The Bench – Page 1 Keziah Lindley
There’s this bench. A bench that sits opposite me every day. Everyday, rain or shine, that
bench is there. You would not believe how that bench holds this city together.
This city is London. A city littered with people. What do these people bring with them to this
vast metropolis? Rubbish, gadgets, pollution, cars, inventions… and benches. You see
them everywhere; at the underground, outside schools, at train stations, at bus stops. Some
people even have benches erected in their name. Like: “Egbert Wilkinson-Chawley loved
But this bench is special.
No doubt, you’ve already surmised that I must be completely off my rocker. I wouldn’t
blame you if you thought that. To be honest, I wouldn’t be offended. You’re probably right.
I’ve seen so many things happen on that bench. From where I sit everyday, it’s hard not to
notice the crowds of people that are called to sit there. Old men, young women, teenagers,
and children come to sit on that bench. Some are regulars, enjoying their routine cup of
Take the dressed-up, collar-pressed, tie-tightened fellow from the solicitor’s. With a Costa’s
cappuccino in one hand, a Galaxy bar in the other, and a City AM under his arm, this guy
sits on my bench from 7:21am till 7:32am. Every single day. I feel I know the man.
Then there’s the flower-lady from the shop down the street. She arrives at 8:13am every
other day, with a flask of organic peppermint tea. You can smell that stuff a mile away. She
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seems pretty nice, always being immaculately careful with her organic cereal bar. She eats
the whole powdery thing without spilling a crumb down her polka-dot raincoat. It’s quite a
skill, I should think.
Next, it’s the elderly couple that live in the terraced houses the other side of town. They
come to see me every Wednesday. Hopping, or rather hobbling, off the 8:50 bus, they make
their way through the park to my bench, settling down at about 9:00am for their quick rest
before they hit the market. It’s remarkably sweet actually, sharing a small packet of
Hobnobs between themselves and the local pigeons. Care and share. They sit quite
comfortably (I assume – they spend long enough there) with a large copy of The Times,
which they take turns in reading. They scuttle off to the market at around 9:30, followed by a
trail of spoilt, very plump pigeons.
However, there are also the more unusual memories of my bench. Memories that were
surreal moments that refuse to be ordinary. Yet before I delve into these memories, I’ve got
to get something straight. I cannot interfere with anything. I’m no part of this park, this city,
this life. Whatever happens, I can’t get caught up in it. No matter how hard the hurricane
blows, I cannot be swept up.
One day I remember vividly. Probably because it only happened last month; and I have an
incredible memory. The day started like usual. Mr Solicitor had his daily intake of pounds,
percentages and politics from the City AM, and Miss Flower-shop downed her usual
concoction of peppermint and hot water. As it was a Thursday, Mr and Mrs Hobnob were
probably sitting elsewhere, dosing up another flock of biscuit deprived pigeons. It had been
a cold autumn morning. A morning where I was glad to be engulfed by the leaves of my
hedgerow home, when crispy red leaves were being tossed and hurled in the nipping wind
It was 9:07am when a young mother walked through the park. I made a mental note of their
faces. In front of her, walked two little boys, around five years old and causing more noise
than the morning traffic that echoed quietly yet distinctively throughout the district. There
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was also a very small girl struggling to keep up, a little soul that was going by unnoticed. Not
by me though. I notice everything. About two years old, and wrapped from head to toe in
thick winter attire, she was clearly oblivious to her mother’s urgency. Slowly, she trailed
behind her impatient family, as the three known figures in this unknown world walked further
and further into the distance. As she skipped along through the fiery leaves, the freezing
wind blowing back her long stripy scarf, her wellies crunching along the park path… the
whole world seemed to skip with her. That was until she looked up.
If you’ve ever heard a lost child calling for its parents, you’ll know how heart breaking the
sound is. I hadn’t until that morning. The sound was a sound I’d never heard before. There
was a feeling in my heart that I’d never felt before, the weird watery sensation in my eyes
was one that I’d never sensed before. I wanted to help her, to pick her up in my arms and
run to the slowly fading silhouette of the little girl’s mother… but I couldn’t. I wasn’t going to
let the hurricane pick me up. I wasn’t going to be swept up with this world of cars, politicians
and utter hopelessness. Besides, I’d probably scare the kid and get branded as a stranger
character than I already am. A ragged shadow of a teenage boy creeping out from a hole in
a hedgerow was not going to help. She’d run away or I’d get done for kidnapping. No, I was
The girl didn’t move. Paralysed with fear, she had frozen to the spot. Her constant cries for
her mother were growing wilder and more tearful by the second. Sit down, I whispered
inside my head, sit down, and your mother will find you. Sure enough, the girl listened.
