The train stopped moving. It was dark outside and I realized I had been asleep for a while. I tried to look through the window, but I could not see a thing. A monotone voice echoed through the speaker: “Please expect a delay of 20 minutes due to technical reasons.” Brilliant, I’ll be home late. Again.
When I left the station, the sun was shining and it was crowded on the streets. I was on my way back to Rotterdam after a long, emotional day in Amsterdam. I had been in Amsterdam for an appointment and decided to go to the Vondelpark afterwards. Tourists, locals, beggars, junkies, police on bike patrol: you name it and you could find an example at the park today. I walked around until I found a bench, perfectly situated in the park with just enough sunshine to warm me up.
An old gentleman dressed in a crisp white shirt and light blue trousers was already seated on the bench, so I asked if I may join him.
He looked at me, a bit surprised but then said: “Yes, of course. Please have a seat.”
I sat down, put down my chai and my bag and opened up the paper bag I had with me. I felt he was looking at me, but I was very concentrated on my paper bag. It contained my little treasure for the day, a blueberry muffin. I started eating, concentrating on the happy feeling that started tingling in my body. When I finished half of my muffin, the sunshine had also done it’s job and I felt warm. I put the other half of the muffin back in the bag and tossed it in the bin.
“Not that good?”, he asked. “Nope, it was very good. I am just indulging for a moment and then I let go. Otherwise I’ll go overboard.”
He had a grin on his face. “You women, always busy with dieting. Are you not happy with the way you are?”
“Happy, at the moment I am not that happy. But no, throwing away half of my muffin has nothing to do with my current state of mind and I am not on a diet. I just wanted half, but trust me they don’t sell you half a muffin. Not even Máxima gets half a muffin.”
“Why aren’t you happy? If I may ask of course. I have this habit of talking to strangers when I am here at the park, but not everyone likes to talk. If I need to mind my business, please tell me?”
“No, it is ok. I am not happy, because I am not doing what I think I should be doing. I just don’t like that. I am sick at home for a couple of months now, as I worked too much. I wish I can go back to work asap, but I just have to deal with it and that frustrates me from time to time. But I’ll be alright.”
“Well, we can’t always have what we want. I would have loved to sit here with my wife, but I can’t. I don’t mind your company though.” I smiled.
“Well, I suppose it is my turn then to ask?” My phone was vibrating in my pocket. I ignored it, as I was enjoying the conversation. “Why can’t you sit here with your wife?”
“She is not here with me, but she looks at me sitting here from behind the window. Across the street, we live there. She cannot join me, as she is severely ill. So, whenever we have such weather she tells me to go and sit outside and enjoy. For the both of us. Whilst I am here on our bench, she imagines what I am discussing with the people I meet at the park. When I return home, we then have our cup of tea and I tell her how it was outside and what conversation I had. At least, if the person doesn’t tell me to mind my own business.”
“Do you tell her everything?”
“To be honest? No, I don’t. Sometimes I hear quite sad stories, I don’t share those. I’d rather tell her happy stories, as she already has so much pain to deal with. I know, it might seem to you that I am fooling her.”
“Actually, no. I am just wondering what you will tell her about our encounter today. I mean, I don’t really have a happy story to share. Oh well, I am going on a short break next week as the doctor told me I need to find a way to relax. We are going to Portugal, just to unwind and stare at the sea. Nothing more.”
“What I’ll tell her about meeting you? I will tell her I met a bright and lovely lady today at our bench. She enjoyed her muffin and tea, just like you do my dear. She enjoyed the sun and took the time to talk to me. She told me that she is looking forward to her holiday to Portugal next week, where she will spend time at the sea and try to unwind. Like we used to do back in the days. Good enough isn’t it? I have to go now, as I see the curtains moved. I’d like to thank you for our conversation and wish you a lovely day and holiday ahead. One word of advice, do what makes you happy. Life is too short and you never know when you end up behind the window looking at the people outside living their lives. Don’t regret, just simply live.”
He stood up and walked away, leaving me behind in the sunshine.
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