The Bench | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 05, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 05, 2019


The Bench

The bench was deceivingly inconspicuous with its chipped paint and creaky wood. It practically promised that if I sat on it, I could enjoy a feisty lunch in a brown paper bag and watch the pigeons fight over crumbs without any life altering events. Yet sometimes the unexpected happens in the most ordinary of places.

Just as I do every day, I sat on the white chipped bench with its rusty metal legs and ate my salami on rye, lettuce and tomato but no condiments that would cause soggy bread. I'd drop crumbs for the pigeons and counted as I chewed. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty, swallow, bite, one, two, three...

I inspected the shiny, red apple for bruises just as I had done before packing it that morning but one can never be too sure of such things. I rubbed the apple across the chest of my crisp, white button down for that splendid extra shine. But today, something different happened. As I went for the first bite, a car drove by and blew its horn, startling me like a candle-wick that had atrociously fallen victim to a guzzling wind. From my hand, tumbled down the perfectly polished fruit to the ground and rolled under the seat.

Miffed with the idea that germs were now feasting upon my daily snack, I leaned over to rescue it from certain bacterial destruction. Little did I know that the simple change in the routine would send the rest of my life into a downward spiral course. In the swirling décor of the metal leg, under that insignificant bench a black, plastic bag was lodged. I sat up straight, forgetting the apple and argued with myself on whether I should inspect its contents.

“No, this can mean nothing but trouble, just walk away,” my sensible mind insisted.

Curiosity, a voice that I hadn't heard in quite some time, chimed in, “What's in the bag? I have to delve deeper to know it.”

With a deep breath, I bent forward again. I gathered up the apple and removed the mysterious plastic from its hiding place and tucked the contaminated food into the paper sack, then cleansed my hands with a sanitizer that I used to keep in my pocket. Satisfied that no remnants of dirt were left, I lifted the black bag and placed my hand in it- sticky, wet and spongy.

I pulled my hand back in disgust and found myself glaring down at a layer of red oozing between my fingers. The sight sickened and intrigued me at the same time. I felt my stomach churning but my heart was fluttering with joy. A part of me, a part I'd never encountered, wanted to chew the fat with glee.

No, this is enough; I cannot get any further involved in this. “Put the bag back and walk away,” the voice in my mind cautioned and screamed.

But it was the whisper beaded with unsettling thoughts that clawed its way back to my cerebral sensitivity. The soft purr inside the brain tickled my trammeled thought that this was fate and a new and exciting world would be unlocked if I just retrieved what was in that bag. I wanted it so longingly, the new and the exciting; I wanted to savor the thrill. It was a strange sensation but I found myself incredulously adept to satisfy that little whisper.

“Wrap your hand around it,” I muttered. “Bare it from the bag; I need to know”.

So I obliged. I reached in and what I pulled out the thing silencing the rational voice that for so long had authority over my reasoning. A new voice emerged. It was deeper and darker. I felt the chuckle escape my lips before I could even break it. It grew and swelled until it transformed into a maniacal laughter.

I dropped the cold, human heart back into the bag then tossed it into a nearby garbage bin. Licking the fingers one by one, I cackled as I walked through the greensward in search of a new heart- a fresh one.

The Author teaches English in DPS STS School, Dhaka.

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