All I am looking for is a quiet bench; a bench to rest my weary body and mind. It was a rough week for me, and I felt like the boy in Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, when he says,
“I don’t need very much now…just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
I hope to gaze out at the seagull-speckled harbor, watch the sailboats glide by, and think and not think.
It is 2:15pm, which means I have about one whole hour of solitude before my three kids get home from school and the laughter, cries, demands, cuddles, and needs of my little people hijack my thoughts and actions.
Unlike in Texas where few people ever seem to be out and about (I assume they’re usually in their homes, cloaked in air-conditioning and walls to keep out the heat and bugs), here in New York, when the sun shines—the people bask in it.
The park is scattered with pantsuits and ties having leisurely lunch breaks. A fisherman paces the dock with his fat cigar and bobbing fishing rod.
And there is a man, slight in stature, almost frail, crouched on the bench across the walkway from where I sit. His cigarette droops out of his dry lips. The worn guitar rests in the crux of his arm, and his body hovers closely over it.
He’s strumming a melodic, repetitive tune. It’s meditative and calming like a drumbeat. The notes carry over to me in the salty breeze, and I can taste the peace I seek. I allow each sound to wash away my burdening thoughts, and the tears from my eyes start to flow.
And as if he senses my heavy thoughts, he starts to sing. The music transforms from an orderly rhythm to a glorious song. His voice, when I close my eyes, is James Taylor and George Harrison combined. I listen intently.
Occasionally I subtly glance over at him. I want to see if he’s real, or if I’ve conjured this moment up in my mind from my depths of longing to feel love and joy.
In between “Something” and “Yesterday” he lights a cigarette, and a waft of muddled smoke reminds me of the quick relief nicotine gives.
I imagine walking across the street to the 7-11, buying a pack of crisp white and shaded blue Parliament Lights, and feeling instant nicotine-induced relief.
It’s been years, but that sensation is as palpable as the bench beneath me.
I stay seated—crossing my legs to anchor myself. I continue to listen.
The song ends. The guitar makes that echoey sound as the strum waves into silence. The musician stands up, slowly walks over to his green bumper-sticker covered car, and drives off.
I stand, wipe the imagined dirt from my jeans, take one last look at the harbor, and drive home.