We used to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings. No matter the subject, no matter the time, he was there, alone and ready to listen.
As a young teen, I needed money for my daily acquisitions but because I wasn’t allowed to get hired; I took every possible opportunity that was presented to me. I eventually ended up ‘getting hired’ one summer to walk the dogs of my elderly neighbor. It wasn’t hard and I did get some money, so I was quite alright with the idea. One Friday evening, I was walking around the central park. I can still clearly picture it in my head, the orange and pink of the setting sun slowly grazing over the grass, the unbearably hot day being slowly changed into a warm and calming evening. Slowly, the entire place fell into silence before the crickets’ chirping sound echoed through. My slow pace came to a full stop as a mournful song suddenly rung through the place. An old man, on a bench, staring at the setting sun was whistling the tune. It was…stunning. I don’t know why or how but I approached and sat beside him. He didn’t mind, he just kept on humming the same song. I felt touched, I know it sounds ridiculous since I did not know him, but somehow, I felt enamored. A greeting, that’s all it took for friendship was born. Day after day I would visit the old man at the same place, on the same oak bench and we would chit-chat about everything. Actually, I would complain about silly things that went on in my life while he listened and giggled in his hoarse voice once in a while. Summer eventually ended but on the last day, I decided to go meet him one last time before I traveled home. As soon as I entered the park, something felt off. The wind seemed to blew a little harsher than usual and nothing felt…as welcoming as it did before. The thing that stood out the most was the fact that everything was completely silent. The song I had grown used to long gone. The bench my friend used to sit on was still there, so was the lake we used to watch and so was he. My friend’s head was bowed down, as if he were sleeping. I wish I knew, but I didn’t. I wish I would’ve said goodbye; told him how much of a good friend he was but I was too late. That late summer evening, Richard Gray died.
My friend never woke up again. No matter how hard I cried, no matter how hard I shook him, no matter how much I begged; he left me alone. Alone with my thoughts, alone in the unwelcome park, alone in the world.