The Bench

Adeline sat down and pulled a sandwich from her bag. She had chosen this bench because the old man sitting there seemed the far lesser of evils. A woman on another bench wore plastic bags over her shoes and was throwing large chunks of salami, instead of breadcrumbs, at birds.

She unwrapped her sandwich and pulled out a bag of jalapeno-flavored chips. The chip bag’s ruffling made the old man look up from his book.

“Sorry,” she said, always the apologist. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”

“Quite alright,” he replied, grinning. His gaze turned to her chips.

“Would you like one?” she asked.

“Oh—thank you, but—actually, I would,” he replied, smiling.

Adeline held out the bag. “They’re a little spicy.”

“Good,” he said. “I am a great admirer of spice.” He popped the chip into his mouth, delighted. Adeline decided she liked this old man, liked how he spoke.

She looked down at the man’s book.

“Do you like your book?”

“Very much. My son is quite a writer.” He patted the book lovingly.

“Your son?”

“Oh yes.” He flipped the book over and pointed to a photograph of the author standing next to a older woman and himself.

“You and your wife must be very proud.”

“We are,” he said, “though my wife passed last year.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Thank you.” He paused a while. “She and I used to come here for lunch every Thursday.”

Adeline looked at her sandwich. She picked up one half and held it out to him, which he took after some quiet deliberation.

“My name is Adeline.”

“Charles.”

They chatted as they ate, about nothing, but it was pleasant in its mundaneness. When they finished, Adeline stood.

“Best get back to work,” she said.

“Quite right.”

As she walked away, Adeline turned back to face the man.

“Charles?”

“Yes?”

“I’ll see you next Thursday. It’s your turn to bring lunch.”

“Quite right.”