No Time for Regret
The ancient bench seemed like a reasonable place to park his despondency. The aged wood on rusted metal sounded creak as he positioned his posterior upon its lack of comfort. It was as if the well-used artefact had given up any sense of benevolence to the weight of its years in service to the many and varied derrieres that had placed itself to service.
The effort required to plonk his burgeoning forty-year-old frame forced a small involuntary groan from his strained vocals that seemed in cadence with his choice of seat. Indeed, it reflected the pessimisms of his current outlook. Looking out from his now fixed point of reference, the sky descended to settle across the lake as a thin mist. It covered the expanse with an ethereal haze that spoke large to the chilled outlook that crept upon the land. Even the usual flock of birds, both scavenger and majestic, had better things to do than to hang around waiting for someone to throw them a scrap of some unwanted morsel.
Distracted as he was by the swirling mist and his glum thoughts, he could but startle at the figure now standing before him. He did not hear her approach, nor, in truth, welcome it. It was such a sudden intrusion to his darkening introspections.
‘Do you mind if I sit?’ asked the old woman rather politely pointing to the empty space beside him.
Startled as he was from his reveries, he did enough to notice that the woman, despite her greying hair and diminutive frame, seemed harmless enough. Although, it must be said that there was something about her that radiated a spark of luminescence from within her vivid baby blues. Perhaps it was an auric glow, or maybe a trick of the light through the mist that caught his eye.
Not a word was shared at first as the brown paper bag she removed from her purse made a crinkle as she rummaged for the sandwich within. A sandwich, he noted, cut to the four corners in dainty little triangles, just like you see in those quaint little coffee shops of yore.
‘Would you like one,’ she proffered, holding out her hand with the sandwiches attached.
‘Ah, no thanks, I, ah …’
‘Go on, don’t be shy. They’re my favourites. Egg and lettuce. Good for the soul.’
His empty stomach managed to overcome his reluctance as he took one of the triangles with a murmur of thanks. Only then did the sound of chewing break the silence that echoed around them.
‘Why do you lament so? God’s hand dances well upon your soul. Your journey is enlivened by His grace,’ she said looking at him intently after swallowing a morsel.
The question, placed so stridently, did take him by surprise. So much so that he almost choked on some crust.
‘Well, I, ah …,’ he mumbled.
‘Has someone died? Are you ill? Have you lost something important?
‘Well, no, I …’
‘Good then, you’ve nothing to worry about that is worth another thought, have you?’
‘But … it’s just that …’
‘Oh, poppycock and fiddle-sticks,’ she said taking another bite. ‘When I was your age …’
It surprised even him. In fact, it felt like a door to a furnace had opened and his previous pretence at civility just melted before the onslaught.
‘What d’you know, old lady? You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve been through. You don’t know what my life’s been like.’
Despite the acuteness of his tone, the lady seemed unruffled, more composed, even. Although she did bend down to rummage for something else from her purse, pulling out a mirror. Small, it must be said, but big enough to see a face reflected within.
‘Look,’ she said, urging the reflector into his hand with determination.
A quick glance was all it took. No more than a milli-second. It was time enough to see everything he needed to see. How his whole life flashed in review before his eyes, the how of which, to this very day, still perplexes him. But, not withstanding, it was enough. Even the old lady could see that.
‘Good!’ she exclaimed with a surety. ‘Now it’s time for you to get on with it. No time for regret. No time to waste. You’ve a divine purpose to fulfill, and if you don’t do it, you’ll only have to come back and start all over again.’
He tried, really he did, but his own words stuck like a globule in his throat. He could only stare agog when the old lady placed the now empty sandwich bag back in her purse. Standing spritely, she turned abruptly, pointing to the small mirror still locked in his hands.
‘Oh, you can keep that.’
© Tropical Writers Inc 2024