The harsh, bitterly cold wind blew past the figure of a man huddled on a park bench. Shaking his head he didn't know whether to sit here and freeze or move on trying to survive another day. Taking a large lungful of the frigid air, a sigh escaped his lips, he'd given up hope, his life was in the toilet. Thinking back he decided that it must be his fault, he felt that no matter what, it was his fault. You see, he was a kind and gentle man who always tried to do for others, oh sure he had his faults didn't we all but in general most people saw him as a good man.
He was the type of friend that you might go to for advise but never really took it, no matter how good it was. He'd make you laugh, talking about anything but him self, funny but that's what drew people to him. He wasn't completely unselfish no one can truly claim to be unselfish, though he wasn't too far from it. Two bad marriages late in life still hadn't damped his generous spirit, though it had served to press them down a bit. He was a good pretender, not many knew the pain he held inside from the world, from his self but a wondrous thing about him no matter how much pain, he always tried to have a smile, rare indeed.
Our story started this day though was deep seeded in his past, you see I had noticed him many times though out the years. He had done quite a few things that others would consider dumb, stupid or just plain crazy, giving the last few dollars in his pocket to help a man who was hungry living on the streets. Giving a crying child a stuffed animal from a claw machine that the child just couldn't quite get, (he was good at it) even though he didn't have the money to spare. His wife had been degrading and nothing but negative towards him to the point that he knew that no matter what he did he'd fail and she'd be right there to tell him what a failure he was.
He'd taken her advise and gone for some off shore training, something about under water evacuation from a crashed flying transport. He'd become trapped but got out; the experience changed him you might say opened his eyes. When he told her he'd almost died, her only response had been so? That was the last he could take, packing a few of his things he left, of course she was yelling at him (when wasn't she) that he was immature but he just couldn't take anymore. He had no plan being spur of the moment, he walked for miles before he realized how far he'd gotten, for a few days he was ok, then he was told by a friend that he'd been fired from the convenience store he'd worked at.
They say that when you're at your lowest, you find out who your true friends are, no one wanted to help him, talk to him yes but help no, or they just weren't able to. Alone and depressed, we are now where he had sat on the bench deciding that he was done, no point in trying any more. I knew that this night, was the point in time that he was meant to be at, the point our paths would cross and I could finally reward him for all his kindness. The weather reports had mentioned snow all day but as so far there'd been nothing. The man looked up at the sky his unshaven face having felt the first flake of snow fall on it. Smiling he thought to his self perfect, just lay down and go to sleep no more worries.
Now was the time, I rushed forward and stood before the man, "You know I don't think this was the plan for you."
"Huh? Oh hello sir, I'm sorry if I'm taking up the whole bench, here let me clear off a place for you to sit," with that he sat up and moved his few meager possessions over to one side. Just like him to think of another even when he was contemplating suicide. Taking his hand I shook it vigorously, "I've seen you from time to time," I said, "Thought you'd be at home preparing for Christmas."
Sadly he shook his head, a stray brown curl escaping his toboggan hat, "Not this year, the kids are all grown, the spirit has left this body, you know I used to love Christmas," a huge sigh escaped his dry, chapped lips again, "with everything that has happened I lost it, now I feel that the world would be better if I just faded away, one less mistake it has to correct."
Though not a violent man this one time I actually wanted to slap the man and wake him up to all the good he'd done but unfortunately I'd have knocked him unconscious and still not accomplished what I was here for. "Wow," I said, "That has to be the biggest crock of bull shit I've heard in a long time!" The man could only stare at me, I was a little surprised my self I don't like to swear but it seems it was the only thing to do to get his attention.
His mouth still agape, I grabbed his hand and we were off! Stopping at a church we walked in seeing a few of the people that he'd worked with. "Why are we h... ," he started.
"Shhhh," I said, "Just listen."
