It has been a long and crazy two weeks where finals and work were concerned. I know that I was doing edits around one this morning so I hope I caught them all, but here it is. My next short piece. I hope you all enjoy it!
Words of the Watcher
There are days when a person just doesn’t know what they are doing. They could be walking around unsure if everything will be okay at the end of the day, or they could be walking around knowing it will. The difference isn’t always so obvious. Some people wear an expression on their faces that hides what they are thinking so well it is the example of a permanent mask. The park was beautiful and breezy for a Summer day, and the person observing everyone and everything kept to a wooden bench near the tree line by themselves.
The woman who walked past in the first few minutes seemed slightly chaotic. She was digging through her purse and cursed to herself as she dropped things out while walking. She would turn around and pick the items up before moving a few more yards and proceeding again. Her dark hair was sticking every which way out of her high ponytail due to the humidity and her eyes were hidden behind dark black and blue speckled sunglasses. She was angry. The watcher could see it in how tense every bit of her was in her movements.
The man who jogged along the path did so every day at the same time. He was rarely, if ever, late. Always in basketball shorts and a shirt with the sleeves cut off. His headphones in and up loud enough to block out any and all noise. The shoes were different this time. The man had worn white shoes for as long as the watcher could remember. Now they were black as night. This subtle change did not go unnoticed. The man’s pace slowed as he passed the bench and he sat on the other end to rest. It was almost as if the watcher wasn’t even there. The runner leaned back to stretch out a little and then leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. His head hung low and his hands came up to meet the sides of his face. His ashy blonde hair seemed lighter, but not in its normal way. It seemed a little grayer than normal. Something had changed in the last twenty-four hours. Something in his life had taken a turn for the worse. Was it him? Was it his life? Was it a loved one? How would someone approach the question without being intrusive. The watcher did just that. Watched. The watcher never talked to them. This time something felt different. The watcher wanted to interact but felt that it might disturb nature in some delicate way. Then after a few more minutes there was no more avoiding contact. Something was wrong.
“Excuse me.” The man startled a little at the watcher’s voice. “Is everything alright?” The man leaned back again and cleared his throat.
“I’m fine.” He wasn’t. The watcher could feel it.
“No, you aren’t. You run past me every day and not once have you stopped. Not once have you ever looked so… sullen.” The man stared at the watcher a little dumbfounded as to how he never noticed them before.
“Every day?” The watcher nodded and the man’s shoulders sagged down. “I’m sorry I didn’t notice before.” The watcher shrugged and looked back ahead.
“I don’t expect people to notice. I am here for me. Not them.” The runner looked to the watcher and waited for more, but there wasn’t anymore that the watcher felt needed to be said.
“I get in my own head when I run. A lot.” The watcher looked out at the giant pond. There was a couple on a swan paddle boat that brought a grin and then the man’s voice continued to cut through. “The last few days have been a little rough.”
“How so?” The watcher was trying to make a connection. To help.
“Work started going downhill. That is normally fine, but it just adds to the stress. I had family surprise me by showing up on my door.” The man took a breath and his jaw clenched in frustration.
“Sibling?” The man gave a chuckle.
“Ah, sisters can bring a little unintended spark to life.” The man leaned back and threw his arm over the middle of the bench.
“Little is downsizing the spark that she brought this time.” The watcher’s head tilted and an eyebrow rose a little waiting for more. “She decided to change everything around one day while I was at work which caused me to be late the next day. I got back, we got into a fight, she took off, and now she won’t pick up.”
“Heated words should never be exchanged. They can be dangerous.” The runner stopped to think that over. “Has she just taken off like this before? Is this why you were upset?” The runner looked out over the pond noticing the couple struggling their way out of the paddle boat and smirked a little. Finally, he let a sigh go and conceded to the fact he wasn’t sure.
“She used to. When we were younger and our dad took off she would pack up and run after him. At least she thought she would run after him. She never found him. She tried though. My sister has always been the determined type.” He took his arms down and fidgeted with his phone never doing anything other than checking for a text. “I guess I just wish she would pick up so we can sort it out. It wasn’t a big deal I just piled all my crap on her. It happens.” The watcher nodded and thought carefully how to respond.
“Leave a message. Don’t text it. Leave a voicemail. Let her hear how sorry you are. It might take time, but she is your sister. It will work itself out.” The runner smiled and nodded.
“I think I will do that.” The runner stood up and started walking back towards the path. He stopped just at the edge of the grass. “Thanks. I’ll see you tomorrow.” The watcher smiled and nodded in reply.
