The sky is in that in-between colour, where the last rays of the sun are disappearing down the horizon, and twilight is slowly taking over. The day’s heat has spent itself, replaced by a gentle, cool breeze.
I walk down to the park below, prepping myself for the long walk ahead. I warm up and stretch, and start off at a brisk pace. I have to complete ten laps in my walking circuit. Many kids are playing and shouting and giggling, with a joy that’s the exclusive preserve of childhood.
As I complete my first lap, I see a stone bench in the park, which sits between two apartment blocks in our condo. The bench gives me pause.
Many, many years ago, on almost every weekday, my friend, who used to live in the adjacent block, and I, would go down at precisely 12 noon. Our kids would arrive from kindergarten at 12.20 p.m.
And for those blissful twenty minutes, we would sit on the stone bench, catching up on mundanities, laughing about the silliest of things, sharing bits of ourselves, our problems, our joys and all that good friends share. On many of these bench meetings, we always told each other that when our kids went to full time school, we would go out and shop and scour the city for new places to eat and for new cuisines to try.
Soon, the bus would arrive and our little kids would jump off their buses with cheery greetings. For the next few minutes, as we wound down our conversation, our three-year olds would catch up with each other or chase each other in the park.We would then say bye and head home.
My friend and I could see each other’s homes from certain places in our own homes. Both of us are foodies, and each time any of us cooked something new, we would drop off a sample to the other’s home. Many a time, we wondered about having a small cable that would connect our homes, where we could send food in a small basket, whenever we liked.
Time flew, as only it knows how to, and before my friend and I could go out shopping as planned, she had moved to another country for a few years. Our chats and messages continued, albeit on the phone.
She came back just a few years ago, but lives in another part of town. Now, we go out for lunches, we go out shopping, we talk, we catch up, we laugh, we share. We talk about our grown-up children and about how we should travel together after retirement and explore new places and new cuisines.
I have finished two laps, and come back to the here and the now. There are two women sitting on the stone bench, enjoying a nice chat.
I realize that while this physical bench of friendship kindles such precious memories that warm the heart, the bench of friendship has today taken on different avatars. It can morph into restaurant chairs, into tall stools in coffee shops, into lush green grass on a walking trail, or into the seats of a cab – the bench of friendship is a living pulsating bond, a very special bond that women share, a bond that brightens up each day.