An Unexpected Evening

A short story.

I sat down on a small bench at a nearby park. I managed to get off work, grab my coat, start the car, and planned to sit alone and watch the sun go down along with its golden, crisp, and glorious rays.

You know when they say “you can plan something ahead of time but life’s uncertainties will blindside you like a deer in headlights”? I just came up with that, but you know what I mean… Right? I hope so.

So, anyhow, I grabbed my water bottle and headed down to the lake. The bench was surprisingly clean. Usually it is covered in bread crumbs, a sprinkle of dried-syrupy soda pop stains, and a hint of bird poop. As I proceed to sit down and get comfortable in my seat I am approached by an elderly man. He seemed to be in his mid-70s early 80s, maybe. He asked me if he could sit next to me. I gave a quick glance. Thick framed squared glasses — think of Clark Kent, silver-gray natural hair, standing with a peculiar pose, one which gave a fragrance of either exhaustion, not from life itself perhaps but from living a full life, or just an indication of being some Greek stoic. I shuffle myself to the left side of the bench while he proceeds to sit slowly on the right side.

I keep my stare fixed on the lake.

Watching the wake move asynchronous with the wind and the gentle froth that is produced by the waves when smashing into the small breakwater structure. A minute passes and I notice the older man is trying to break the silence, I can only imagine, he bobbles his head slightly as if he is attempting to ask a question. He asks, “Tell me, do you have any irrational fears?” Such question bewildered me for a second. I tell him I do. I ask him what he would consider to be irrational. Before he proceeds to answer I blurt out, immediately, without giving him a chance to speak, “Semicolons” I tell him. At first he jerks back a bit, probably because of both my rudeness and such random answer — he then smirks, followed by a soft laugh.

“Go ahead. Tell me more.” He seems intrigued by my response. I tell him that language has always fascinated me. The way in which we can construct words by striking the right pitch, sound, and tonality in each breath we take. The way we can translate these noises into a written dialect and understand each and every letter, which then makes up words and then into complete sentences. I tell him that I love looking up definitions to words I have both heard before and words I am still grasping for more understanding. I go on for maybe a minute or two and conclude by saying that writing is something I have wanted to get into but out of all the writing ideas I get, I am always afraid of using semicolons. Semicolons are tricky for me. I can either use it to show my, illusionistic, proficiency in the use of correct grammar or I can use it in the wrong way and be considered the joke of the room.

Silence. Silence is the respond I got from the man. Not what I was expecting.

How did I get here? I was expecting myself into spending the rest of the evening sitting alone while watching the sunset. But now? Now I just spent the past three minutes telling an old man about some crazy, maybe delusional, fear I have. I stare back at the lake. The temperature has gone down a couple of degrees and the wind has picked up a little. I take a sip from my small water bottle. Should have used more ice.

He breaks the silence. “I have a couple of irrational fears.”

“Care to tell me one?” I ask.

“To die and not have lived.”

The old man then gets up, we shake hands, and he leaves.

The deer has now been caught in the headlights. I am left puzzled, confused, and confounded. I proceed to think about those words for the rest of the evening.

Not the day I was expecting, but one I oddly cherish as a memory.


What are your irrational fears? Drop a comment below and let me know!