My bench was empty, sitting there all by its lonesome. So I took myself that morning and went for a visit. It's been nearly a year... Two strangers once sat here and shared a humble conversation with me, both revolving around pigeons. I had told those strangers of a theory I had about new people. How they were my friends, and that I loved them.
Then I thought about a song that happened to fit the lighting of the day at one particular moment. This morning, it felt like "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt. Gregorian chanting and then a sweet voice, like honey in spring. Somehow, and ironically too, a man would appear in the dawn, talking on his phone. This time, there was no man. The morning was silent, lonely. I have never felt this more complete.
It was sad, though, because I haven't visited this bench in four forevers. Its white paint was chipping, the wood creaked when I sat lightly on its safeness. This bench now seemed to be the only friend that was likely to be around, but it was nice. Just me and the one that started it all. I even had my red shoes on, the ones I had when meeting both men.
Footsteps distracted me. A click-clack of a dress shoe-- and yes, just one shoe, made me turn my head in curiosity. Alas. A man. It wasn't a surprise to me, I am used to the loving of a stranger the second I see one. His second dress shoe heel was worn down, eliminating its sound on the sidewalk. He sat down on the opposite side of the bench and stared out onto the green fields of the small park in England. Yes, we were in England. How I wish I could never leave.
A cooing became audible, and I turned my head in its general direction. A pigeon was walking near me, setting itself on my foot, playing with my shoelaces. I was led to believe this was the same pigeon from the two previous times I was here. It always had a habit of leaving when the stranger did...
"There's a pigeon on your foot," he said from beside me. He was staring at the pigeon when I looked at him.
"Yes, I see that."
"Why don't you move it? It could be diseased..."
I looked at this man. There was definitely a lesson to teach him here. "He's my friend. I've known this little guy for two years now. You wouldn't believe how we met." I laughed to myself, finding this situation humorously similar to the previous ones. I guessed that it would always happen this way. Nothing would change, except for the strangers.
"Does this happen often?" he asked, more curious this time instead of disgusted.
"Only twice. This would be the third. He comes to visit every time I meet someone new. The last time I ran into two other strangers, and now you're the third."
The man looked at me. "That's weird."
"No it's not."
"So you expect me to believe that this same pigeon sits on your foot and plays with your shoelaces every time you meet someone? And I happen to be the third, and now he's doing it again? You're insane, whoever you are." He gave me a scowl, crossing his arms like a child when he didn't get what he wanted.
"No I'm not. You're much more narcissistic than the other men. I'm not sure I like you that much. So, if you don't mind, I will be going. Come on, pigeon, off." I shook my foot lightly. The pigeon cooed and hopped off, hobbling somewhere else. I shoved my hands in my pockets and walked along the stone pathway. The purring of the bird made me turn around. It was following. "Shoo, I have to get home."
The stranger was staring at me when I looked back to him. I didn't glare at him, but merely stared back in a skeptical way. The pigeon stayed where it was, and I turned around again and started walking. It wasn't a long walk home, but it was far enough that you should probably start about thirty minutes before dinnertime. "You don't have to go," a voice said from a ways back.
It was the man. He had stood up from the fading white bench, holding his coat. "Yes, I think I do. You don't want to hear what I have to say, so you shouldn't have to sit there and listen to me say it anyway. I've met people like you before, so don't worry. You're not the only stuck up person in this city."
"I'm sorry. I want to listen. Please, come back. I want to be part of your list of strangers. I want the pigeon to stay. I want... I want you to stay."
He looked geniuinly apologetic, regretful and sad. I walked back to him, taking my hands out of my pockets. I looked him deep into the eye and I said, "Okay." He sat in the same place and I sat in the same place, like I had never walked away.
"So. I have a theory that goes with meeting strangers. You ready?"
"Yep. Fire away." I laughed at his statement, pushing a strand of hair that fell in the way of my eyes. So, I told him everything. My theory was, and remained the same over three years. I loved every stranger. They were my friends, because you couldn't possibly love the people you know because you know them. They get old to hang around, so you have to move to someone else. Grown ups were different than teens, I decided long ago.
"Wow. I'm really glad I called you back. You're so... so... different. Will I see you again?" He took his hand in mind, looking deep into my eyes. This, of course, made me blush slightly.
"Who said this was goodbye?"