The bench looks out onto the Charles River. Beneath a green-leafed oak it is shaded beneath the hot afternoon sun. Even in September, the heat of a dying summer remains strong. A city hangs onto heat like that, but a river and an ocean are nearby, and a breeze lends a comforting and cooling effect. September is the bridge between summer and fall, when the nights turn crisp and suddenly the days follow suit, and soon it’s easy to forget that there ever was a time when it was hot.
I don’t know if it’s sadness that I feel at the approach of fall. Most of the time the relief from oppressive heat is reinvigorating more than anything else, but I still can’t quell the worry that this is the start of the slow march to winter. It only gets more barren from this point forward. The days will shorten. The light will lessen. The clocks will tick, and time will advance.
If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I’d like to do
Is to save every day til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you
If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I’d save every day like a treasure and then
Again, I would spend them with you
Along the Charles people walk or run or ride bikes behind the bench on which I sit. Out of the corner of my eye, I sense their presence. Some move quickly, whizzing by in a blur. Others are slow and deliberate, pausing along the way, lost in revelry or distraction, or maybe just intent on their journey. It is impossible to read the human mind.
The river laps at its shore. A plastic bottle mars the otherwise-pristine view, but it is too far to reach. The bench next to mine is empty. There is something both hopeful and lamentable about an empty bench. It carries the weight of possibility bound by loneliness, the happiness of summer days suffused with the ache of passing time. A bench is a marker – of space and hours and days and moments. It stands still when the world refuses to wait.
But there never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do, once you find them
I’ve looked around enough to know
That you’re the one I want to go through time with
The first time I passed this bench I did not pause. I was one of the walkers, passing quickly by behind it, not noticing or caring enough to take in the day, to drink in the sun, to reflect on the moment. I was walking next to the first man I ever kissed, on the way to his apartment, and that was all that mattered. It would be years before I made the connection of where we were, and the route we had taken. Back then Boston was a disjointed mass of T-stops, and aside from a few green line stations, I had no idea how the city was truly laid out. I had to walk to discover.
If I had a box just for wishes
And dreams that had never come true
The box would be empty, except for the memory of how
They were answered by you.
There are still days when fall feels like summer. If you close your eyes and sit still in the sun, you can fool yourself into thinking that time has not passed, that we have not yet reached the beginning of the end. Until that first hard frost, it’s possible to pretend. The tricks of memory, the twists and turns of time, the gnarled paths we take, sometimes repeating ourselves, sometimes branching out in frightening and wonderful directions – these are the marks of the seasonal shift out of summer.
Opening my eyes, the dappled sunlight dances on the dry ground. Soon, the space will be littered with fallen oak leaves. They hold on until the very end, reluctant to let go of their lofty vantage point. It is time to leave this place, before the leaves fall. This is how I want to remember it.
We will return here one day. For now, we put the summer to sleep.