Blue Bench at Regent’s Park

Every Friday afternoon, Sarah and Azhar would go to the same blue park bench not too far away from the zoo at Regent’s Park. Sarah would bring with her some sandwiches, and Azhar, a flask of hot coffee. As was their ritual, she’d hand him a sandwich and he’d pour her some coffee into a tumbler. And as was their ritual, too, that they’d sit together in silence for a while before they’d begin to speak.

It was close to the end of autumn. The blazing red and gold of the leaves had long turned into several shades of sad, dull brown. The breeze that had been so sweet not too long ago had become blustery and biting with cold. The birds and the squirrels had long disappeared, leaving their playground to return home and face the harsh reality of the coming winter. But none of this mattered to either Sarah or Azhar. What mattered to them was that they were together, regardless how brief it would be.

Sarah turned to Azhar. “Doesn’t she ever ask you where you go every Friday, armed with that flask?”

“She doesn’t know about this flask, Sarah. I leave it at a friend’s place. I’d drop by there first, make us some coffee and then make my way here.”

“What a tangled web we weave…” she said, almost to herself.

“And what about you, Sarah? Doesn’t he ever ask you where you disappear to every Friday with your sandwiches?”

“Mat? He hardly notices me even when I’m at home! Anyway, he did ask once. I told him I was going to feed the ducks at the park.”

“Feed the ducks perfectly good cheese sandwiches?” Azhar chuckled

“Yes, ridiculous isn’t it? I swear to you, I’m invisible to the man except when he wants me on my back with my legs in air –”

“Ouch!”

Realising the effect of her words, Sarah reached for Azhar and touched him gently on his cheek. “I’m so sorry, darling. I didn’t mean to –”

He took her hand in his and smiled. “That’s OK, Sarah. We both knew this wasn’t going to be easy. Remember?”

They nibbled at their sandwiches and sipped at their coffee. The tired, grey London sky, for a second, almost seemed to feel for them. It was as if it understood their plight. But they weren’t any different from any of the thousands of other couples who had met, perhaps, a tad too late. They weren’t the first and they weren’t going to be the last.

“And what about you, sweetheart? Doesn’t she miss you when you’re not there with her?”

“She does, but I think for all the wrong reasons. She’s the same control-freak she’s always been. As long as she can tell me what to do, when to do it, and how it is to be done, she feels good about herself. So I let her. It’s easier that way…”, his voice trailed into the cold of the evening.

Sarah wrapped her arms around his and let her head rest on his shoulders. It felt sweetly liberating – the scent of her hair reassured him that he could be himself all over again and not fear being judged for the things he did or didn’t do. He hadn’t felt like that in a long time. Then Sarah came along and changed all that. With her, he was once again free to be who he truly was and not have to worry about having to take the blame for anything. Finding Sarah was like being pulled out of the raging, vicious whirlpool that wanted nothing more than to drown him over and over again.

They sat like that for the longest time – not having to say anything to each other at all. When it was possible for two people to speak to each other’s hearts, words were no longer necessary. Despite willing it with everything their souls could give, time simply would not stand still. They knew it would soon be time to go.

Sarah snuggled closer to Azhar, “Tell me sweetheart, if what we are feeling is real, how come it hurts so much? Why does it–”

He brushed her hair from her eyes and put his finger softly upon he lips. “Darling, it hurts because it is real…” He looked at her lovely face for the longest time, every fibre in his body twitching with the urge to kiss her, just once. But he resisted: he was certain that after knowing her kiss, he would die if he were never to have it again.

“What’s wrong sweetheart?” she asked, sensing his anguish.

He just smiled and turned his head.

“You chickened out again, didn’t you?” she chuckled. “I might as well take this first kiss of ours off the table – for good!” she teased.

Before she could draw her next breath, Azhar kissed her with all the passion and longing that he had so long denied. When their lips finally parted, they trembled, feeling powerless in the intensity of the feelings they felt for each other. It was some time before either of them could speak again.

“What do we do now, sayang?” asked Sarah, her voice weak with uncertainty.

Azhar held her close. “I don’t know, darling. But do you remember what that dead, mad, poet once wrote?”

She held his hand in hers and repeated the word of their favourite Middle Eastern poet: “And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.”

