A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene. Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.
We went for a stroll one afternoon in the park. I thought it might be our last outing of the season before the snow came, or even the last for the year until spring, supposing I survived the winter. Possibly the last park stroll of my life. I didn’t know. There were no birds to feed, the geese had all gone south. Leaves were falling and skittering across our path in the brisk wind and there was a faint smell of burning in the autumn air. Cold enough for a jacket buttoned up and for noses and cheeks to tingle. So I was surprised when we came across the old woman sitting alone on her bench, bare hands on cold steel needles. She looked up but the little clicking sounds the needles made as she worked bright red yarn around them never faltered. Her steely grey eyes peered straight through me as if I wasn’t even there. I let go of Sally’s hand and roughly brushed the tears I couldn’t control from my cold cheeks. What the hell? I never used to cry. But my emotions had gone haywire lately. I wanted immediately to lash out at a perfect stranger, shake my fist, yell at her wrinkled old face. Look at me, I’M STILL HERE! I’m not gone yet. And it won’t be today. Today is NOT a good day to die. I looked away, wiped my palms on my jeans, and grabbed Sally’s hand. And then we just kept walking.
There was such a sadness in Sam that last fall we spent together. And so much anger. I honestly don’t know how I’d handle a similar diagnosis, but when he got the bad news, I decided the right thing for him to do was to keep on living. No giving up, no wallowing. I wanted him to be grateful for every single day he had left and happy to live all of them. But his moods were just all over the place. Of course I understood why, but still it was hard for me to cope with the intensity and the fierceness of his feelings. The funniest things would set him off. Like the day we went for a walk in the park. Everything was so beautiful and colourful and crisp. I’ve always loved Indian summer. There was a little old grandma sitting on one of the park benches busily knitting a child’s bright red sweater. She glanced up at us as we approached and I returned her sweet smile. It vanished though, when she looked at Sam. Because he was crying. Deep wrenching sobs, although later he’d claim it was just a few tears from the cold air and some pent-up emotion and naturally he didn’t want to talk about it. He dug his fists into his eyes, and then he grabbed my hand again and almost wrenched my shoulder out of its socket pulling me away. That poor old grandma, I’m sure he must have given her a crazy scare. And poor me. But mostly, poor, poor, dear Sam.
I was never one to sit at home by myself with nobody to talk to and nothing new to see, so as long as the weather stayed decent and my legs were willing, I’d pack up whatever I was working on and shuffle my old bones over to the park across the way. The bench I liked the best was under a big old red maple tree, and that fall it was just gorgeous. Red as the little sweater I had decided to knit for the dog I didn’t have. Once in a while the odd curious person would take the time to stop and chat. I lived for that. I used to tell fortunes and predict the future in my younger days, but those skills must fade away with age and lack of practice, because I got pretty rusty. Still, I liked to give it a whirl whenever I had the chance. Mostly I’d come up with nothing much to write home about. So when that young couple walked up the path it was like I’d been struck by psychic lightning. Her sadness mixed up with bewildered confusion, his rage manifested in clenched fists and choked back tears. Their combined unhappiness almost bowled me over. There was so much I wanted to say to them about hope and faith and nothing written in stone, but they didn’t stop. Maybe it’s just as well. They were both already resigned to a future they believed they were powerless to change. Too bad no one likes a little old lady who interferes.
On a shopping trip, you catch a glimpse of someone stealing. What do you do?
Some qualifiers here would be nice. Is it a child? Some senile old person? A teenager taking a dare? A businessman in an expensive suit? And what is this person making off with – a pack of gum – lip gloss – 3X control top pink panty hose – a duffel bag stuffed with DVD’s?
Doesn’t really matter. I know exactly what I’d do. Absolutely nothing. Except second guess myself and rationalize it all into oblivion. Not my problem, none of my business.
I work in a retail setting up close and personal with people who for all I know may be stealing the place blind. I reported suspicions about a co-worker once to loss prevention and he eventually lost his job. I was kind of glad that no charges were laid. The humiliation in his case seemed punishment enough. When it was all over I didn’t feel all that proud of myself.
I worked with someone else who was put under constant camera surveillance until there was no question about her guilt. She was a nice enough person to work with, but she had problems and issues I guess.
Those were both incredibly uncomfortable situations, and I felt bad for both of these people. And a little angry and a lot disappointed. But mostly confused about their respective motivations. But that’s really none of my business either.
And I guess if I wanted to be the one apprehending criminals I would have become a cop. Or a prosecutor or a judge. I’m also no behaviour therapist and I don’t feel like saving the world.
I don’t have it in me. I keep ME honest. I can sleep at night.