The wind was cold and wet. It took with it the yellow leaves that were left on the the trees. Autumn had announced its entry, as usual, in a grey and grim manner. A few birds flew about but there was no song to be heard. The only sound was that of the rustling of the leaves flying listlessly and aimlessly. Leaves that had done their share of service, their share of duty and now made redundant, useless and invalid.
The eternal law of change implementing itself in nature and society. Nothing remains permanent other than the continual change. Every aspect of nature exhibits the merciless quality of transience. All that apparently is moves on into eternal oblivion. The ever changing phases of nature brings home the bitter question that we have been putting to ourselves, in the dark and unseen depths of our souls: what will be tomorrow?
The frightening, or unsettling, question that keeps turning up in our hearts makes us nervous. We begin to question our own faculties and capabilities. We have mastered a lot in course of time and yet we stand helpless before the untamed might of Nature.
T was silent upon the mute bench. The bench never complained about T’s presence. They seemed to have developed a strange kind of companionship over the weeks. During the day time, when he was absent, the bench wore a forlorn look. A kind of depressive solitude seemed to be draped over the old and worn wooden structure.
T took the same place everyday. For some reason, he found it comfortable to sit in the same corner of the bench. His left arm rested listlessly upon the armrest of the wooden form. Was the listless arm comforting the inanimate wood or was the inanimate consoling the weak arm, reminding T of the transient nature of life?
The wind blew through the trees that resembled grotesque skeletons stretching into a cold and misty air. Skeletons, reaching up to the heavens for a mercy that never seemed to flow down.
A crow flew down and settled himself upon a hopelessly bald branch. T looked up on hearing the noise. His dry eyes focussed on the dark bird silhouetted against the misty sky that seemed to be stripped of all the joys and light. A dark apparition against an unhappy sky.
A slight almost imperceptible movement on the dry, parched and cracked lips showed the extreme inner pains of a smile trying to take birth. The only other movements were that of his eyelids and his chest showing the activity of breathing. The only signs of life on a person, who seemed to have been rejected by life and refused by death.
T wasn’t old in terms of numbers. His receding hair exposed a great portion of his head. Wrinkles formed a strange and eerie network of lines upon his brow. The grey eyebrows, now long, gave his face a look of an ancient being who, for some inexplicable reason did not seem to fit into the general picture of the surrounding.
He was draped in silence and his immediate surrounding reflected this abstract silence that it could almost be felt. The few people who passed by him fell back into a silence as though forced by some kind of magic that floated in the air. They commenced their conversation only after they were quite a few metres from him.
He slowly, almost imperceptibly moved his face and then his eyes to follow the people walking away. His eyes followed them with a big question mark reflected in them. None of the passers by ever looked back. T aroused no curiosity in the minds of those that went by. No thoughts formed themselves in the minds of those living beings that walked away.
T was a regular presence. The days and weeks and months passed by him without any consequence. The seasons came and went, the migratory birds showed their presence and left went it was time for them leave. The trees shed their leaves and stood silently through the autumn and the winter without any complaint. The little squirrels kept the lonely trees company until the snow was too thick on the ground for them to find any food.
T became the silent company and the silent presence.
Despite all this solitary atmosphere, T did have a companion. A companion who accompanied him everywhere without demur. This companion was a permanent presence at his side and unflinching in his loyalty, the keeper of his secrets and little treasures and never left his side.
This silent friend was none other than a rusted trolley that carried a big bag. Tied to the trolley handle, now caked with dirt, was a torn umbrella with a broken handle. On the top of the bag were two or three dirty blankets covered with a a blue plastic sheet. A metal cup was tied to the side of the pile of things on the trolley. A sleeping bag tied safely to the trolley showed signs of wear and tear.
T was not alone. His trolley carrying his little world was his companion.
Two sparrows alighted in front of him, hopped around trying to find something to feed upon. He looked upon the little birds. They have no trolleys to keep them company, he thought.
Autumn slowly gave way to winter. The leaves slowly began to lose their bright yellow colours. The sky took on a dark and uncomfortable tone of grey and pink. Everything stood still and dead. The silence was deafening. The ground was covered in snow. He could not use his bench without first clearing it of the snow.
The nights were colder, the wind carried a biting chill that bit into the bones. There were times when everything seemed to be dead and frozen in time. Then there was the screaming wind, carrying flurries of snow and ice.
Nature was exhibiting her merciless character. She cared for nothing. Everything froze and those things that could not withstand the cold, cracked and died.
T had taken shelter under the roof of a bus stop. He could be there in the night, as the people slept in their warm houses. In the morning, before the employed started their day of earning their honourable alms for the unfeeling and unthinking companies, T left the shed to bless the garden bench with his loyal companionship.
T was neither a stranger nor an acquaintance nor a friend to anyone. He was a misfit living biped that seemed to occupy a strange and inexplicable gap in society. He was not denied an existence nor was he given the right to one. His was a presence that was neither wanted nor welcome. He existed.
He was legally entitled to food and clothing and shelter. Socially he was not entitled to an existence. Behind the legal permission to survive was the social rejection to live. The rejection did not manifest itself as a direct refusal from society. The explicit rejection was only implicit in its execution.
In the mornings there were children in the park. They frolicked about, shouted and screamed, played with snowballs, or ran after the sparrows. T would look at the little ones and little sparks would lighten up his eyes as memories flooded his heart. Two little drops of tears would leave his dry and lifeless eyes.
Those lifeless eyes would stir on seeing the little children prancing. At times one of them would come and stand in front of him, tilt its head to a side, intently looking at the strange man on the bench with his grey beard and and eyebrows. T would lift his hands and show a sign of greeting. The little visitor would always run away. T would turn his head, his eager eyes following the little ones and his weak hear would skip a beat.
The winter became colder. The snow fell heavily. The brown earth was covered in a uniform sheet of white. The nights were still and and terribly cold and silent. The wind howled, whipping through the trees, blowing down the snow that was trapped in the leafless branches.
One morning, when the people came to the bus stop, the bench was not empty. T was still there on the bench, in his torn and tattered sleeping bag. A dirty balaclava protecting his head and ears. A muffler bound carefully round his neck. His dirty hands lovingly held a photo of two little children. His loyal companion, the broken trolley, stood next to him, alone. There was no one to keep it company anymore. The sun came out for a while and shone benignly upon a an old and withered unsmiling face.
© The Rebel 11.11.2014