There is a bench at the intersection of West 46th Street and Lake Harriet Parkway in Minneapolis where I used to sit and read. There is grass growing around the metal legs and the wooden seat has been rained on so many times it seems perpetually damp. The wood slats have cracks in them, and the seat creaks when you sit down on it too fast. It sits facing the hill of overgrown trees that separates the parkway from the lake. At one point, there must have been a beautiful view of the water and the sunset from this spot, but it’s since been forgotten and uncared for. There is no longer a path that leads up the hill, and there is no sidewalk on this side of the parkway- only the trees and the small patch of grass that houses my bench.
When I had panic attacks, I would take long walks and, in an attempt to slow my breathing and calm my mind, end up on that bench listening to the cars pass. I found great comfort in being still while the world kept moving.
In the wintertime, when all of the trees lose their leaves and the seat is coated in a thin layer of ice, there is still a clear view of the frozen lake, peaceful and untouched.
In the summertime, after long days of nannying and play-dates and dress-up, I would sit on the bench, now covered in caterpillars and smelling of mud, and write. I wrote my first essays on that bench—trying to pin down the whirlwind with words and falling just short each time.
My best friend used to fill notebooks with beautiful letters and when they arrived on my doorstep I would take them to that bench, tear them open, and read each sentence twice— clinging desperately to an experience that was mine, and mine alone.
When I was going through the worst of my depression in high school, my boyfriend always knew where to find me. Crying silently to myself and listening to the low hum of the street lamps, he would hold my hand until the walk home didn’t seem so long. I fell in love on that bench, and when we fought, and when we broke up, I brought my teddy bear there to hold my hand while I sobbed the types of uncontrollable sobs that accompany first heartbreak.
It was on that bench that I found beauty in solitude, and discovered the value of thinking my unadulterated thoughts and letting all of my emotions be felt.
On dark nights, I would sit on that bench, stare up at the sky, find my footing in the stars, and only then did I feel grounded. It was the only piece of home that I created for myself. That bench saved pieces of me that I didn’t know needed saving at the time.
Someday, there will be a bench near a lake with a small plaque on it, placed there in my memory. It will be a bench where people sit and look at the water, or the beach, or the trees, or the stars, or everything at once, or nothing at all.