The Park Bench, 2019 - Short Story

Short Story Aug 2, 2021

It’s nice to meet you again, old friend. It’s been too long.

A week is not too long. My my if a week is too long then I might as well retire.

Well yes, I guess time is in the eyes of the beholder. Please, come sit with me on this bench. You must’ve been standing all day from your job.

Still courteous as ever I see, yes. But, why do you want to meet at this bench? It’s not nearly as nice as your or my place.

Because of simply the air my dear friend. The sounds of crickets that gather and the setting sun.

Still dramatic as ever too. Please do tell why we’re here.

Maybe fate. Possibly timing. It could be even-

No no, I meant, what do you want to talk about?

Well I don’t know.

In that case, what does it mean to feel empathy?

Excuse me?

Yes, empathy.

I-I mean, when I see another trainee feeling anxious on the first day I feel bad for them.

That is sympathy my dear friend. Empathy is the human reaction to feel sadness or remorse for those in sorrow despite not knowing their ‘pain’ dear friend.

Well isn’t human kindness to comfort people in their time of need?

Is it true that it would fall under kindness, the question I proposed was what empathy is like?

Dear friend, that is how it’s like to feel empathy. It’s knowing the person’s sadness and understanding that then comforting them.

Not true, friend. That is comfort. It’s telling the person what they need to hear not empathy, which by easing their sorrows. It often gets mistaken for it simply because of how foriegn the word is.

You're infallibly wrong. To be in a person’s presence in their worst is empathy because both people try to process the experience one person has gone through.

You may be right, but is empathy not an emotion used to ease the sadness of tragedy?

W-Well yes. But was I wrong no I don’t think so.

Yes I was wrong about my previous line of reasoning. However my good friend, trailing back, if the point of empathy is to ease one’s sadness why is it not all that comforting?

No but it is. Well when my dog died you were there for me. I remember what you told me too. ‘It’ll get better. I'm there for you.’ Word for word I swear good friend.

Yes I do remember that. But that is still sympathy. I had ties to the old chap just like everyone at the funeral. I just don’t get how one person can just walk up to someone and say, ‘hey I know it’s hard, but it’ll get better,’ and then never exist in the person’s life again.

That’s simple enough to explain. We’re able to because it’s what makes us human. To try and have a little empathy, to give a person people around them, so they’re not alone.

But you know as well as I dear friend, that it was not the case with you. You shunned anyone that tried to ease the sadness of the old chap. I believe, if I’m not mistaken, you said, ‘How can you understand? He wasn’t your dog!’ and you were in the right to say so. The dog was yours not anyone else’s.

Y-Yes I did say that, but I got through it thanks to you guys being there for me.

Ultimately however, you said empathy was to make someone happier or at least not as depressed as they were. But, in those pivotal moments a closed door was worth more than an open one to a grassy field.”

Yes, I’ll have to concede this point to you good friend. You know that I do miss talking to you. Only a week has gone by.

Yes, I know, but it’s not the same now.

Excuse me. But why are you sitting at this bench on your lonesome self.

I have this new job and I sit here with my dear friend nearly every day. He passed due to some circumstances and I miss ‘em terribly.

Well mind if I sit down?

Please.

What happened to them?

Heart attack. Nobody suspected it either. He would come here day in day out and paint gorgeous sceneries of grassy fields, beautiful parks, and I even once saw him paint a snowy ice lake and there isn’t one to see in miles.

Oh my I think I saw that person on my way to work, yes, the one with the ridiculous painter’s kit right?

Yes, that’s the one.

Also, if you don’t mind me asking that is, what would you speak about on this bench?

All sorts of topics. The last one we talked about was empathy.

Empathy? Why, what a strange thing. Please do go on.

To summarize essentially I don’t believe one could understand someone with empathy alone. It’s existence is only here to just make someone happier when all it does is make someone even more miserable. Sympathy is the only thing that can truly motivate one to trudge through the storm clouds.

Nonsense acquaintance. Empathy is just as powerful as sympathy. Although I haven’t experienced such a loss I do know that empathy is stronger when you have someone with you on your journey.

Thank you.

No problem. We can talk all night and all day. Whatever you need on your journey. We can even be two people on a bench.

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Pranav Sharma

I’m a year 12 student at St Marks Catholic College. I specialise in science and mathematics, as well as full-stack software/hardware development. I am currently employed as a Network Administrator.

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