>> Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It had been a whole week since I had noticed the boy in the park for the first time. It almost had the manner of a routine for him. He would stride down at around eight p.m., throw down the satchel with an almost drunken force and sit down on the bench opposite mine. He would squirm in his chosen seat for half an hour, get up, pick up his bag and leave. By the end of the week, I had begun to time my watch according to his movements.

He was, if shadowed street lamps ever facilitate guesses, a school boy, definitely not more than fifteen. He never looked sad, which surprised me. Most people who sit in the park after sunset are desperately unhappy people in search of shadowlands. Sitting there gave him no peace of mind, rather, it made him more irritable still. He disliked the weeping old man in the bench next to him, disliked the streetlights alighting his side of the park,and definitely disliked waiting there in the park, day after day.

For I had made up my mind that he waited there. I had not really made up my mind about what. The idea of a girlfriend seemed cliched. Perhaps for something to get over. Perhaps for someone to come out from the house opposite. The idea of he being a detective did not seem inconceivable. Was not Jupiter Jones about the same age? It was possible that he was stalking someone while pretending to be a lovesick youngster waiting for his beloved in a park.

Thus, it came as a surprise when I saw him seated on my favoured seat a week later. I stopped in my tracks, swore under my breath and turned away in search of a new bench. Which is when he called me.

"Hey, is this yours?"

Never having been very comfortable speaking to complete strangers, I immediately froze and panicked. Probably unnerved by my complete silence, he ventured again,

"This bench, do you usually sit here?"

I turned to look at him. In the shadows, he seemed younger and slightly guilty, like a boy caught doing something wrong.

"Yeah, well, no, I mean, it is ok, hardly my seat," was what I managed to mumble out.

"I found it today. It is completely hidden by these bushes," he ventured.

"Yes, er, that is the point of it," I mumbled again.

"Ah, good find of yours then." By now, both of us had hardly any idea what we were talking about, we were too busy trying to pretend we were not park regulars.

"Yeah, well," said I and went back to ogling the grass.

After doing the same for a bit, he tried again with a casual, "Come here often?"

"No, yes, sometimes."

"Why?"

I tried to raise an eyebrow, realized belatedly that raising an eyebrow was not one of my accomplishments, went back to nervous gulping and inanely replied, "It is a nice park." I may have sounded slightly defensive. I do not recall now.

"But, of course."

Silence reigned again as I wondered why I was rooted to the spot, answering the questions of a pimply teenager. The pimply teenager, now almost lawyer-like in being, coughed slightly.

"Ever seen me here?"

"Sometimes. You used to sit right opposite." I wondered if I had sounded accusing enough. He was the person who sits in the bench opposite. Why was he shifting benches? Why was he taking over mine? Could he be so completely unaware of the unofficial park bench rules?

"You like this park, do you?" I decided it was my time to ask questions. If the fifteen year old boy detective meant to detect me, I did not see why the fifteen year old girl detective in me could not respond.

"Oh no, I dislike it intently. Never hated a place more."

"Oh." I probably looked puzzled. I did feel puzzled. He was a detective. He was not supposed to have any emotional leanings towards the park. It was just one more place he could observe criminals from.

"A girl broke my heart here last week," he confessed, his tones awkward and embarrassed.

"Oh," I replied, a few dreams dying inside me

"Yeah. I come here and pretend I am murdering her after she does that."

"Oh."

"Good way to get it out of the system."

"Very sensible," I reply mechanically.

"Ever been in love?"

"Not really," now wondering whether I was caught in some Greek tragedy.

"Pity. Nothing better."

"So one hears."

"Yeah."

Another one of those silences fell, wherein I debated with myself whether leaving now would seem rude and he stared at the bench opposite, expressionless.

"In college, are you," he asked unexpectedly.

"Yes." Then tired of my laconic answers, I rushed into speech. "Was, actually. It got over last month."

"Oh."

He went back to studying the bench opposite. After sometime, he looked up at me and coughed again. An apologetic, embarrassed cough.

"Listen, I am sorry about taking this bench. I will go back to mine from tomorrow."

I, now feeling immeasurably foolish and small, squirmed and replied hurriedly, "Hey, no, it is, I mean, hardly my bench. Really. It is fine. Whoever comes first gets it."

"Sounds sensible, yes well, let that be the deal then."

"Yeah," I nod along, privately resolving to find a new spot to fight demons in, one which did not involve fake boy detectives committing fake murders.

It was obvious now that the conversation was at a close. I left the park, without looking back at the boy, the bag or the park where fifteen year old hearts broke. I knew the shrubs would hide him cleverly from view. That was the point of those shrubs anyway. To create a sanctuary. One which a young boy with a school bag had stolen from me that day.

10 scaly flippers:

The Ancient Mariner 1:34 am, February 17, 2009  

A good post. quite unlike your other probably much more popular ones...I liked it. cos it had this touch of daily life...small incidents...and the question marks they leave. keep writing! :) i have always been a fan, not a secret one though! :P

~Moo-lah Buz!nezzz~ 2:45 am, February 17, 2009  

Very nice.:)
This happened for real??

Amazing Greys 10:17 am, February 17, 2009  

Interesting.
& i don't really want to know if this happened for real. (i don't know why, but it's more interesting this way)

What's In A Name ? 1:11 pm, February 17, 2009  

superbly writ.

and why on earth do u need a sanctuary !!???
self-pity is the worst human emotion invented!

Akasuna no Sasori 10:52 pm, February 17, 2009  

That's interesting, though I must say, he got his heartbreak at the age of 15? Kids these days!!!!!

Devdeep 11:24 pm, February 17, 2009  

Well i found that i gave me a rather eerie feeling while reading. The end was a bit too heavy for me. Not much an emotional guy. Therefore I must say I didn't enjoy reading it as much as others.

Abhishek 4:43 pm, February 23, 2009  

poor guy.
poor you.

Lazy louse 7:20 pm, February 23, 2009  

A rather nice read :D

Ruchit 2:55 am, March 02, 2009  

Did you find him, the next day you went there to the park ?

And nice post, it had a similar touch of Saki's (Hector Munro) "Dusk", I read while in school.

Btw, Happy 21st Birthday. [:-)]

Sphinx 1:49 pm, March 15, 2009  

this is a beautiful post. i love everything about it. the sanctuary that you have created for yourself. Speaking to a stranger, the coherence of the conversation. Its all very dreamy.
Fact is, I never fell in love when I was 15. Must have been quite surreal then but he'll move on from that soon enough and you'll move on from your park bench as well :)

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