Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

On the Bench

In Prose, Stories, secrets & dreams on April 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm


She sat near the end of the park where the iron railing encompassing it kept the hard concrete of the sidewalk at bay.  She could be alone there on the green bench because its proximity to trash cans, its frequent collections of pigeon droppings and the exhaust of idling buses along the avenue kept people away.  She came there early with a calico cloth bag which she propped on her lap, her feet close together as if a scolded child, wisps of her graying hair falling across her face in rebellion at the scattered bobby pins that sought to hold it.

She sat there quietly seemingly idling away the hours but was in fact scratching the far reaches of her mind, the faulty recollections, the rise and fall of raw and untamed emotions, to wonder how it was that it had come to this.

Some days she spent hours in the somewhat torturous reflection desperate to have her life reveal itself to her.  Absently, she fingered the worn and chipped leather straps of her bag, or tugged her floral skirt lower over her plump calves.  She would reach periodically into her bag pulling out a banana gone dark and bruised from the hidden warmth of the bag’s cloth or for the squirreled away nuts and raisins believing such nourishment would fortify her to slowly edge away from this sullen paralysis towards a life of some sort.

Ruth was a compact woman whose middle age had rendered her body an uninteresting rectangle-a once narrow waist now giving way to the expansion which left her waist and hips of the same dimensions formless and at a loss for curves.  Her thinning skin made the blush of splintered blood vessels more visible through its translucence.  She felt, though, that she had accommodated these bodily alterations fairly well, often in fact with self-deprecating humor.  But she faltered at the purpose of her life: at its seeming irrelevance.  A life of little consequence now that she had left the vibrant arena of fighting for justice in the belly of this often sordid city.

And having left it, why?  Why did this happen?  Had she in fact chosen it?  Ruth sometimes felt that it had happened when she wasn’t looking.  That she slipped away from it all accidentally, not precisely of her own choosing but neither willing now, for reasons she could not understand, to re-enter the fray.

And so she sat day after day deliberating over who she was and who she had been.  There seemed no entertaining the idea of another choice.  There seemed to her as she nibbled on the last of the peanuts, sparing a few for the grey squirrel plumping up for winter, that she could only walk back in this shifting vesper light to her home and wait for the next day to find her way again to the waiting bench.

by Annie Q.


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