The old man sitting on my usual park bench hunched his shoulders downward and lifted his wrinkled eyelids toward the sky. Children laughed and chased each other along the pathway. Joggers bounced weightlessly to the rhythm of the wind swaying through the trees. A vendor under the oak tree let out a bellowing cry as he tuned into the game and prayed effortlessly for God to strike the opposing team dead. Everything was as it should be, except that old man.
Everyday for the past year and a half I've come to this park bench at precisely 4 o'clock to read books by long dead poets and drink terrible coffee from the Whistle Stop. I usually sprawl out my belongings and sit in the middle, as to ward off stragglers searching for a spot to rest their weary legs. But today there he sat.
I walked over to him with a cross look on my face, folding my arms and not attempting to hide my annoyance. He did not look at me, nor did he acknowledge my presence in anyway. He just sat their, saggy eyelids closed tightly, staring at the sky.
I decided to not let this slight distraction completely destroy my daily routine. I sat down next to him on the far left side of the bench and opened my latest copy of Hemingway.
"Isn't it lovely?" said a voice sounding like old age and slow tides. I looked over at the man who sat, eyes closed, face still tilted toward the sky.
"Is what lovely?" I asked, trying my best to not sound rude, but I'm sure it came out as anything but.
"The sun of course," he stated mater-o-factly and carefully lifted his hand towards the sky reaching as far as his arm would allow. At this point I knew this man was more than likely delusional. Old age must have battered his mind making me feel a tad more sympathetic. I decided to give him a few moments attention.
"Everyone knows there is no such thing as the 'sun'," I replied, gently touching his forearm and bringing his hand back down to his hip.
"Young man, can you not feel its warmth?" he asked, starting to truly worry me. I contemplated making a run for it.
"I do feel warm but there is no such thing as the sun. People made up that lie a long time ago, sir," I said, trying to break the news to him gently as I too stared up into the blank white sky.
"My son, do you see its light?" he asked. Looking around I saw light, but that was because it was no longer night. But I began to realize I didn't know where the light came from. Nor did I know why I could feel warmth prickle against the hairs on my skin, sending heat through my blood.
"I do see the light that comes with the day, but sir there is no such thing as a sun," I replied feeling awful for crushing this mans hopes. . . if that is what he was searching for. . .
"My boy, you feel its warmth and you see its light. Its right there in front of you, blazing in the sky. It tans your skin in summer and gives you nutrients you need. But yet you tell me it does not exist."
The old man grunted deep in his chest and slowly began to push himself up off of the park bench. He grabbed a cane, I had not seen previously, and began to stalk away with shuffling feet. Poor old man. Living in a world where he believes in imaginary suns and who knows what else. . . He doesn't know what he's talking about. . . Right?
I stared intently into my palms as they glistened in the light of, what? I looked toward the sky and closed my eyes. I began to focus on the light I could see pouring through my tightly shut eyelids and the warmth that kissed my face and brought life to my skin and bones. Maybe what I've always written off as crazy wasn't so crazy after all. Maybe it all makes sense.
I opened my eyes and for the first time. . . I saw the sun.