The morning sunlight streamed through my leaves and somehow finding its way through the cluster, fell gently on his face as he lay on the ground next to me. He would often come and spend hours under my shade, either looking pensively around him or writing something on paper. There was something about the faraway look in his youthful eyes that made me want to reach out and bring that distant picture closer to him.
I love observing people as they walk by me everyday. There are a few benches sprinkled about, a park nearby, a road winding by me into the busy street close by. So I’m happily surrounded by people walking about doing their own thing. Some rush past, their eyes intent on the road ahead. Some meander around, lost in their own thoughts, indifferent to their surroundings. There are a few who amble by, enjoying the serenity of the place, trying to look for the bird that is making those melodious sounds. They come up to me and smile. I smile back at them, savouring the camaraderie between us.
Each face that passes by me is intriguing. Each set of eyes has a story to tell. The spring in the strides of the young, the lines on the faces of the old, all reveal some anecdote to my mind, that has stayed with me all these years that I have stood here, mingling with people. Some faces, like the young man’s with the dreamy look in his eyes, are especially hard to forget. I wish I can reach out to these people who walk by me everyday; lend them a friendly shoulder or give them a listening ear. Be more than just a shelter to them.
Some more faces are firmly etched in my mind. Two mid-aged women would come in the evenings to sit on the bench close to me. The younger of the two used to have a cloth completely wrapped around her head. I couldn’t understand why she did that. But she would hang on to the older woman for support while walking. Gradually I started noticing the woman with the cloth on her head, becoming thin and frail. Yet, they would come everyday and spend a leisurely hour on the bench, talking and laughing together. As the paling sun lit up their creased faces, I could see that these were the moments of the day that both looked forward to the most. Watching their girlish enthusiasm and sunny moments of laughter, I was more than willing to be a third partner to their daily tete-a-tete.
And so, as I stand here, big and tall, next to a park and a winding road, the same thought repeatedly comes to me. Have I helped any of these nameless companions who pass by me everyday, giving me their companionship?
The young man came to me one day. He had no paper this time; he had brought a friend instead. While seeming to show his friend around, he gestured towards me with a smile. He pointed at the ground under my shade as well. He no longer had that faraway expression in his eyes. In fact, he looked as if the picture which he was longing for, was well in his grasp now. Yes, I thought to myself as I looked at him fondly while he showed me off to his friend. Maybe I had helped him in my own small way.
Just as I had seemed to have helped the friend of the woman whose head used to be covered by a cloth. The older woman was alone now. She would come at the same time and sit on the same bench under me. Alone. She would spend some quite moments on the beach, wipe a hanky over her eyes and then leave. I don’t know where her friend was or why she didn’t come along. All I knew was that by sitting on that bench, under my leaves, she used to relive those loving moments which she had spent with her friend.
Yes…I thought to myself, I have helped my companions a little. And it makes me happy to think that I have been a part of their lives and they of mine.