Many of the people were in prayer, the thing was, most of the prayers were about the man next to me. The man's face was in shock when he heard them asking god to watch over him, that he was a good man and they were worried about him. It wasn't nearly as shocking though than when his boss walked in and bowed to pray, she hadn't wanted to fire him but unfeeling, uncaring corporate had told her to, as they put it, terminate him. Hell the entire store had almost quit but they still needed their jobs so of course that hadn't happened.
"You see? They do care they are just shackled by the wants and needs of their own families," I said though I knew that this wouldn't really fix the problem.
Leaving we walked the now snow accumulating walkways, heading a few blocks up from the church we stopped in front of a rather large house. The front door was open so I led him directly in, a little girl was crying on the floor holding the same stuffed toy that the man had given her back at the claw machine. The parents could be heard arguing in the bedroom their voices louder than you'd hear in a pleasant conversation. Covering her ears with a couch pillow the little girl hugged the stuffed animal tighter to her small chest.
"Why can't mommy and daddy be as kind as the man who gave me this?" Kissing the toy again her tear stained eyes looked into the bead eyes of the toy, "I wish mommy and daddy would stop fighting and just love each other again."
From the bedroom there was sudden quiet, then the two were apologizing to each other, when they walked out they scooped the little girl up and covered her face with kisses, "We're sorry honey," they both stated, "let's say we go out and look for a few presents?" With a huge smile she shook her head vigorously.
We left there and continued walking down the street, "Wait a minute!" the man stopped to say, "why didn't they see us?"
"Well," I started, "you see we weren't really there not in a physical sense."
"WHAT!?" he shouted. "then I'm dead?"
"Oh no, not dead though you might say that for now your body is out of order and your mind, like a computer program, is somewhere else," I had to chuckle I was used to this, having done it a few times.
"So ... what? I'm a ghost? A spirit?' He asked a little befuddled
"Uummmm in a sense yes but remember your body is still alive," I answered. With that we were whisked away to another town, where his oldest son was rereading a text the man had sent earlier, his son's face held love for the man who wasn't his biological father but was the only real dad he'd ever known. The man read over his son's shoulder 'Dad I know what mom has been doing to you, I know that you still love her but as bad as she was to you I was surprised you hadn't left her sooner. I know it sucks to be alone but remember you've always been there for me and I love you for that'.
The man's eyes filled with tears he'd always tried to be a good dad it hadn't been easy, hell at times impossible but he'd never given up on his children, though he had been sure they'd given up on him a long time ago. Suddenly the man and I were whisked away to another home, the shock and anger was all I needed to see that we were in the place I had aimed for. His daughter was holding her son, "Sooner or later we'll find your grandpa so he can see how big you've gotten!" the baby turned his head and looked straight at the man smiling the baby reached as well as it could towards him cooing.
"Can he see me?" the man asked me.
"Why yes he can," I answered.
"But you said th... ," he stumbled over his words.
"That they can't see us yes, but the baby is a pure soul they can always see what adults call spirits or nonsense things of childhood, oh so many have forgotten unlike you," I said the shock apparent on his face, "yes I know, you have the sight or as we call it belief in what is there but most refuse to see."
"I've had it for a long time, most of my life I never say anything, I had a nervous break once and I don't want to go back to that place ever again." he whispered.
"Don't worry that's not why I'm here," I said, "I'm just here to put you back on the right path, that is when you can see it."
"The right path, uh huh the right path for what? As I see it my whole life has been a failure," he spat out.
"It's not the right path for something, it's just the path that you WERE walking but got sidelined," I said trying to keep his hopes up.
"Ok so I did a few good things in my life, what's the point?" he again bitterly spat out.
"The point is you are not as you put it a waste of space, a useless human being, something and not someone, a something that only deserves to be punished," I patiently told him. "You have many gifts that you haven't used til now, I know you love to write but you haven't for over twenty years you have an imagination that few have, and even fewer act upon."
