Everyday I pass this quaint park on my journey home from school, and everyday, without fail, there is a man in a bright red jacket sitting on the swing set.
He occupies the left one and brushes his feet along the molch as he gently rocks back and forth. I notice that he holds the chain of the swing next to him with a firm grip, as if he were clinging onto it for dear life. He seems to be in his late thirties and completely out of place. I mean seriously! What man comes to a park in mid day just to have a swing? But there is something strangely mysterious about him that I was dying to know. So, the determined person that I am, made it a mission to find out this guys deal.
Its a Tuesday and the sun is shining brightly, making the playground glisten and reel me in like bait. I kindly walk up to the man and say, pointing to the swing clenched in his fist, “May I use that?” He confusedly looks at the dozens of other unoccupied swings and shakes his head. I squint my eyes at him, shrug my shoulders and walk away.
Each day I do the same. Wednesday: “Can I use this?” No. Thursday: “This is my favorite swing. Do you mind?” No. Friday: “Can I borrow this for a sec?” No. Saturday: “I just ran a mile and I am in dire need of a seat. Would you lend me that one?” No. Sunday: “Hey! That seat! Can I take it?” No. Monday: “Is that seat taken?” Yes… Wait a minute! Did he just say yes?
Shocked, I turn back around and say, “And by whom, may I ask?”
“Abigail,” he says, short and sweet.
“Abigail, huh?” I turn my head around and scope out the desolate park around me. “Is Abigail coming?” He shakes his head, reassuring me that this guy is a pure breed Looney Toon.
The next day, I take the swing two down from “Abigail.” I sit there for about an hour, staring at my feet, making shapes in the dirt, biting my nails, leaning back until my head hits the ground, and humming made up songs to myself. All the while, the man just stares straight ahead and occasionally takes a deep breath. Finally, he gets up and walks to his car – I make sure to remember which one he drives away in, a minivan. As if I didn’t already think this guy was weird enough.
The following day I miss school to attend the funeral of my Great Aunt Janine. Its about an hour before my usual rendezvous with the swing man and I’m wondering if he’ll notice my absence. As I stand in the back of the crowd, huddled around the casket, I take a look around the cemetery only to spot something oddly familiar – a bright red jacket, hovering over a small tombstone. The man looks up and makes eye contact with me. His eyes were lost and his face blank. Just then, a wave of realization floods over me.
The next day, I take my normal spot at the park. Thirty minutes rolls on by and the man turns to me and mumbles, “ I made her a promise. To come to this park with her everyday.” His head turns mechanically back to his normal stare. “That was her favorite swing.”
My mouth hangs open in awe, and I can taste the salty tears rushing in. Without hesitation, I get up, circle cautiously around Abigail’s swing, and pull the man into my arms, expecting him to resist.
Surprisingly, he melts into my embrace and I can feel his heaving shoulders and gentle tears escape his forlorn body. And in that moment, I feel Abigail’s presence, swinging away next to us, making sure her father is okay.