Bench under the olive
was sitting in a small, cozy park on a bench under the olive trees. In the
shade, because the sun had meanwhile managed to push the day well above thirty
degrees. No weather for physical exertion, but in the shade with a breeze from
the sea it is wonderful to think and to write.
It was very
quiet in the park. A mother with a baby in a pram and another child playing, a
group of young people who were talking to each other and me on that bench, in
my thoughts. The buzz of those present, supplemented by that of the passers-by,
was occasionally drowned out by noisy engines and honking cars. All that sound
combined became a monotonous mantra that I moved to my background and allowed
my ideas to mature.
In time, a
very elderly couple appeared in the park. He wore a face mask that covered
almost all of his face. She had no protection whatsoever. Together they
shuffled around and visibly hesitated about which bench to sit on. There were
not really many free benches that were completely in the shade. And sharing a
bench is undesirable in this corona period. In Malta, a physical distance of
two meters applies and I estimate that the benches are barely more than two
they settled down on their bench about thirty meters away from me. The foliage
of the olive trees that shaded their bench was noticeably thinner than the one
above my bench. For a moment I hesitated whether I would offer this adorable
eighty - or maybe ninety plus couple, my bench. This thought disappeared in
seconds and I added some more lines to what I was writing.
Out of my consciousness
and the elderly couple faded from my mind until suddenly I noticed that they
had risen again and they were moving in my direction. For a moment I thought
they might be planning to sit next to me on my bench, because they thought it
was getting too hot. However, I soon understood. The bench right next to me had
become available. The man who had sat there had left. I saw he had left
something behind, but could not really see what it was.
Their new place
on their way to the vacant bench. Slow, but determined. I found myself keeping
half an eye out to make sure that in the time it took them to reach the vacant
bench, someone else wouldn't sit down who couldn't know what I knew. It was
clear to me that it would be their new place.
my help was not needed. The woman sat down and gave me a friendly nod. The man
did not look at me. He had his eye on that plastic bag.
The plastic bag
The old man
leaned forward to get a better view of the plastic bag. I suspected he wanted
to know what was in it. His wife watched and gave me the impression that it was
best she let him do his thing.
I also got
curious about the contents of the plastic bag, so I left my writing for what it
was and started to concentrate on how this would proceed.
meantime the man had gone back to their previous bench. The investigation had
expanded by now and I saw him picking up a straw from the ground. A black straw
that was left there. Possibly he left it there himself. I couldn't have known.
waited patiently for him in their new place. Once there, he started poking the
straw into the plastic bag. Suddenly I realized that he wanted to lift the
plastic bag with the straw and take it to a waste bin. Most importantly, it
seemed that he did not want to touch the pouch with his hands.
three of us. The old woman, the old man and I the slightly less old man.
Everyone had a personal feeling about this situation. The woman wanted to let
her husband go. The man wanted to throw that bag away before he dared to sit
next to his wife. And I looked at it with sorrow. I watched the scene and the
messing about with that straw that led to nothing.
I got up and
walked over to them. Without saying much, I picked up the plastic bag with my
hand and took it to the nearest trash can and threw it away. The man, somewhat
disconcerted, followed me with his straw and threw it away too.
both had thrown away our piece of waste, everything seemed ready. However, the
man kicked off a few ice cubes that had apparently fallen out of the plastic
bag, but then sat down next to his wife.
I was glad
that he was finally sitting in the shade on the bench next to his patient wife.
And in the meantime I too had sat down on my bench and thought about where I
had gone with what I was writing.
felt somebody close. As if you are standing next to an artificial doll in a
store and it is as if it is a real person and you feel that you are too close.
old man suddenly stood by my bench. He reached out his hand. I stood up and was
a bit confused. He grabbed my hand with one hand and my wrist with his other
hand. Thank you, he said, while shaking my arm. Thank you for your understanding,
for your patience, and for your help. We were in about thirty centimeters
He gave me
his name …… .. I looked into his old, kind eyes. I saw his insecurity. He
touched me deeply and made me speechless.
Today I am
still a bit confused by this encounter ……