I was starting to see a new light in his eyes but I knew that it would die if I couldn't feed it quickly. Sighing I knew I had my work cut out for me but I had to keep trying, this man was a rare treasure that needed to be saved. "I know of several sites you can post your stories on if you want," the light in his eyes grew brighter, hmmm this might be what I needed to concentrate on. Taking his hand I led him to a local library where I showed him several of the sites that were free to post stories on, shocked he said that he'd try to remember when he woke up. Suddenly he grabbed his chest and screamed ah well I knew it wouldn't be long now, I shook his hand, "It was an honor to know as kind a soul as you and I'm sorry you won't remember most of this, especially me," with that we were both yanked back to his body on the bench, a pair of paramedics were trying to resuscitate him, his heart had stopped and they'd just tried to jolt his heart the second time.
"Charging defibrillator, clear!" we watched as his body jerked and his heart started beating, with that his spirit was drawn back into his body.
"Ok Travis, we got a rhythm," loading him into the ambulance, they quickly loaded their equipment speeding away to the hospital. The man awoke in a hospital bed, opening his eyes he was confused where am I? A pretty, older nurse about his age walked in, "Ah! You're awake! Starting to feel better?" she said
The man could only stare at her, 5' 8'' about 155 pounds, long light brown hair in a pony tail, her face was what the man thought an angel would look like. The man tried to speak, to ask her, her name but only the slightest sound came from his cracked lips, a tiny squeak and that hurt like hell.
"It's ok you've had a tube down your throat for 3 days, it'll take a little time to get your voice back, when they brought you in you had no wallet or id. Can you tell me what your name is so I can record it on your chart?" She asked her kind and gentle voice washing over him an almost soothing balm to his hurting soul.
Taking the pen and tablet she handed he thought a moment he tried to think of his name for the life of him he couldn't remember. Carefully he wrote on the tablet I don't know who I am, there's nothing there before I woke up.
The Nurse nodded, she'd heard of near death amnesia but hadn't seen it before in person, "Well, I am Rose I'll be the floor nurse tonight."
The day went on into 3, the man was released and walked out the front door not sure of where to go. I was sorry that he'd lost his memory but it was part of the plan for him so I didn't argue. I watched him sit on a bench outside the hospital, it was now 2 weeks before Christmas I had only 13 days to finish or the world would lose a rare treasure that it needed. The man's head was bent in thought when the same nurse that had been there when he awoke spied him as she was walking out the front doors.
"Hey!' she yelled across the parking lot, "What are you still doing here? No one came to get you? I thought that someone would have come for you after we put you picture out to the whole city."
Looking up he saw true compassion and something else though he wasn't sure what in her eyes that were sparkling as she came towards him.
"No, no one has claimed me," he said standing, a sad lonely voice that ate at her heart, "but I wanted to thank you for taking care of me, you seemed to do more than was expected of you," he took her hand, bowed his head down and lightly kissed it. "Again, thank you."
Rose's heart was beating a mile a minute what was that just now? Laughing Rose curtsied, "Why thank you kind sir the compliment was well appreciated."
The man smiled, again Rose's heart began to pound in her chest dear god! What is it about this man?
"You're very welcome, but I wouldn't have given it unless it was true, beautiful lady," once again he bowed low and kissed her hand. This time Rose turned a deep shade of red and for a moment thought she was going to pass out.
"Please excuse me," she said as she quickly sat next to where he'd just been sitting.
"Why most certainly," he said as he helped her to sit, then sat next to her the worry apparent on his face. "Are you well?" he asked the worry now seeping into his voice.
"I believe so I was just feeling a little light headed," rising he did also, "Thank you for your concern I feel much better now." He nodded watching her walk away towards her car then he sat to think. Rose had just reached her car when an idea hit her, hmmm why not?
Turning back she hurried across the lawn to where the man was sitting, still in deep thought.
"Uh," Rose started, "I'm not sure but it appears that you have no where to go. I have a spare room at my place if you care to do a little work around there to pay for your stay."
The man's head snapped up as her voice again washed over his skin and a tingling crept across his arms and chest.
