Not too far away from where you live, more precisely twelve miles out of your nearest city, there is a village. And in this village, there is a tiny park where two men have been meeting at a bench under the old oak tree that sits in the middle of the Gresham and Castlestone path.
We will refer to these men the way the folk of the village call them, the older man and the younger man, both outsiders.
They both had a life they once cherished. And both ran away to be forgotten in a place where nothing but their memories could find them.
Every day they met, and every day they sat, but now and then there was little Junor who would run about to meet them.
Junior was the only person who bothered to befriend the two men who kept good company in their misery.
“I remember once when I was in Portugal. Everything was going so well. I was studying abroad, I had an internship lined up, and I was making the coolest friends. Then it just changed, things got weird and different. I miss Portugal. No, I miss those two months in Portugal. But it all started going badly over there too,” the younger man recanted.
“My old town was just like that. Just right, you know. People were polite, didn’t stare at you as much as they said hello. Then the Irish came. After that, forget about it. Changed the place. I would have been mad to stay,” the old man responded in sync with the same lament of the younger man.
Back and forth the younger and the older man would go, trading stories. Often the same tales with different hues of blues.
“Hey. I found a rock. It’s so cool,” Junior jubilated as he came running in with a shiny rock in his hand.
“Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.” ― DANNY KAYE
“That’s an excellent rock,” the younger man said, smiling at the little boy because there is something infectious about the light of children.
“Don’t get too attached,” the old man warned mockingly, trailing off in thought as he found no point of finishing his bitter joke.
“It’s awesome. It’s the only blue stone in the whole park I think.” Junior’s eyes shone with wonder. “I am going to keep it. I am going to call it Jim.”
That is how things went at the park in the village. The two men would trade stories and every now and then, Junior would run up with something new.
“You just have a knack for finding new things little boy,” the younger man once said on a day that blurred in with all the rest.
“Just wait till you get older, see how long you can keep that up,” the old man grunted, caught in a particularly melancholic mood.
They saw Junior two days later after he found his rock. He was dejected.
“Who shit in your milk today,” the old man called out as Junior approached.
“I messed up.”
“How come,” the younger man asked in a slouch.
“I dropped my rock on the way to school. Now I can’t find it.”
“Ah! You’ll find other rocks,” the younger man reassured.
He was right. Junior had come running in with more things in his hands, more rocks, little insects, blades of grass, new toys, grades from school, medals from sports and many other things that would never budge the two men from their seat. They just threw a few lines at the growing boy and continued with their stories of old times.
Five years went by. And for the two men, it was more of the same. Day after day, punctuated by the comings and goings of tiny little adventures of a little boy and the new things he would find.
“You ever start to forget sometimes. I worry about that,” the younger man asked the older man on a foggy winter day.
“Yea. I forget, but then I bump into someone on the streets and have to remember that things used to be better,” the old man said relaxing his only friend in his unique way. “Keeps the good times fresh, the crap we have to live with today.”
“There was this girl I was dating a long time ago. They just don’t make girls like that anymore. Man, you would have loved her. Stunning, funny, smart and then I just changed, broke up with her. Sometimes I think that is where it all started,” the young man continued.
“Women will do that to yah. I was married once. She died. Lost her in a car accident,” the older man said in a softer voice that the younger man had never heard before. Things haven’t really been good since then. Women will do that to yah.”
“As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.” — LEONARDO DA VINCI
But before the younger man could offer his usual condolences, Junior came strutting up the path with something new in his hand, the palm of a beautiful smiling brunette.
“Hey guys,” Junior beamed. “I’d like you to meet Ana. She just agreed to be my girlfriend.”
Ana feigned a smile at the two men then glanced away, convinced of the many terrible rumours that spread through the village.
“Well. I’ll see you guys soon. Going to head over to Scott’s place. It’s his birthday.”
“She is going to hurt the poor boy,” the younger man said as Junior walked away.
“Don’t be silly. He is fifteen. They don’t get hurt at that age. No matter how much they want to believe, they do. They just bounce back.”
“But did you see her,” the younger man scoffed.
“Yea, well, it’s like his rock, the cool new comic book and everything he marches herewith. The boy will move on and find something new. He’ll be fine.”
“I hope so.”
A few weeks later when the girl did leave Junior, he came back in tears and sat with the two men for the very first time.
“I had so many plans for us,” Junior cried. “We were going to go to Prom together, and she said she wanted to go to the same university with me.”
The older man was right, but it was the last time Junior would sit with them though he continued to visit.
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” — MICHAEL ALTHSULER
For three more years, Junior kept coming back with something new.
“I think it is still possible you know. To get back to how things used to be. I have been reading a few books, it’s all a mindset,” the younger man dared to suggest to the older man.
“Yea you think so? What mindset can bring back the decency of good folk? They don’t even bother to pick up the dog shit anymore,” the older man coughed.
Then junior came running in with a small little book in his hand, screaming at the top of his lungs in a heave, “It came! It came!”
He was waving the little book frantically in the air.
“What you got there fella,” the older man asked.
“My passport. It finally came. Getting out of here. Gonna do a bit of travelling.”
“Oh, yea? Studying there? I did that once,” the younger man said eagerly.
“Nope. Don’t think college is for me.”
“Just hate this place don’t you,” the older man chimed in.
“Nope. Like it just fine.”
“So is there has gotta be a girl involved. Met someone on that internet,” the older man teased.
“Well, you are young,” the younger man said. “You certainly should travel. Where are you going?”
“Not sure yet but I am booking the cheapest flight across the Atlantic, and I am gonna see where that takes me.”
“Probably end up in Norway,” the old man teased again.
“Not sure. Don’t care. Just gotta get out. Nothing new to find here anymore. So we’ll see,” Junior shrugged before jetting off towards the rusty gate at the other side of the park.
“He’ll be back,” the older man hoped.
“Soon enough he’ll sit here with us again. Life will do that to yah when you love it too much,” the older man said.
“At some point it always does.”
“And then you get stuck, thinking of how things used to be,” they both thought to themselves.
“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — HELEN KELLER
But both the older man and the younger man were wrong this time. The two men would never see Junior again because Junior keeps getting knocked down, he keeps messing things up, he keeps getting disappointed, but he keeps on going. It never helps to hang on to old things. You are better off finding new things, seeking the joy and the adventure that the moment can bring.
“I hope you are both doing well. It has been almost a year since I last saw the both of you. And I am sorry I left without a real goodbye,” Junior eventually wrote to the two men. “I ended up in Honduras. There were extra seats for an underbooked flight, and I took ‘em. But that didn’t go so well. Then I moved to Scotland, and I met a girl. Things are going fine, but I worry about you two alone in that park. Please visit me. I’d like to tell you about all the new things I discovered since I left.”
Junior wrote many more things about the pleasures of life. He mentioned that though the two men were once happy and then disappointed by their circumstances, they found each other at a park, a real friendship. A little bit of good worth focusing on is always right in front of you Junior added.Then he signed off by asking them again to visit him wherever he might be in the world.
The two men read their letters but chose their seats at the park. The letter is the one thing they never bother talking about.
So to the younger and the older, whether you sit on a bench every day by going through a repetitive and unfulfilling life, know that you can always get up and find happiness. You are always making a choice. What was lost can be found a new, that is why life is exciting. But this can’t be done standing still. Dare to leave your comfort zone, even if it is just a step away from what you do every day.
Good luck to all the Juniors out there. Keep on making life an adventure.
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