He spotted a park bench a couple of meters ahead and decided to sit there as he didn’t want to go home, at least not before had come up with a solution to this. And as much as it frightened him that losing sight of Mary might put an end to all of this, his fear of not being able to do something in case Mary did the unthinkable, was worse. He walked up to the bench and saw an older man, about his own age sit down. He hesitated a second, but chose to sit down anyway, hoping that the man would eventually go away.
As he sat down, he watched Mary walk through the park, not able to tell anything by her posture. She was still walking the same slow indifferent walk she had been walking ever since he met her. He was desperate to know what was going on inside her mind. He wanted to know what she was planning on doing, if she was planning on doing anything to begin with. If she was desperate, scared, strong, weak, he wanted to know and she wouldn’t tell him, not even her eyes would tell him.
“It’s tough, isn’t it?” John heard a voice say to his right. He turned his head and saw that the old man was talking to him. “Excuse me” John said, by now so accustomed to the fact that a great deal of the people he saw could not see or hear him, that he was surprised to hear someone actually talk to him, “what is tough?”. The man smiled. “Letting go, it’s tough”. John agreed, but, given the predicament he was in, he was somewhat annoyed that this man wasn’t minding his own business. “Excuse me sir, have we met?” John said, not in the friendliest of tones. “I don’t believe that we have” the man replied. “Then how can you possibly know what I’m going through right now?” John could hear himself say, a bit embarrassed by how unfriendly he was treating this man, who clearly had nothing but good intentions. On the other hand, John’s response was logical, because he did have really important things on his mind and he had a problem to solve. Each moment wasted on chit chat was a moment John didn’t spend working on the solution, so he wanted to keep this short.
“I’m sorry” the man replied “I didn’t mean to be intrusive. Of course I don’t know what you’re going through. I just meant that letting go is a hard thing to do”. John now felt guilty and changed his tone. “It’s ok, but what makes you think I need to let go of something?” The man smiled: “Oh that’s easy. The power of deduction”. John looked puzzled. “Look, it’s simple”. The man said. “We’re in a park. It’s a nice day, but the weather is not great, so you didn’t sit down here to enjoy the weather. And you’re gazing into the distance, you don’t look relaxed, you look worried. It’s clear that you need to let go of something. A thought, a person, a truth maybe?” John was amazed by how much the man had been able to tell just by looking at him. He gave him another good look, but he really had nothing familiar. If anything, he looked a little bit like santa clause, with his beard and long white hair, over a knitted vest. He really was a striking appearance.
“You’re right” John said, “although I should have let go a long time ago. And I thought I had, but somehow the past came back to present itself all over again.” As he said this, he immediately questioned why he was telling a complete stranger something this personal. It had been the second time in less than two weeks that this had happened to him. It made him uncomfortable on the one hand, because he had never been someone to talk, especially not to strangers, but at the same time, it felt nice, because he connected and it made him feel somewhat less alone.
“The past often has a way of doing that” the man said, still smiling one of the most reassuring smiles John had ever seen. “The thing you have to decide, is whether you are going to let the past rule your future or whether you choose to build a new one?” John smiled back, because he could tell this man was wise and had good intentions, but clearly he had no idea what John was going through. Still out of politeness, John decided to go along. “But what if you have no choice?” he said. “Nonsense” the man replied “you always have a choice.”
It instantly changed John’s mood again, since he now felt this man, who didn’t know him at all, was telling him he would have had the choice to ignore Mary, to ignore Tucker, and to act as if none of this had ever happened, which he couldn’t have done of course. John didn’t know what to say, frankly, he didn’t want to talk to the man anymore, he wanted to go back to working on a solution for helping Mary.
“But you know sir” the man suddenly said, sensing that he had struck a nerve, “Whatever you did or did not do doesn’t matter. What’s really important is what you do now!” John really wanted to ignore him, but he couldn’t resist the urge to answer once more: “But that’s the problem!” John almost shouted. “You may think you have a solution to my problems with general wisdom, but it’s all infinitely more complex! I’m facing an impossible challenge, I need to fix something I cant fix, and I don’t even know if I’m supposed to fix it. And even if I found a way to fix it, I need to come up with a plausible plan, to convince the person who needs help, to accept my solution”.
“I see” the man sad. “Well, I wouldn’t want to generalize your problems of course. The only thing I do know however, is that often one seeks the most complex solutions, where the simplest of solutions would suffice. And, with the risk of offending you sir, impossible does not exist. In life, you are often able to do what you need to do exactly when you need to do it”. The words struck John like lightning….that was it. That was the solution!