This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is rest.
Five years ago we met a boy named Ben. He worked at our favorite bakery, between a bustling college campus and Smith-Hill's, an old grocer, where you might find a wistful old-timer roused by nostalgic candy. A towering park scattered its scents around these seasoned dwellings. It was home to Ivy Garden, where the resident gardener was called Daisy, who spent her days following the Gulf Fritillary along passion vines. A miniature town of fairy tales settled in next to the park amphitheater, which held stone pillars and semicircular seats. The stage, set in the center, anxiously awaiting the next Shakespearean fest. Perhaps a session of swords drawn over the Count of Monte Cristo or where Present Laughter spills from the Twelfth Night.
This was one of the most charming neighborhoods in town, where people were happy and the dogs they walked were happy. Where the stay-at-home mother types jogged behind their strollers and occasionally wandered into the bakery looking for peppermint teas and exquisite slices of layered decadence.
When the season is ripe for love cupid sits on top of their cupcakes. Inside, the colors were plum and cherry and heart-shaped cookie cutters carefully sliced beeswax. These silhouettes of tender kisses and soft passion hung above the walls. This is where we found Ben.
He was tall and angry. He didn't belong in our bakery but he was wiping the tables. He said that he felt a distasteful spirit from them and then he lost his job. Maybe he shared too many opinions there.
Our new friend did not have a home. He lived in a threatening neighborhood, he carried few possessions in a bag. His bed was in a garage, one that he couldn't pay for any longer. We brought him home one day. I hoped that he felt settled. We gave him a beverage, he talked about Tolstoy. He gave us a list of books to read. His eyes wandered around the room, I wondered what he thought. Pictures hung over an old chimney, still moments along the ocean, blankets lying against its shore, a glimpse at my own sandy feet.
Ben asked for a sweater but he didn't want to stay. We offered him change, he thanked us and said he would be fine. We held onto his list. He says that he will head into town but we know he has no place to go. I know that he is self-sufficient, he's articulate and he holds onto important words. He hopes that the world will change one day. When he leaves, we call him Commi Ben.
My husband is in town one evening, picking up dinner, when he finds Ben sitting on a bench. His hair is tattered and he is tired but he wants to talk about Karl. My husband listens. Our friend carries a red manifesto. He says that he is on his way back to his family. They live along the other coast where his brothers are in college with pretty girlfriends. Maybe girls who would stop in for warm tea and poetic chatter in our bakery.
My husband met him the following night. Ben asked him for books. I told him to take another sweater. We may have silently prayed for him to make his way back home. We may have believed that he hoped for the same.
The season changed. Love floated away with the wind. Leaving thirsty gardens, where dewberries welcomed the sun. I carried a bean in my tummy that summer. On the weekend, I wandered around downtown alone. I found Ben. He held his head low. His face was stained and his eyes were hollow. I bought him a meal. He devoured it. I bought him juice. He didn't talk about the Panthers or the struggles in the sand. He wanted to know that we were ok. He didn't mention the world, the one with limits, nor the ones who abandon it for hope. He thanked me, genuinely and said that he'd find his way home.
We filled a shelf with his list of books.
If you asked me to tell you the rest of Ben's story, I couldn't.