Most people wouldn't know it to look at him. He had become very good at concealing what he did not want others to see. A person doesn't live through all the garbage he's been through without picking up some sort of defense system. Yet here he was, hurting again.
A few memories from his past flashed through his mind as he watched the water speed past just mere feet from where he sat on the cold bench. It was his favorite place for reflecting on life and working through the occasional problem. He usually avoided it at this time of year though, considering how uncomfortable it was to just sit in the cold. But he didn't notice the discomfort today, or at least he didn't show it.
He was angry.
The park was really not much of a park; just a sliver of land between the passing cars and the passing water. Both the street and the river severed the same purpose, allowing easy passage for their sojourners. It was unusually quiet today, no cars, no people to disturb the few trees, the garbage can and him, alone, on this cold, plastic bench.
He liked this park. It was interesting to sit and watch the large ships passing along the St. Lawrence Seaway, on the far side of the river. They often took on the appearance of some sort of ghost ship. The haul of the ships were hidden by the trees that grew on the strip of land that divided the Seaway from the St. Lawrence. It caused this strange sight of these towering ships gliding along the tree tops. He would often try to imagine what exotic ports they had come from and what strange cargo they may have hidden away. Today, however, he was imagining nothing.
He was angry.
The sky matched his mood; gray and dull. It had started off with brilliant sunshine, conveying the false promise of a beautiful, if not cool, day. But as the day progressed the clouds had moved in and chased the promise away. As he glanced up, somewhere at the back of his consciousness, he noted that darker clouds were now moving in, making their own promise of an impending storm. If any leafs had still been on the trees he imagined they would all be turning over now, in anticipation of the cold rain. He felt miserable in the cold and the thought of rain just added to it.
He knew he shouldn't be angry.
It was plain stupid to be sitting here in the cold when she was enjoying the comforting warmth of the house. He was too old for this. How did she have the power to get to him like that? All these years of practicing control. All his experience at hiding his heart. Yet all it takes is a few words from her and he flings open, not only the door, but all the windows to his heart as well. The black vile that comes pouring out surprises even him. Where does that stuff come from?
Even before the words finish flying out of his mouth he wants to take them back. He imagines grabbing a fork to reclaim them from the air, to force them back inside. But that's just ridiculous. Once spoken there is no taking it back. To see the pain on her face this time, he knew that each flaming dart had hit the mark. He sensed her tears before he saw them on her delicate cheek. But even as his heart began to break, the resentment toward those tears turned it hard. How could he be so cruel and callous? He didn't hate her, regardless of what those words conveyed.
He hated himself.
He felt incredibly alone as he sat on the plastic park bench. There wasn't another person in sight. Even the regular park birds had abandon him to his dark mood.
He felt stupid as he sat alone on the plastic park bench. Was his anger worth it? Was it worth losing her over something as insignificant as that?
As he reflected on that question, allowing it to sink behind the protective barriers of his heart, he began to feel the change washing at the edges of his anger. He was stupid. How could he be such an idiot to allow something so small to ruin a great day? To ruin such a great love? How could he have yelled such ugly words at the one person in the world who made him feel safe?
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The reality of the truth of the proverb pierced through his consciousness. He sat straight up, as if someone had just jab him in the back. The cold suddenly felt that much colder as the entire argument played through his mind again. It was like searching through a movie to find that one special scene you want to explore again.
Ah, there it was! He pressed pause.
He saw it now, that one moment in time when he could have prevented all of this. She was angry over his failure to keep his promise. It wasn't that he meant to not do it, he just got caught up in his favorite show and forgot about his promise. What an idiot he was! Of course she had the right to be angry with him; he had promised. All he had to do was apologize.
Three simple words: I am sorry.
Three words and he could have prevented all of this. Was he that stubborn that for the sake of pride he couldn't admit to his mistake? Of course he was wrong. So why couldn't he just have said it? Why could he not have simply said the words that would have dispatched her anger back to nowhere? Why could he not have said those words? He played it again in his head.
Honey, I'm sorry. You're right. I'll go do it now.
No yelling. No slamming of doors. No "I hate you". No anger. He would be sitting in the warmth of his home right now, with the love of his life cozied up beside him. Instead, he sits here, on a cold plastic park bench, alone. He really was a stupid man.
But now it was time to be a man. Pride has nothing to do with love and she is his love. The funny thing is, he knows she will forgive him. Her love is so much greater than his own. All it requires is for him to swallow his manly pride, which is not a manly thing at all, and go home to her. It played out in his mind again; walking through the door, hat in hand, speaking words of reconciliation. She in turn will look at him with her sideways glance, chin tucked down and a slight smile that announces her forgiveness. He really didn't deserve her.
Without hesitation, he propels himself from the bench, toward his warm home, the last of his anger smothered by his growing regret. As he walks, with more determination in each step, he starts asking Jesus to change him. He knows it is the only course of action left to him. She deserved more than he had to offer but maybe, with Jesus, more could be offered her.
He had to change.
He wanted to change.
He would change.
She deserved it.
His pace quickened as he practically ran home. A surprising joy and excitement washed over him like a gentle summer rain. His only thought now was her forgiveness.
The lonely park with its cold plastic bench was fading from his thoughts as he gave the sky one last glance before disappearing into his home. As the door silently closed behind him, it registered somewhere in the back of his consciousness that the storm clouds had moved on. The sun was attempting to reclaim the day. The promise was returning.