Paddington Park by Linda Drattell We lived for a time in London’s Marylebone neighborhood On Chiltern Street, a stone’s throw from Paddington Park It rains most of the time in London regardless of the time of year—my husband says this is what he loves most about London you appreciate when the sun does come out Our dog loved our walks through Paddington Park probably because of the other dogs he’d meet A variety of roses grow robustly there, probably because of the incessant rain and the city’s tending Benches are dedicated to people who have passed away who once declared this to be their beloved park, probably because they took refuge there from rushing to work, rushing home On one of our strolls through the park I noticed a heavyset man slumped on one of the benches, his eyes closed his body rumpled beneath a pressed shirt I thought he was sleeping, perhaps he had grown tired from walking Then I realized he had died Two police officers arriving at the same conclusion tried to waken him—one left to seek help the other sat next to the man as if they were friends solidarity through gentle touching, shoulder to shoulder a macabre camaraderie, the deceased unaware of the living presence How lonely the man must have been when he chose to sit on that bench I looked away and continued past the rose bushes and other benches past a children’s play area, exited the park, strolled along Marylebone High Street and stopped by a café drank a cup of hot tea at an outside table my dog patiently curled by my feet thought of the man on the bench How lonely death is no matter the setting Almost an hour later, I circled back through the park and noticed the same police officer, still seated by the dead man, eyeing the park entrance for his partner to return. We both nodded, sucked our lips into a half pout, as if we worked for the same miserable boss, no idea when help would arrive. How lonely death is, no matter the weather
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Linda Drattell is an author, poet, and advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing residing in Northern California. Her poetry has appeared in both online publications and anthologies, including Prompt for the Press; Viewless Wings; Wingless Dreamer’s “Field of Black Roses,” “Vanish in Poetry,” and “Ink the Universe” anthologies; and Las Positas College’s “Havik” anthology. She is an avid long-distance runner and owns an aging horse and three goats. She is a board member of the California Writers Club/Tri-Valley Writers Branch. To learn more about Linda, visit lindadrattell.com. Contact: @lindadrattell