“That’s a good place to start as any, I guess…”

As the evening turned to twilight, they went their separate ways; coldly unsure of the future but at the same time, warmly assured that what they shared was real.

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36 thoughts on “Blue Bench at Regent’s Park

  1. [scout]

    Bogart-san, a romantic? Not too loud. People might hear. He’s got a reputation as the sole surviving heart donor to protect…

  2. [azlin]

    Its a question of perspective, isn’t it? Are they wicked, greedy people? Or are they two people who were meant for each other but are victims of dreadfully bad timing?

    You decide! I’m just painting a hypothetical picture.

  3. You seemed to have delved into my heart and dragged this story out….its beautiful what u wrote and you moved me to tears….(geez! I’m such a cry baby)….

  4. [renny]

    I never meant to intrude into the sanctity of your heart, ma’am. Please accept my apologies. It’s just that this story, too, holds a special significance to me.

    Do I take it that you liked this little post?

  5. Saudara Penulis,

    Pelontar komen ini tidak fasih berbahasa Inggeris. Jika penulis tidak keberatan, izinkan saya meneruskan dalam bahasa Melayu.

    Kata orang tua-tua, kalau sudah terkena panahan arjuna: hati tidak karuan, rasa tiada ketentuan, siang dan malam jadi kelam.

    Tetapi, setiap yang terpatri, pasti ada kesudahan.

    Noktah.

  6. [embun]

    Penulis ini tidak fasih berbahasa Melayu. Jika tidak keberatan, izinkan saya meneruskan dalam bahasa Inggeris.

    Though I many not be refined enough to fully appreciate, or even fathom the true depth of your message, I am left breathless and spellbound by the delicateness of your eloquence.

  7. Sir,

    Please, no apologies are required for having written something so meaningful to so many people in so many ways, I’m sure.

    I love this post.

  8. “they weren’t any different from any of the thousands of other couples who had met, perhaps, a tad too late”. I’ve always known that what I have with my soulmate, my own Azhar is not unique only to us. this is our story, only the bench and the park is different πŸ™‚

  9. [sarah]

    It is heartwarming to know that my little posting has touched you – even if your bench and park may be different. Keep him in your heart as, I am sure, he keeps you in his.

    Here’s to all the Sarahs and Azhars of the world – wherever (or whoever) they may be!

  10. How poignantly beautiful.Even more so for the many Azhars` and Sarahs` amongst us, who found their heart`s true beckoning just a little bit too late in their lives, having decided earlier on that the heavy burden of responsibility and commitment must overrule any disappointment of discovering, again a little too late, that their current bondage was destined from the beginning to be one devoid of love.

    At times like this, the only solace for a long empty heart is possible only from these haunting verses from Wordsworth`s “An Ode to Immortality”:-

    “What though the radiance that was once so bright,
    Be now forever taken from my sight,
    Though nothing can bring back the hour,
    Of splendour in the grass,Of glory in the flower.

    We will grieve not,rather find,
    Strength in what remains behind,
    In the primal sympathy,
    That having been must ever be,
    In the soothing thoughts that spring,
    Out of human suffering.”

    Bless!

  11. [higashi-san]

    Your sensitivity to the human condition is inspiring
    After having read your comment, I feel compelled to seek out “An Ode to Immortality” in its entirety.

    Thank you my friend.

    [ruby]

    Too early to tell if there’s going to be a second part, ma’am. I’ll have to know how things panned out for Sarah and Azhar before I can decide

  12. [lily]

    You are too kind, ma’am. I am undeserving of such accolade – especially when it comes from you.

    [marina]

    You liked my reply to Embun, ma’am? She completely and utterly blew me away. I shall now spend the rest of my days pining for her…

    Thanks for visiting, ma’am.

  13. Tomodachi-san,

    Your words are too kind.For me,Bogart`s a bit
    uptight,and I`d take the Zen`s approach to love and life anytime,`cos that which remains unspoken(and yet completely overcomes in its level of intensity) is the most powerful expression of any emotion possible between 2-people.

    You have that unique ability ,Tomodachi-san,to stir up the heartstrings through your very ordinary depictions of ordinary moments in life,and that draws me to your blog.Plus, of course, always London in the background.