Taking a slow, steady breath, she sat down on the bench. My bench. I smiled in the
shadows, nodding slowly. Within five minutes the young mother slowly made her way back
to the bench, where her beloved little lost girl was waiting for her.
It was another few weeks before my bench was occupied by strangers again. This time it
was two strangers. I’d seen the girl before; she had a face you couldn’t forget. Eyes the
colour of stormy waves and hair dyed as black as a moonless night, I’d noticed her once on
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her way to the high school up town. Boy had I noticed. Anyway, the boy, who seemed
around the same age as her, was a complete new face. Come to think of it, he was most
likely one of the new kids that had moved into the huge detached houses at the other end of
the park. Roberts, I think their name was. You’d be amazed what kind of private information
in discarded into your average park bin.
In any case, the pretty girl had been sitting on my bench for the past half an hour, from
4:02pm. Still in her school uniform, with a thick woolly scarf and big floppy hat swamping her
porcelain face. She was well dressed fore the bitter wind that almost manages to take your
lungs away with it, never mind your breath. Not that she didn’t look as pretty as she usually
did, of course. She had been perched on my bench since she’d come out of school, a pile of
study books accumulating by the side of her. She nervously chewed the end of her blue biro
pen. Probably revising for some exam or something. I used to hate doing that.
It was now 4:40. The Roberts lad, who I’d just seen popping into the newsagents,
reappeared with a massive Cadbury bar of about sixteen squares, and was roller-skating at
breakneck speed towards the bench. I could see what was going to happen. Pretty would
stretch out her legs in frustration just in time for Roberts to hurtle past her. Roberts would
swerve to miss her legs and end up face first into the oak tree that stood next to my small
clump of hedge. As usual, what I saw would happen, did happen.
Cringingly, Roberts hit the oak tree a lot harder than I had imagined. But Pretty’s reaction
was exactly as it should have been. Throwing down her half decimated biro, she ran to
where Roberts was lying. Painfully lying. Groaning, he sat up, as Pretty muttered frantic
apologies, brushing back his messy blonde hair, dusting off the mud and moss that clung to
his school shirt. He started to laugh, a bright, sunny laugh that Pretty found contagious.
Roberts put a finger to Pretty’s lips, silenced her hysterical exclamations and slowly pulled
out the large chocolate bar from the pile of belongings that had scattered from his rucksack.
I think they finished off the whole bar before they finally left the park. I saw them though,
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one week later… hand in hand, strolling through the park, laughing and smiling like a
married couple. All because of my bench.
I have a confession to make though. Despite the long hours during the day that I spend
staring out at that bench behind the dense twigs and leaves…Even though I spend entire
evening rummaging through the bin next to it…I’ve never actually sat on it. Sad, isn’t it? So
many lives have evolved, so many stories have blossomed, so many memories built, so
many people have changed because of that bench. Yet, I’ve never had the courage to
become one of those people. Somehow, I’m scared. Scared that if I do, I’ll end up like
everyone else. Swept up in the whirlwind life, pulled under by the tempest current. Never to
be myself again.
Sure, I’d like a home. I’d like a bit of copper in my pocket, a bit of food in my belly, a bit of
love in my heart too; these things come with a price. I like things the way they are – my own
master, my own teacher, my own life. To be like everyone else… would be boring.
This bench allows me to watch the world from a safe distance. It allows me to view broken
fragments of complicated lives of which I am glad to be no part of. From my hedge, I see the
raw edges of smashed lives, which are as sharp as shards of glass. Glass, which used to
be a jigsaw piece in the window of life. A window that in my case, was smashed by my own
I am incredibly cynical about life. I guess it’s because it never treated me very well.
Whenever I tried to be a part of normality, I suffered for it. When I went to school, I was
bullied, picked on, beat up. When I tried to get a job, I was mistrusted, misjudged, criticized.
Even within my own family, I was abnormal, unorthodox. And now, at seventeen years old, it
seems it’s going to stay that way.
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I suppose I’m over-reacting a little. Okay, I’m over-reacting a heck of a lot. From when I was
young, I just wanted to run away, to hide, to seclude myself from everything. Now, my legs
won’t carry me any further. I’ve run as far as I can. I’ve finished the race last, and now it’s
time to go back to the beginning and try again. It’s a lot like Sports Day used to be at school.
You get to the red ribbon at the end and it’s already been ripped in the middle, people are
already on the podium and the cheering has stopped. It took you so long to hop across the
field in that sack, that everyone’s packed up and gone home.
But I’ve decided something. I’m going to grab the remote from behind the back of the sofa
and rewind everything. I’m going to go backwards, scrap the sad ending and write it again.
This page of my life is in the bin. Tomorrow, I’m going to sit on that bench. I’m going to let
myself be carried off by the whirlwind. Who knows where it will put me down?
By Keziah Lindley
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