The Parkway Bench

The breeze is brisk today, but not in an unpleasant way – at least not for him.  He sits on a parkway bench watching as a young business woman pulls at her wool pea coat, hoping that’ll keep out the cold.  She wears matching gloves and a scarf wrapped neatly around her – only her hair is unkempt.  Not even the well-to-do can maintain a perfect composed exterior, he smirks.  Not out here, where the weather doesn’t lie and the cold hard ground will stay hard until Mother Nature decides it’s time to thaw.  He watches the woman disappear among the after-lunch crowd, all tightening their coats around their chest as they run back to the office or the next appointment.  Surely the excitement of the lunch hour is lost behind them and responsibility must settle in.  Adult play-time, he thinks. That’s all the lunch hour is; a time to play and pretend they don’t have to go back to a dreary desk job, watching the second hand tick the minutes away until they can clock out and make it home before the 5 o’clock rush hour.  That’s why this is his favorite time of day – the just-after-lunch hour.  All the people disperse, leaving him and a few others to enjoy the solitude of the well-to-do’s absence.  The wind blows a little harder now and he welcomes it, face turned upward so the cool air can sting his stubbled face – but oh how good it feels.  The cold never bothers him, not since he came back.  He spent too many days, too many nights in the hot and humid depths of the jungle; too many times spent trudging through morasses, always looking over his shoulder.  No matter.  He was here now on this bench, the cold sting always keeping him awake, never allowing him to go back there again – not even in his dreams.

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