There was a bench which sat in a common yard at a common home. It had known happier and livelier days, when imaginations and words were painted blissfully over its formed plastic. Now, it seemed, it was forgotten – either forgotten or ignored, both seen and unseen in the same moment. Before, laughter and mud, chatter and rain had all poured over its surface. It had been the perfect size and shape for their little hands and legs. It still was. But something had changed.
Time had passed.
Were all benches forgotten in time, he thought? “I have never seen other benches – only lawn chairs, tables, and a hammock,” he mused as the years passed through his mind. He grew restless at the thought of how often they were enjoyed by people of all sizes. Even the broken chairs were picked over him. He could only watch silently – his spirit waning with their apparent interest. What was left of him now? Only a cracked and useless piece of plastic, molded once for the joy of those who would but know him well. What’s more, he’d seen what they do with other things that had been forgotten. He shivered at the thought. Who knows what awaits me at the trash heap.
He was growing more and more confident that his day was coming.
Bringing back the brilliance of the untouched color inside his body would be impossible now, he thought. Why bother? He had to think of something else. The remaining layers of color reminded him of the old days again, but his thoughts had taken on their own blue-ish color over time. “These people don’t really know me,” he thought to himself one day. The sudden admission had creeped up on him and he felt his frame thin and crack a little more. He knew it wasn’t true…technically. He knew he had been really known and loved, but why did he not feel the soft fingers or know the familiar squeals and giggles anymore? They were like hugs to him.
The proud air inside of him, once full of life and hope, was fading – deflating. The chipping paint began to be a reflection of his very soul. “Come back to me,” he said softly. A bird flew away, and the breeze caughed up a little more dust for his growing collection. The bench was a mess.
He longed for attention. He longed for the hugs. “What did I do wrong?” he wondered aloud to a passerby gathering nuts. His words were ignored, and, like a match, his anger flared brightly for a moment, only to quickly transform into bitter embers again. More than ever before, the red paint revealed the faded layers of blue and yellow underneath. He felt helpless – unable to move, unable to express his pain, unable to mend the cracks.
Blue. His life was blue.
Life was happening all around him, but the blue cave of isolation kept him hidden in plain sight. People walked and played, sat and talked all around him. The trees shimmered and laughed; the squirrels and birds danced and sang. Shame had clouded his thoughts: surely something was wrong with him. Bouncing and swaying, flowers bloomed with vibrant colors amongst green grasses and the lush leaves of surrounding bushes. But in his eyes, it only seemed to highlight his own flaws. He had worked so hard to be the table that he was supposed to be. He didn’t realize that shame and bitterness had built an invisible fortress of solitude around him.
Now he felt invisible.
He felt stuck – permanently bolted to the concrete he had become so accustomed to.
One day a girl came by – the same one, he realized, who used to play on him frequently – and stopped next to his seat. The girl had been by many times before, but had always just kept walking. She did not linger or look interested in the least. Now, she stood longer than he had anticipated and he suddenly felt awkward. What was she doing? Why was she staring so long? He wasn’t sure if he should be glad for her company or not. His stronghold toughened.
Her eyebrows lifted slightly and small compassionate wrinkles lined her forehead. She spoke suddenly but softly. “You look sad. Your paint is all peeling and your plastic is bent. Would you mind too much if I sat with you for a while?”
Without waiting for a reply she sat quickly and looked as if she knew what the table was feeling. Though she was only half past eight in her years, she was very intuitive. Looking up slightly, she remembered the old days when she used to sit and play at this table, loving the time spent on his beautiful red top, eating at parties or making mud pies with friends. It was almost as if he were her friend then.
She looked down from her thoughts at the scratched and peeling paint on its surface, feeling the hurt behind its well fortified walls. She looked at the mounding dirt, cracked and bent plastic, and the sagging sadness of her unkempt and untended table-bench. She remembered it had been there longer than she had been alive. This was her bench. (She called it such anyway, though the others would say the same.) Yes, this is our bench, she admitted to herself, looking at its precious shape.
She’d known its presence, but this moment, this thought, and the memory of joy and life ignited a spark she had forgotten was there. Everyone knew it was around, but for her, something had changed.
“You are beautiful, my little table.” She caressed him with her words. “It looks like you have been waiting a long time. Have you been waiting for me?” Her smile penetrated the tough plastic exterior and he felt cool, fresh air excite the void between his walls.
Could this be?, the bench thought secretly to himself. Hope rose, but only so high. He didn’t know yet if what he saw on her face, or heard from her mouth would fill the longing inside for more fresh air – more hugs. It was like he himself had forgotten what love really was…the unconditional kind. Would she abandon him for something more interesting and better built? Would she forget him again and leave him to rot and crack into something really unrecognizable?
His thoughts were interrupted by a soft rub across his top. The dirt and sand began to slide with the girl’s hand, and for a moment the embarrassing scratches and multi-colored blemishes made him wince…but she didn’t. Her hands began to move faster, and as she rubbed, her smile grew.
She was remembering.
There was a pause. Feeling her hands and hearing her kindness was powerful. He believed her.
Over the next months, she continued to choose him – to come out and sit with him, sometimes talking, sometimes not. Always tender. Always kind. He continued to let her sit, play and talk, forcing his fortress to fall. He was determined to enjoy her presence now. He knew she would eventually grow up. Their time together caused a remarkable shift.
Despite his flaws, she loved him. And he knew it.