Jennifer walked through the park. Her steps were slow and measured. Her toes caught in the snow as she slugged along. She wasn’t sure were she was; she had been walking aimlessly for an hour. She didn’t really know where she was going, which explained the aimlessness. Her present situation kind of summed up her last week — wondering.
“I could get a cup of coffee,” she said to herself. “There are lots of people at Starbucks.” The little smile that had formed on her face quickly faded.
She walked on through the snow, following the footsteps etched there by a hundred previous travelers. She tried to match her steps to some of them. Some were to far apart. Others were to small to fit her feet. Every once in a while she would find a set that seemed just right, but after a few steps they would be gone and she found herself wanting again.
She walked along a string of benches. Each sitting by itself on the side of the path. Each covered in a thin blanket of snow; unbroken snow speaking to the truth that no one had sat on them since the last snow.
She walked over to one and spun around, dropping herself onto the snow covered bench. She felt the snow squish beneath her. She felt its coldness through her jacket. As she felt the snow disappearing it was replaced with the hardness of the bench. Its sturdy wooden planks feeling hard and unyielding. Its coldness was deeper than the snow that had been one it.
She sat there on the cold bench, next to the snow covered path. A tear rolled down her cheek and dripped onto her lap. There it froze, like the rest of her emotions. One tear, that was all she would allow herself.
She got up from the bench much more slowly than she had sat upon it. She turned around and looked at the mark she had left on it. A blemish in the uniform precession of benches. A mark that said this one was different. This one had been chosen, but like the rest it was now empty. Maybe even more empty than the rest because now it didn’t even have its thin layer of snow to keep it company.
She took a step back and a frown appeared on her face. “What right do I have to bother you,” she said to the bench. “What did you ever do?”
The bench of course didn’t answer her. It just sat there looking disheveled, maybe frowning back at her. Jennifer turned back to the path; back to the tracks. She took a few steps, then froze. She turned back to the bench and stared at it. “You look so sad. How could I leave you like this.” She took the few steps back to the bench. “You deserve better than this. People shouldn’t just use you and leave you. You deserved to be cared for; to be loved.”
Jennifer dropped down on her knees in front of the bench. She reached out her arm and wiped the snow away. With big sweeping motions she knocked the snow from the seat, from the back, even from the arms. She used her fingernails to break off the pieces of ice frozen there.
When she was done, she stood up again. “There, that’s better. Now people will know that someone cares for you; that you are special.”
Jennifer smiled as she looked at her handy work. “See, I can be a friend. I know what to do even if no one else does.” She took a few steps back. She turned again to start her wondering again. She took a few more steps this time, but once again she stopped and turned around.
She saw the next bench sitting there covered with its thin blanked of snow. Without another thought she walked to this bench and cleared it of snow.
“Now you won’t be alone. People will see you both and know that you are a pair; that you belong together.”
Jennifer nodded. “It’s good to belong together,” she said to herself.
“But you should be together, not sitting separately.” She walked up to the first bench and started pulling it towards the second. She twisted it so it faced the other bench instead of the path. Then she she grabbed the second bench and spun it around so it was facing the first. “Good. Now you to can see each other. You can be together. Who ever though that you should each be alone. None of us should be alone. Maybe now some people will walk by here and see you two and see that if they sit with you that can keep from being alone.”
More tears starting falling from Jennifer’s cheeks. This time she didn’t try to stop them. This time she understood why she was crying and knew that it was okay to cry.
Jennifer walked down to the next pair of benches. She cleaned then and moved them so they could see each other. Then she went to next pair, then the next, until she and reached the last one.
She cleaned it of snow and then looked at it. “I’m sorry. I have no friend to put you with. It’s not that I don’t care; I do.”
She stood there, not moving.
“I know, I’ll sit with you a while.” Jennifer sat down on the bench and looked around. She saw the trees and the path she had been walking down. She saw the line of benches, now facing each other in pairs. She smiled.
Her contentment was interrupted by a voice.
“Can I sit with you for a while?”
She turned her head towards the voice. She saw a young woman standing there.
The woman continued, “I’ve seen you working. You look like the kind of person I would like to know.”
Jennifer smiled and said, “That would be nice. I’ve been wishing that I could meet someone.