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Being

Bench or seven flights of stairs? I could wait for another bus. Or I could start walking home. Or… I could just sit here?

Try as I might, I can’t think of the original cause of my aversion.

A sitting-related trauma? Too many seat-bound classroom hours? Why am I unable to sit still for any significant amount of time?

As I march across Jerusalem to work, I see the benches along the way and wonder: Who sits there? Who has the time? What do you do while sitting on a public bench? Read? Stare at people? Okay, could be fun. For a while. And oh, of course, you could play on your phone. Gosh, I’m not sitting down just to play. What games does this dumb phone of mine have? Snake?

I really didn’t get the sitting-on-benches thing until one day in late pregnancy. It had been the kind of day where I kept glancing at the clock and thinking: “What? It’s only 9:34 a.m.? Is this clock broken?” and started wishing I could conjure up a personal servant to hand me fortifying cups of tea (is it legal to train the kids to do this?). The day did finally sputter to a close, and relieved, I packed up my bag and left work.

Thankfully, my bus arrived almost immediately, and I sank into the first seat available, bracing myself for the mad joyride up Rechov Sorotzkin as the busload of passengers was thrown from side to side. I gratefully stumbled off at my stop, crossed the road, and… spotted the bench.

My brain did a quick-flick decision: up the seven flights of stairs to my apartment, or sit on the bench? Bench won, hands down.

I sat down, put my bag next to me. I felt myself sink into the backrest, my shoulders slumping. I felt the ground under my aching feet, and the pressure of my forearm on the handrest. I felt the clasp of my bag retreating from my grip as my hand relaxed around it.

The early-noon sun was warm on my forehead. It was so nice.

For some time, I wasn’t aware of thinking anything, but eventually it occurred to me that my husband must be wondering where I am. The act of lifting my hand to remove my phone from my handbag seemed too strenuous, though, so I didn’t pick up the phone to make the call. I just sat.

Opposite, outside the old-age home, an old lady sat on a different bench. I noticed we were looking at each other, benignly interested. We both stared for a bit. I had a funny half-asleep feeling. Eventually the clippity-cloppity footsteps made me turn my head ever so slightly. Coming toward me along the sidewalk was a young couple; everything about them screamed “newlywed.”

She sashayed along, plum beret matching trim plum jacket and patterned plum skirt. Plum lipstick topped off the look. He had that beam on his face, like, “Can you believe it? I’m married!” Involuntarily, my lips turned up into a smile. They were so sweet. Plum lips twitched politely in my direction.

My body was feeling heavier on the bench. I wasn’t going to sleep, was I? It was so relaxing out here. The soft whoosh of cars passing by, the warmth of sun. I sensed my hand slip off my bag entirely. My ankles uncrossed themselves into a more natural position. The old lady and I regarded one another for a few minutes longer.

Bench or seven flights of stairs? I could wait for another bus. Or I could start walking home. Or… I could just sit here?

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 667)

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