Sometimes people shut you out of their lives, and sometimes writing is a way to work it out for yourself…
So I write. I let go. I find resolution. Maybe even a little solace. Maybe, sometimes, things change. Even if they don’t, I make my peace. Clean up my side of the street as best I can. Lord knows, I certainly muck it up enough. And I pray – or sometimes I just feed the birds…
To Russell, my brother, who I laughed with:
Two Old Humorists Feeding the Birds and Talking in the Park
George sat on the park bench. Pigeons collected around him. Those light gray and speckled birds poked and hopped and partied in front of his scuffed up sneakers. His brown wrinkled paper bag filled with yesterday’s stale bread, already broken into pieces, was cupped at the neck in his right hand and crushed down into his lap. His mind was someplace else entirely.
The birds “gurrzzzle-ed”. Guttural sounds. They “coo-ed”, too. But it was the guttural sounds that caught Peter’s attention. They were like those funny noises that George was repeatedly making to clear out his throat. And although not a “gurrzzzle”, George’s “carrrumph-hazzzummm-s” were now happening almost in a complementary rhythm with the birds’ chorusing.
George didn’t seem like he was even aware that he was doing it; he looked as if the world had just left him there, abandoned and alone on that park bench. His eyes were watered over. His beard was stubbly and gray, almost white compared to the pigeons’ color gray. There was a smell of gravity about him if you could imagine that the weight of the world could affect that kind of sense about someone, but maybe it was just because he looked as if he had been sitting there for hours, unkempt and unaware.
Peter sat down on the other end of the bench. George wiped the underside of his nose with his free hand, placed the brown bag at his side, and pulled down on both eyes with the flats of his palms, clearing away the water that had teared, dropped, and hung in the folds of his eyes.
“Peter.” He said softly, nodded, his eyes still shut, palms wet. He looked at his palms, wiped them on his pants, and looked over at Peter.
“So. Another day, eh, George?”
“That it is.”
The birds closed in on George’s right side, eyeing the unhanded bag.
“George, don’t you think it’s time we talked?”
“Well, isn’t that just like you. Sit down and immediately roll right into business, No kiss hello and how are you. No you’re sorry. No how’s the weather? No nothing.”
The birds dropped back a little.
Peter sighed. “George, you know me already.”
“Yes, and so next you’ll be the abrasive fool that you are putting on a…a…” George reached for the brown bag just in time to stop an onslaught of slighted birds desiring a feeding frenzy and just in time for the next wave of words to foam away atop the cresting of his tongue, “a stupid show of thinking that you’re so funny, but you’re only getting on everybody’s nerves.”
George swung at the birds to move them back further from the bench and the bag.
“And that’s why I ignore you, Peter.”
“George, it’s part of who I am. You know that. Yes, I’m a…I’m…”
“What, Peter? A prick?”
“George, too strong and you know it. But okay, I get it, I’m a prick. But it’s also just a persona.”
“Sometimes I wonder.”
“George, even if it isn’t, you could lighten up a few notches yourself.”
“Don’t tell me what to do. That’s what I hate about you. You come into my life and poke around. And that’s why I ignore you.”
“I know. I know. And it hurts me when you do.”
“Not my problem. In fact, I’m going to ignore you again, starting right now.” He opened the bag and threw a few crumbs right at the retreating birds.
“It also hurts because you know it’s not all my fault.”
“And, I know it’s a shortcoming of mine when I tease and bluster, and I know you get hurt, and you feel like it’s too much, and then I don’t stop, and it’s really a fault of mine.” Peter flipped his hands over in a gesture of admission and openness. An unconscious hand movement; one that seems to ask for understanding.
“It’s a big fault, Peter.”
“Okay, it’s a big fault. Okay, already. But it’s a fault that I also draw my humor from.”
“But it’s not funny,” George chuckles, adding, “I’m funny. But you’re not.”
“Now that’s funny, George. You are funny. I’ve always liked your humor.”
“And,” He conceded with nonchalance, “I like yours, too, but… ”
“But what? Go ahead, George, say it.”
“I already did.”
“That I go too far?”
“Not as sorry as I am…”
“How’s that, George?”
George threw down a few more crumbs. He began “carrrrumph-hazzzummm-ing” again as the birds chorused their way back, poking at any last crumbs of bread still there.
“It’s funny, Peter.”
“Things go back and forth.”
“Yes, sometimes they do.”
“And sometimes they get on your nerves.”
“Yes, they do.”
“And life slips by…”
He threw out the last crumb.
Sometimes, we just stop at the last crumb and let it all go…
Peter sat there watching the birds watch him. They cocked their heads and “gurrzzzled”; then, lightly cooing, they waited to see if Peter had a wrinkled brown paper bag in hand and a few spare crumbs for them. But it was only Peter who turned completely aside to watch George, and then it was really only to watch George’s back, as he plaintively walked away, tossing his old brown wrinkled bag onto the sidewalk, as if nothing in the world mattered anyway to him anymore.
Peter turned back and looked at the birds, cocked his head and “gurrzzzled” at them, then he shrugged his shoulders, sighed, and asked them if they were a having a good day.