Updated: Sep 17
“He enjoyed this spot for contemplating the fragility of sanity and the allure of the abyss.”
The turning wheels of the bicycle slowed down onto the gravel. There were but a few wandering souls. A storm was brewing, but whether it would strike hard or not was unknowable.
The unknowable, what a fancy word to describe that which we cannot predict.
I got off the bicycle and looked about. A few dogs were barking, and a few people were talking, but none of that mattered. Afar, a lonely bench existed, exiled from all. I walked there and stood for a moment. Being unnecessarily particular about particularly unnecessary things, I inspected the bench. There, a small sign in bronze read “For Vincent”.
Vincent liked this place.
I sat where he used to sit and glanced upon the flailing branches of the forgotten trees. They were magnificent, swaying like a dancer to the melody of the wind.
He would walk down this garden every Saturday morning.
It took me a moment to realize that I was sitting where a man once sat, a man who was no more than dust at this point, or a rotted corpse in a grave somewhere.
He would greet the dogs, but he would avert his gaze from the humans that walked them.
I didn’t know who Vincent was. I didn’t know him; I didn’t know who built this bench as a memorial for the man.
He would get to this particular spot and sit.
Perhaps the bench upon which I was sitting was falling apart. Perhaps it was old and torn and worn like Vincent’s body was in his old age, or like his mental state with the world colliding through the previous decades. This bench was restored for him.
He would contemplate.
I thought of Vincent whom I never knew. I thought of how he would look at the world. A world that had failed him as it fails all else. I thought of how he would only enjoy the view of chaos ahead; the trees as they swung dangerously from side to side, the clouds as they accumulated as the storm drew nearer. I was holding my breath as the thoughts of what Vincent may or may not have thought came rushing.
He would smoke tobacco from his pipe.
And then a serene moment touched me as I finished rolling my cigarette between my fingers. I put the end between my lips and lit it up. The sweet aroma of the burning tobacco eased the rushing thoughts. For a moment, I felt dull, diluted as if I was washed down by a gentle stream of water. The harshness of the thoughts that Vincent’s ghost had brought had eased from my mind and instead, I lay back, opened my arms and stretched my legs as I smoked the cigarette.
He would rest.
When I had finished the cigarette, I stood up. I smiled as I looked down upon the bench and bowed my head to the ghost of the man who once sat there.
I imagine that his ghost saluted me as I got onto the bicycle and moved away. Perhaps, I would visit him again to contemplate the fragility of sanity together. Perhaps, one day when I am worn and torn, I will stare into the alluring abyss with Vincent.
Written by Amr Abbas.
Cover photo by Annie Spratt.