Usually people find car accidents fascinating tales to revisit so I told her mine.

“It happened a month ago actually. I totalled my car and ended up here. It’s not too bad. My cast will be off in a few days and I’ll be out of here.”

“Oh, so is that why you’re going through a catalogue of cars?” I looked down and saw the shiny Mercedes Benz peering back at me.

“Precisely,” I lied.

It would take me years before I could buy this car but she didn’t have to know that. I surveyed her face. There was band-aid concealing a bruise across her forehead and some scratch marks that were healing near her cheek. It only felt right to ask her a question because she asked me one.

“Does your cut have a story too?” I asked jokingly while flashing a smile.

She felt her band-aid on her forehead and chuckled.

“Same story as yours. My accident wasn’t very bad, at least not for me. I was sitting on the passenger side and my husband on the driving seat. He got the worst blow; I was pretty safe to be honest.”

I inspected her left hand and saw the wedding ring sparkling like the water in the pond before us. It felt heart wrenching. I felt further questioning her would build some conversation and we’d have something to talk about other than sitting awkwardly staring at ducks.

“So I guess you’re here because of your husband?”

“Oh yes, he’s in ward C. Whenever I visit, I like to come here and sit down, catch some fresh air and escape the dangerously fast world out there. Y’know?”

Her voice cracked in the end, but I knew. The time that I spent in this hospital had really opened up my eyes over what’s important and what’s temporary. This is exactly why I sit here, to regain the composure of my thoughts that the cruel world had damaged.

“Ward C you say? I’m in ward C too. Are you Harry’s wife?”

Harry was my neighbour in ward C. His bed was right next to mine, and we used to chat for hours. He would tell me about his wife and kids, and how someday he’d introduce me to his family.

“No,” she replied.

Her eyes started to water and her voice broke on that one syllable. She pursed her lips while holding back her tears before breaking into a sob and covering her face in her hands. I was confused.

“I’m sorry… um…”

I didn’t know her name. This conversation was turning into a disaster.

“Cathy,” she said.

“Cathy, is there anything I can do?”

I didn’t know if I should rest my hand on her back or let her cry like that. I was fighting this dilemma in my head when she gave me a horrifying look. I pulled my hand that was about to rest on her back when I noticed something.

A sparkling stone shined on a finger on my left hand that seemed like a wedding ring. I could have sworn it wasn’t there before. She looked at it and then at me. She saw the perplexing look I wore. She touched my ring with her wedding ring. They looked awfully similar to each other.

“You don’t remember, John?”

How did she know my name? My head was hurting almost immediately.

“How do you know my name? Who are you?”

I was startled and my crutches fell.

“The doctor, she said you’d be better. When will you be better John? When will you remember?”

She seemed torn between the ring and me. She had grabbed my hand and her fingers were intertwining with mine.

“I’m tired. Tired of coming here every day hoping to bring you back. You’re here, but you’re not. John please, I want you to come back to me.”

“What are you talking about? Who are you?”

I jerked her hand out of mine and was shouting at this point. I don’t remember the last time I had screamed this loud. I don’t remember the last I had been this nervous. I don’t remember the last time my heart beat so fast in a conversation. I don’t remember…

“The accident, John – I was there. We were there. It hit you so hard on the head. Oh God, your head.”

She went into repeated sobs.

“Please come back. Please remember who I am. Please come back to me John. Please…”

I was gasping for air by this point. I heard people hurrying towards us. Two nurses and a guard.

“They’re coming John. Please come back to me. Tell them you’re okay. Tell them you remember, for God’s sake!”

I was losing her. I had no idea what she was saying. The aching pain in my head was soaring towards my eyes. I grabbed my head in my hands but instead of hair, I felt cloth. I was stunned. What was going on? My head was bandaged together tightly to cover up something. An injury, a wound?

My vision began to shake. I was losing control over my thoughts and body. I could still hear her though, sobbing, begging – expecting me to come back to some reality. She told me to remember the ring. I didn’t even know how it got there. She asked me to remember our vows. I don’t even remember of making any. The sounds magnified in my head, and I tried to block them out. Every noise pierced my ear, be it the rustling of the leaves or the quacking of the ducks. I opened my eyes to see but I saw nothing; I had become blind. It was all dark.

The noises started to fade; it was becoming silent.

It all came to a standstill; it all became peaceful

The water in the pond glistened gloomily in the twilight. The ducklings quacked, as they followed their mother around the pond. One of them seemed to be a little slow as it quacked to tell its mother to slow down, which she did. The beauty of language could be seen flowing through these wordless birds somehow able to convey their message across. I peered beside me and saw a woman devastated. She was crying and sobbing with her face in her hands.

The chilly autumn wind blew away the hair from her face and she clasped her hands together, revealing her appearance. I saw a gorgeous face looking back at me with a fiery glow but a sad smile. Cheeks wet with tears that had been shed recently. She wiped her tears on her sleeve and looked straight in to my eyes.

I stared back into two beautiful crystal blue eyes that seemed to be damp with aching sadness. She looked at me the way the duck looked at her duckling and sat there waiting for something. Something that was slow and not fast enough to catch up perhaps, waiting for her duck to come back to her, just waiting.

Mohammad Nazar Syed

Mohammad Nazar Syed

Nazar is a writer and poet based in Canada. His debut publication is called 'A Rush to the Stars' and is a collection of his poetry. He tweets as @mnazarsyed (twitter.com/mnazarsyed)

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