The International Writers Magazine
Dreamscapes: Benches

Mike Blake 

He knew so many nights spent watching, from so many different benches, he couldn’t remember them all. Benches on streets, in downtown plazas, in parks, along rivers or near the ocean, wherever and whenever the mood struck him.

He didn’t necessarily have to be tired. He may have just wanted to sit and drink a beer, hoping to be unnoticed by the watchful eye of the law, desiring nothing more than to blend in with the shadows. This was his entertainment during those slow hours before he went to look for a sleep-spot. What passed by him wasn’t always entertaining – it was often dull – but it was never as predictable as TV or a bad movie. He didn’t miss TV. People asked him about that. They wondered that he didn’t miss having that for months at a time (not able to see themselves doing it). He had his books and the life that went on around him, and life on the street was always unpredictable, enough to keep him on his guard.

It was always more pleasant sitting on a bench with some drink in him; it made laughing easier; he saw more humor in life. He smiled more at people. In his mind, he saw himself appearing to be a man truly at ease, arm casually hung over the back of the bench, legs crossed. Songs came easily to mind. He could sit in one spot for some time, nipping and contentedly pondering on things. The observer. It had always come natural to him; always just outside of things. It had become a way of life for him over the years, from town to town, and he’d had plenty of time for it. The rambling life didn’t mean he was always moving. There were those many, solitary hours to fill, and, as a stranger in town, he wanted to observe as much as he could about his surroundings. A public bench somewhere was a good place to do it.         

It was on these benches that he sometimes met ramblers like himself, resting and watching (and perhaps drinking), and glad to have a little understanding talk. Helpful tips were exchanged, stories told, and, if the talk was good, some laughs to help them on through the day.

Once, when he was younger, he told himself that this public observation would one day be put to good use in his writing; he had dreams then. Now he knows that most of what he has observed over the years will remain in his head, if there. He thinks of that saying: time is like a river. And it’s carried him to the point where those youthful dreams have long ago washed away. He just sits and watches now for nothing else to do. Even when he has money and beer he finds someplace to sit – if not on a bench, then off in the shadows somewhere. Alone. Human company is not something he desires often these days. He figures he is probably too young to be thinking that way, but he is also familiar with the disturbances in his head. There are things that would probably not be considered healthy by head doctors. He has had some experience with them. He had to in order to get the medicine that would supposedly improve his outlook on life. Yet he recalled that medicine having some pretty strong, undesired side effects, didn’t they all?                                      
His doctor had given him books about finding some kind of spiritual guidance, or support, in his life. They were books that recommended accepting ‘God’, or his own interpretation of ‘It’, into his life, a Higher Power to help him through the trying times.

He had considered the idea of God and Higher Powers plenty over the years; he had pondered over it as often as any person did. They were the kind of thoughts that usually went along with sudden reminders of his own mortality, came with life’s kicks in the ass that reminded him, yet again, of his true size within the scope of things. But as with thoughts on death, he never came to any definite conclusions; he could never convince himself that when fortune favored him, it was God’s doing. Or, in the opposite case, when really feeling down and out, that he had fallen out of favor with the Almighty. And so people could preach at him until they were blue in the face, or doctors could put books in his hands, and all of it to point him down the right path, so to speak. Yet here he was sitting on benches again, those old standbys on his journey. They were solid anyway. And quiet.

He continued to watch.   

© Mike Blake May 2006

Summer in Cadillac - a novella in progress

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