He Sat There
*A/N* keep in mind that this may be a little choppy! Constructive criticism is not only welcome but appreciated!!!
He sat there. The ground was hard, rocky. The bench was full at the bus stop where he slept.
A little girl, maybe three or four, glanced at him. He faced her, looked her full in the face, and she quickly looked away, giggling. Her mother, who held a baby boy on her hip, clutched her daughter’s hand and glared at him. When he ignored her and smiled at the girl, and she stood up sharply.
“Come on, Lottie. Let’s find another stop,” she hissed to her daughter. The little girl, Lottie, kept watching him as her mother half dragged her away, her high heeled shoes clipping coldly on the pavement. He barely felt the hurt anymore, of being ridiculed and ignored. He just let his smile slide slowly away and got back to his normal business, watching.
People came and went. He was finally able to sit on the bench. Nobody came near the bench when he sat on it. Nobody wanted to be near a hobo, an old man with no meat on his bones and an ugly red scar that bit into his leg. He still smiled at the little kids, though. Their parents gave him reproachful looks, but he didn’t really care. He had had little kids once. Oh, how he had loved them. He still loved them. Every once in a while, a little boy or girl would walk by and he would look twice just to see if it was one of them. Then he would tell himself that they wouldn’t be little kids anymore. They would be sixty-nine, one month and fifteen days. They were twins. He liked to imagine how they looked a lot of times, but he could barely even see their faces in his mind. Then he would sometimes cry, because he had made such a stupid mistake. He would ask himself why he did it, but he couldn’t find the words.
A man sat down on the bench, the other side from him. He glanced to the side. The man was young, maybe nineteen or twenty. He pushed his glasses nervously up his nose. Vaguely, he wondered if his son would have done that, had he gotten to know him longer.
When he looked over, the man smiled at him. He smiled back in happy surprise.
“I’m headed to see my girlfriend,” the man said.
“Are you?” he asked, raising his eyebrows. His voice was raspy, barely a croak from lack of use.
The man nodded. Just then, he noticed that the man held a rose in his hand. He nervously twirled it around in his fingers. His leg jiggled up and down.
“I’m going to propose to her,” the man admitted, looking down and smiling a bit.
“Why, that’s just fine,” he said happily. “Good luck.”
The man’s smile widened. “Thanks,” he said, as the bus arrived. He took a deep, shuddering breath and stood abruptly. He entered the doors of the bus.
“Will you marry me?” he asked her, his heart fluttering in his chest like paper in the wind. He was barely seeing. He was down on one knee. The ring was shining in her eyes. Then, he was nearly knocked over backwards, his girl gasping her answer over and over in his ear, her dark brown curls bouncing around his face…….
The man smiled at this memory.
Across the street, an army kid and a dark haired girl strolled slowly along the sidewalk. The boy’s back was rigid, his chin held high, hands behind his back. His face, however, conveyed something entirely different. A warm smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. The girl pushed her short black hair behind her ear, laughing and looking down at her feet.
The army boy and the girl stopped at the side. The boy gestured towards a bus that other soldiers were loading into. The girl twisted her foot in the cracks of the rocks, picking the dust off of his uniform. She said something, and then he said something, and then he left, giving her one last look. She pressed a hand up against her mouth as the bus drove away. Her shoulders shook. Suddenly, she ripped off her black high heels and ran off, to where the boy couldn’t see her.
Sounds of military vehicles echoed coldly around him.
“I’ve got to go, Marie. They’re waiting,” he told her, gesturing towards the harsh iron gates. Marie swallowed and nodded.
“Stay in one piece, or I won’t write you,” she said with a shaky half-smile.
“Don’t worry about me. It can’t be that bad,” Howard said. Her eyes glinted with cynical disbelief, but she didn’t say otherwise.
“Well, goodbye,” he said awkwardly, turning to leave. He strode away, not daring to look back.
“I’ll wait for you, Howard,” she called, as he was halfway gone.
Howard laughed, but still didn’t turn around. “Like that’s true. You’ve got half of the boys from high school after your heart anyway.”
Marie smiled ruefully. “Well, it sure ain’t high school anymore, is it?”
He couldn’t stand it anymore. He turned around one last time. “I love you, Marie.”
The smile fell off of her face. “Don’t get yourself killed, Howard.”
As Howard turned back around to leave, he heard a small gasp escape from her, but he knew that she didn’t want him to see…..
He sighed. He still missed her.
When night fell he saw too many drunken men wandering the street. Too many drunken men clutching young drunken girls to their sides and stumbling to her vehicles. He flinched when they started their cars, when the headlights came on and they swerved the streets. He wanted to hide in a hole, but there was no way to where he was. Instead, he crawled off of the bench and curled up as much as his aching old joints would let him and wished the night would go away.
He had only had a few beers. It wasn’t enough to make a difference. “Let me drive, Howard,” Marie had insisted. But no, no, he was fine. Marie had loaded Cora and Howie in the backseat, shooting him uneasy looks the entire time. She had hopped in the passenger seat and Howard started driving. The last thing he remembered seeing before the collision was two bright lights headed in his direction.
He woke up with tears wetting his cheeks and his hands shaking. Thank goodness, it was light again. No more drunk people driving the roads.
Cora and Howie, dead at only five. Marie, alive but filled with such anger and grief that she never wished to see him again.
He cried for all he had lost.
A few hours later, a stocky woman of about forty showed up at the bus stop. She kept on shooting him peculiar looks-which, of course, was not out of the ordinary. After a while, she spoke.
“Are you Howard Lowell?” she asked. Her voice was raspy for a woman’s.
He nodded, surprised. He hadn’t been addressed by his name in nearly fifty years.
“I’ve been looking for you,” she told him. Another shock.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because your wife, Marie, is my grandmother. Was my grandmother. She passed two days ago,” she said bluntly. It could have been taken as unemotional, but he understood her pain, her unwillingness to feel. That had been the way he had handled things for decades. But this time, he let himself feel the pang of grief at full force. He felt as though the air had been taken from his body.
“She did,” he whispered. “She re-married?”
“Yes,” she said. “And she had my father. He’s a good man.”
He let this information soak in for a moment. Instead of feeling sad or betrayed, he felt this strange sense of joy.
“Did she ever say anything about me?” he asked.
“No, but I think she thought about you. She loved my grandfather, but I could tell it was always a little incomplete.”
He felt a tear drip down his cheek. She hadn’t forgotten. “How did you find me?” he asked her.
The woman pressed a hand against her face. This time, her raspy voice shook a little when she spoke. “The last words she said to me before she died were- ‘you can find my husband Howard Lowell at the bus stop between 23rd and Oregga Avenue.’”
He felt the grief he had kept inside for so long burst from his chest. He rocked back and forth, and, at one point or another, felt the woman’s strong arms wrap around him. He was saying something, he didn’t know what, when he felt the exhaustion from all of this grief set in and he slowly drifted away to somewhere he didn’t know.
Howard Lowell, a homeless man of unknown age, died on September 15th 2004 at the bus stop between 23rd and Oregga Avenue. All that is known about Mr. Lowell is that he had lived at the bus stop for several decades, and that he died only two days after his estranged wife, Marie Pelman. Several people who spoke briefly to Mr. Lowell at the bus stop grieve this loss. One young man, Mr. Marcus Jameson, says, “He gave me courage when I was going to propose to my girlfriend.”
The woman who found Mr. Lowell, Georgia Pelman, was Marie Pelman’s granddaughter. She says on this strange incident, “He is with her now.”