He stared into the water, waiting for the swans.
Nowhere in sight.
And so he waited a while longer.
While he waited, he watched the passers-by.
He knew none of them; they didn’t know his story, nor did he know their own.
And so he invented stories for them all, to pass the time.
While he waited for the swans.
Two young mothers pushing prams passed the bridge. They giggled and whispered as they walked by him, as he stared into the water.
One of them has a husband, he thought, the other does not. They are most likely sisters.
Still no swans.
An old man passed by.
“Dia dhuit ar maidin,” the old man said.
“Dia is Muire dhuit.”
Broken Irish is better than perfect English, he thought, as the old man went about his way. He turned from the water to watch him fade into the fog.
He’s a pensioner; his wife has died, and he’s all alone. He wanted to speak with you, if only for a moment. And you keep staring into the water.
You should be ashamed of yourself, he thought.
And he was, for a moment.
Still no swans.
He saw a man sleeping on a park bench; a bench he had slept on himself, years before. Only it wasn’t the same exact bench; that one had been replaced years before. He knew this because he had carved his name into it, and now his name was gone.
Soon, that sleeping man’s name will be gone as well. Who will remember him? He wrote poetry once; he loved someone and was loved by others. He fell by the wayside, and now, he’s nothing.
Keep staring into the water, he thought. The swans will come, sooner or later.
On another bench, a young woman sat crying.
She had to have a story as well.
Her first novel was rejected, which made her sad; then she found out that she was pregnant. She hadn’t planned on having a baby, but the news made her happy. But when she told her boyfriend, he left her.
She doesn’t know yet that her next novel will be a success.
These things he thought of as he stood on the bridge, waiting for the swans.
And finally, they came.
He had some bread crumbs for them, but when he threw them into the water, they passed on by.
The swans were not following the current.
They were following their own reflections.