Stories

A Proposal to a Park Bench – David Hay

The sky falls forward. A drunken man half-horizontal, speaks candidly and lovingly to a park bench. ‘I don’t have anyone, I never had anyone, not how others do anyway, not how that crow knows purpose.’ He looks towards a grotesquely fat crow staring into him, as if it was just another part of his soul. His gaze is lonelier than a childhood sea, only witnessed between dreaming and waking. 

A group of teenagers expelling flavoured air, dappled with the last breaths of light before the long unforgiving night, enter the park.  One of the girls laughs so hard she squeals then proceeds to slip backwards off a swing she would have struggled to fit in ten years ago. Rain falls like blue-tinted shards upon the tarmac and grass. The girl is winded and her friends are laughing too much to help her back up. The other girl struggles to contort her face from laughter to deep concern as she helps her up.

‘If I can catch hypothermia then I can catch a break’ he reasons to the sodden slated seat. He becomes aware the group of teenagers probably think he is a nonce or some general species of pervert. He bends down, nearly topples over, regains his balance, picks up his camping gear, sighs with its far too familiar weight and heads in the direction of the woods his father walked when his anger became too much for him to contain, and he as a child followed secretly; a hunter trespassing on the foreign land of adulthood. The teenagers run to the home least likely to have any adults. The man walks beyond the train tracks and is lost from sight. 

Police will stop a dog walker later that night looking for a man they believe to be suicidal. He hasn’t seen anyone, he will reply in a flat, flat tone. 

‘A man who doesn’t want to be found rarely is’ says the police officer to the man who is no longer listening.  The dog attempts to sniff his crotch. ‘He does that sometimes,’ he replies. The policeman laughs, moves away from the dog ‘must like me.’ The man doesn’t reply, speaks to his dog and they continue on their walk. What a ‘fucking weirdo’ he mutters to himself, his words lost to a low hanging breeze. There is a part of him who feels sorry for the missing man, but mostly he just feels annoyed. He walks to the train tracks, sees a figure in the distance entering a small wood, turns around, ‘a man’s business is a man’s business.’

The stars nibble upon the heavy blanket of night. He walks clear of the farmland that surrounds, onto a road where his car hidden under an oak tree waits. The engine starts, a branch breaks too far away for him to hear. ‘For fuck’s sake’ says the man who has been declared missing, before sitting up, standing, removing his sleeping bag and settling down for a night. As he drifts off, he pictures his ex-wife’s face disintegrate into the long, thick blackness. Tears fall without constraint.