A mans sits in the middle of the park. Brooding, perhaps. It’s snowing, not so heavily but enough to be wrapped up. He wasn’t wrapped up. He was dressed moderately.
Not how you dress in December, not in this side of the country. His head, bowed down. Thinking, perhaps. He’s surrounded by children. They play, loudly. Occasional screams; nothing loud enough to break his concentration. No.
Yes, he’s thinking now. So much so, he doesn’t notice the child sitting next to him. The child is properly dressed for the weather but still, feels the sting of the December winter. It’s really cold.
“Mister, aren’t you freezing?”
He doesn’t reply.
“You’ll catch a cold sir. You shouldn’t be here mister.”
Head still slightly bowed, he replies, “I’m right where I’m supposed to be child. Go away. I want to be alone with my thoughts and guilt.”
The child responds, “No one should be alone on Christmas Eve sir. It’s the best time of the year. Maybe you need company.”
Head still bowed, he says nothing. He’s not interested in the conversation. He wants to be alone, as he has always been since the beginning of time.
“Mister, you’re not dead are you?”
This triggers him. Slowly, he looks up – not at the child – and expresses his thoughts out loud, “Death will be a good thing for me child.”
“Don’t say that. It’s great to be alive. It pays to be happy. I’m happy. We could be happy together.”
He looks at the child bewildered and asks, “Where your parents?”
A sharp reply, “In Heaven.”
“Ah yes, of course, Heaven.”
“Don’t you believe in Heaven mister?”
He second guesses his reply. Heaven he thinks. He sighs and talks to himself at first, “Perhaps, I need company.” To the boy now, “I believe In Heaven. It’s real. On Christmas, I’m sad – as always. I did something long ago on Christmas. Something which I’ve never gotten over; it haunts me child.”
The child isn’t exactly expecting this but presses nonetheless, “I lost everything too during this time, last year; my mama, papa, sister in a fire. It’s just me.”
“I’m sorry child. Sorry to hear that. Who takes care of you?”
“I live in a foster house. We come here to play when it snows. It’s safe here.” He replies, looking down, playing with a twig.
The man looks at the child, curiously. “You know child, there was a time we actually had it all. But just like you I lost everything also, it was quite bad. I remember it all. Like yesterday. It killed me it did. But, still, here I am. I honestly, don’t know why am telling you this.”
The child looks up and says, “Sometimes we just need to talk with people when we are sad. I think you are sad, that’s why you are here alone.”
“I can tell. But we don’t have to be sad on this day. We could be friends. Yes?”
He was about to reply but pauses for a moment thinking, he hesitates but gives in eventually. “I suppose I need a friend. On this sad day. Yes child, we can be friends. I’d like that.”
The child, suddenly happier speaks; sounding a lot more confident, mature even. “You know what I like about this time of the year? It’s the renewal of hope. The year comes to an end, and everyone knows it. So, we all renew our hopes for the next year. We make bold statements saying the next year will be better than this. We believe this because we have our hopes new again. We do this every year hoping the next year will be different. Some of us make changes; the rest don’t but we try every year. I think mister, hope drives us. It pushes us to do things again when we give up. It lets us know that maybe, perhaps maybe, if we try again things can be better. Better than they actually are. Hope is all I have now. I don’t have anyone else. Just me and my hope. And so, every year, I come here, to renew my hopes and wish the next year will be much better.”
The man stares stunned at the child, he then asks, “Child, how old are you?”
“If I told you you won’t believe me. I’m much much older than I look.” Chuckling the child ends the statement when the man’s gaze becomes questioning.
A brief moment of silence and the man says, “Hope you say. Hmm, the last person to talk about that to me was the son of my master. He was killed so long ago. Wrongly. Gruesomely. I still hear his screams today. He was a good man. I can’t forget him.”
“What was his name?” asks the child.
“I don’t remember.”
He looks around and sees that the others are leaving, the children and their parents. So he asks, “Isn’t it time you were on your way child?”
The child looks around and realises it’s time to leave. “Yes, it is. But will I ever see you again mister?”
“I believe you will.”
The child gets up and walks away, deep in thought. He suddenly stops, turns around and asks, “What’s your name?”
The man smiles, slightly and replies, “Red, but you can call me Dario.”