"Miss Rose, I don't want to be an inconvenience or bother to you, it isn't necessary for you to go out of your way like this though I do thank you for the offer." The man said in a truly appreciative voice.
Undaunted Rose pressed until he relented and accepted her gracious offer. Driving to her place, little to nothing was said between them, basically because the man was almost a blank slate when it came to things to talk about.
After he'd settled in he could only stare at the ceiling trying to remember anything of his past. The fact that not soon after this his head began to pound from trying to almost will his memory back wasn't lost on him either. Each day Rose would leave a few things that needed done around the place, the man though he couldn't remember, seemed to have a knack for eventually getting them done, though not always the exact way she wanted them but more than close enough. Twelve days later he was no closer to discovering who he was when, while at the market, his wife saw him walking down a far aisle. She waited till he was outside and she was sure before she caught up to him and laid into him with a tirade of ugliness that had him backing away from her in terror. Several people saw as she advanced on him yelling and screaming at him like he'd attacked her, the whole time he was backing away almost to the point of running. Finally he grabbed his head and bolted away around a corner, her yells chasing after him even as he put more and more distance between him and her.
That night Rose came home only to find the man huddled in a corner weeping, a look of terror in his eyes but the lost look she saw there was what tore at her heart. Holding him close she tried to comfort him as his sobs finally started to recede, she carefully pried what she could from him, what had happened and how he'd run terrified. This was the first time she had any information on anything about who he was, in the hospital they'd found that his finger prints were almost none existent something about natural acid that had eaten them away, there were no dental records as he had false teeth nothing they had tried had seemed to work. Rose was afraid that he might never get his memory back now, the trauma he'd suffered today might make him retreat that much farther.
Rose awoke the next day almost afraid to go to work, afraid that the man wouldn't be there when she returned, for you see unbeknownst to her she had fallen for the kind, soft spoken man. Knocking at his door, she was almost afraid of what she might find or not find in his room. Slowly the door creaked open to reveal the somber face of the man that had lived with her for almost two weeks.
"Are you ok?" she asked holding her breath while she awaited his answer.
"I'm not sure," he replied his voice shaky at best, "My head was hurting when I awoke this morn, I am seeing pictures flash before my eyes. I can place them here and there but I still don't know exactly what they are."
Rose nodded she knew that the trauma the day before had shaken something lose and possibly broken though what was blocking his memory.
"I don't have anything for you to do today, why don't you stay in and rest? After yesterday you more than deserve to be lazy for once," smiling she hoped he'd listen to her, maybe give his mind a chance to clear.
Nodding he replied, "I just might do that, thank you."
Feeling better, Rose left for her shift at the hospital, while the man sat thinking again. Suddenly the thought came to him to visit the park, I smiled as I took my hand away from his head, good, now I could get him moving and finish this rescue mission. Retrieving his coat he walked out, locking the door, heading directly to the park. Upon arriving he sat on the first bench he came to, looking around he saw that a lot of the snow had melted and the temperature had risen, a good many people were out. I stood nearby making sure everything went according to plan, a minute later a young woman pushing a baby stroller walked past the man. The baby in the stroller started to coo till the woman walked past the man, that's when the baby let loose a shrieking cry. Stopping the woman walked around to the front of the stroller to check her son.
Scooping the baby up she was checking to make sure he was alright when she spied the man on the bench.
"Dad? Is that you? Oh my god! I've been looking for you for almost a month now!" she exclaimed.
Startled the man looked up at the young woman, "I'm sorry mam, I don't know you but I swear I've seen you before," grasping his head, the pain returned but not even half as bad as the day before.
The young woman's mouth hung open, "It's me your daughter! This is your grandson Xavier!"
The man stared hard at both of them but nothing solid came to him, only flashes of pictures as had been the case earlier that morning. Shaking his head tears began to flow unashamed from his eyes, "he is a beautiful child but I'm sorry I have no memory of either of you."