    Aaah!Now that`s what I call home, and it beckons me over each Christmas and New Year,when the withered lawns and drooping leaves of Hyde Park silently bears witness to the discreet footsteps of the dawn risers gingerly stepping out to celebrate the birth of yet another
    new day,the coming of yet another new year.

    Bless!

  14. Brader Bangkai!

    Sir, if you don’t mind me saying so, I think the lip locking episode could’ve been explored (pun intended) further to benefit readers of my persuasion. I mean, tongues probing, hands groping.. you get the picture. Especially since M’sia have already cummed of age re: Sodo & Susceptible. The matured citizenry, in case you haven’t noticed, have gone beyond the works of DH Lawrence but have not quite progressed to Liverpool Press levels. Finally, what ever happened to illicit sex in cheap motels?

    Just my penny’s worth … πŸ™‚

    Honestly bro? Another great smacking read.. Two Thumbs UP!

  15. [higashi-san]

    You are no slouch with words, either! Yes, thet Bogart person is slightly uptight, isn’t he. He should try to learn to loosen up a little.

    And yes, London! Always London

    [matsalo]

    I would have liked to explore the more intimate details of Sarah and Azhar’s kiss, but then I thought: Those moments should belong only to Sarah and Azhar. After all, it was only a kiss…

    But it was the kiss to end all kisses!

  16. Excuse me Mat, can I speak to Madsalo boy?

    Madsalo! “…illicit sex at cheap motels?” Bradder, you killed all the romance with that statement, ok? And please, wordpress is a family show, children might be reading this!

    Back to you Mat,

    What is this? It’s like watching love-story on the blog. Sorry Embun, I am just nosy.

    I must say Embun, you floor the man for good. I am sure hordes of Bangkai fans are eating their hearts out right now (present company included!).

    You wrote few lines and MB is done for good. What’s the secret?

    p/s: Mat, you fall again, so fast, so soon? They say, only fools rush in. Me? I don’t have a point of view.

    Dear Elviza

    This is the way I am supposed to reply to comments, right?

    You got that absolutely right. Embun is really something, isn’t she? The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that she was right there in my heart all along – even before she came along with her comment. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let here go this time.

    If fools rush in, then I’ll concede to being the biggest fool ever born.

    Embun, are you listening?

  17. mr bangkai, my loss for not knowing the existence of your blog. Thanks to Elviza and now my life is enriched. Can i link you at http://www.sentraalstation.blogspot.com? This will save me from searching for your links at elviza’s. Thanks.

    Dear Kak Teh

    I would be most honoured if you would link me at sentraalstation, ma’am. By the way, do you remember the now defunct ‘Rick’s Cafe’? That was me, too. It is wonderful to re-make your acquaintance, ma’am.

  18. Hey, could you get Hasnah Lily Andersen on the line for me, please?

    Embun

    She’s teaching a class right now but she will try to get to you after 7:00 pm

  19. this is so classic..and i could even feel the london breeze.

    Maya

    Thank you, ma’am. I’ll take that as a compliment. And thanks for visiting

  20. Saudara Penulis,

    Seseorang pernah mengutarakan kepada saya, “kata-kata itu murah!”

    Terdetik di benak saya, “kata-kata itu percuma sebenarnya…”

    Dan lazimnya, sesuatu yang percuma itu, kurang pada makna, sangsi pada niat. Seperti juga kata-kata Saudara: enak didengar, lunak dibicara tapi maksudnya hambar.

  21. hah! Rick’s Cafe!!!! Now I know why this sounds so familiar. Glad that we meet up again. See you at sentraalstation!

    Dear Kak Teh

    Its good to be back, ma’am

  22. bogart-san (man formerly known as bangkai-san),

    i have been reading your stories and comments from your readers… there is “something happening here” but.. :p

    anyhow, keep on writing bogart-an. my family and friends love your writing πŸ™‚

    Digital

    I am honoured, my friend. I shall keep writing for as long as my muse chooses stays in my heart.

  23. bro bogart.
    all ur stories based on kisah benar or fiction? this “finding sarah” piece is very interesting… bila nak buat part 2… or there is no part 2…

    Digital

    All my stories are based on fact. But they have been changed a little here and there to protect the innocent. I reckon a Part 2 is in the offing – we’ll see how it goes

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