After the man took off the watcher started smiling wondering if it felt this good to talk to people all the time. It was a strange feeling. Communicating with one’s voice. There were more who sat with the watcher, but words had never been exchanged. Now there was a need to find out more about the people who were seen but never heard. It was like an electric buzz had come alive in the watcher’s mind pulling words from within. The watcher was eager for the next day. Maybe the runner would let him know what happened. Thinking about how things could work out was time consuming and when the watcher looked at the time was pulled back to reality and left the comfort of the bench behind.
The next day the watcher sat waiting for the runner to pass by. When he did he gave a small sullen wave and kept moving. The watcher had to wonder if his words hurt instead of helped. Maybe the runner didn’t try at all. The advice might have been bad, but the need to try to help someone else instead of just watching was too great. So, there the watcher sat. Waiting for another person to need help. Some people would glance at the bench, but no one would sit on the opposite side. It was very confusing.
A few days later the runner approached the bench again and gestured as if asking to sit. The watcher gave a nod of approval at the new friend. The man sat with a sigh of air and leaned back. He seemed much more relaxed than before so maybe the advice had worked after all. After a minute or two the runner looked over at the watcher and gave a small smile.
“I finally called her.” He seemed almost to upset still for it to have been a good call. “She didn’t answer, but I left her a voicemail.” The watcher perked up a little to hear his advice was truly taken.
“Well that is good.” The runner nodded in agreeance. “Now, you just need to be patient and wait.” The runner’s mouth made a funny slant and he looked down to his hands that were knotted together.
“I am just worried that waiting could do her more harm than good. She has always been a little easy to push over the edge.” The watcher contemplated for a few minutes on how to approach the topic again.
“I am sorry but I didn’t quite understand that last part. I have been thinking about what ‘over the edge’ could mean and I just can’t place it.” The runner looked up to the sky now with his eyes closed and the light hitting his face.
“She is impulsive. She runs when things get hard. My sister is a little more on the if it is dangerous it doesn’t really register side of things. When she decides to disappear sometimes we don’t find her for a while, and even then she normally comes back to find us.” The words struck funny to the watcher. “She hasn’t always been stable, but she likes to make things comfortable for her. When I got mad that she had moved everything around I hadn’t taken into account her need to be comfortable, just my own.” This time the watcher had understood a little more about who his sister was.
“Is there anywhere you know she has gone, more than once, where she might have returned to again?” The runner peered out at the now empty pond and thought hard tracing lines through his memories of all the places his sister could possibly be until his face lit up slightly.
“I think I know somewhere to look!” He jumped up and began taking off the way he came. “Thank you!” He yelled at a distance before disappearing. The watcher watched as he could almost see the spark of thoughts trailing behind the runner. Would each new conversation be this simple? Would it have hidden meaning? The watcher never talked to other people before this and wanted to help others. Others however, never approached. They all walked past without noticing.
As if on cue the woman who had been digging into her purse frustratingly almost daily sat down. She was red in the face and her sunglasses occasionally released a tear it had been holding. She threw her purse on the ground and slumped back into the bench.
“Is there something I can help you with?” The woman jumped a little bit.
“Oh, no, I have been walking the same path looking for my phone for over a week. It isn’t anywhere. I got into a fight with my brother and he is probably thinking I ran off again.” She looked at the watcher seemingly exhausted, but the watcher couldn’t see her eyes to know what was truly there.
“Why don’t you just go over to see him. Let him know what happened?” She scoffed a little making the watcher pull back.
“He already thinks I am ‘irresponsible and impulsive’ at least that’s what he always says.” She pauses and looks out at the lake when it strikes the watcher how she resembles the runner.
“Why don’t you go where you can calm down a little bit tonight and come back tomorrow morning around, say, 10:30.” The watcher smirked at the woman who seemed confused. “A little stress-free time will help. You can get a new telephone tomorrow, and that will allow you to speak with your brother. Take one more day for yourself. Come up with a plan. That way when you talk to him he won’t see you as ‘irresponsible and impulsive’ as you say.”
“A plan. Yes! That’s what I need. I can get a plan, get a phone, and fix it then.” The watcher smiled as she picked up the purse and walked off with a bit of a bounce in her step.
The next day the watcher didn’t sit in the same spot. He stood back behind the tree line and did what watchers do best. Watched. The woman sat first and looked around for him as if to thank him for his help. Five minutes later the runner stopped and looked at the woman on the bench. He sat and the watcher continued to notice their interaction. The man and woman hugged and there were a million hand gestures flinging back and forth between them. Finally, they both stood and looked around as if trying to find the watcher. As they both walked off the watcher looked forward to the next person joining him on the bench.