"Somewhere around here," D thought to himself as he walked along the sidewalk. "I'm getting close."
He had all the time in the world, and he found it a fine day for meandering about instead of just getting right down to business. As he passed by Henry, he nodded an acknowledgement.
"Oh, hello. I know you," Henry offered from his spot on the bench as D passed by.
D stopped for a moment; he had certainly been acknowledged by strangers before, but not very often and he had never quite gotten used to it.
"Hello," he managed to reply. He lingered on the sidewalk for a moment, observing Henry and trying to feel out the exchange.
Henry, extending his hand for a handshake, said, "I'm Henry."
"Oh," said D, automatically offering his hand to respond. "You can call me D."
"Yeah, I know who you are."
"You're pretty famous, you know."
"Pretty much everyone knows who you are. I've even seen you around, doing your thing."
"Sure, sure," said D, nodding slowly.
A pause settled in between them.
"I've seen you around too," said D after a moment.
"Sure, I see you sometimes riding your bike."
"Oh, no kidding."
"Say, what's with those little hats, anyway?" asked D. "How come bike riders wear those?"
"I dunno...they're practical," Henry replied. "It's a cycling cap."
"Like any hat, they keep your hair from blowing all about while you ride, but you can also pull down the brim to keep the sun or the rain out of your eyes."
"How is that different from any other hat with a brim?"
"Well you see," answered Henry, "they're also designed with an aerodynamic shape that keeps them from blowing off of your head in the wind."
"Oh...that's interesting. I never realized that."
"Like, a baseball cap," Henry continued, "was designed to blow off of your head on purpose."
"What do you mean?" asked D. "I've never had a baseball cap blow off of my head."
"Baseball hats worn by players were originally meant to be worn kind of loose. They designed the brim of the hat so that when an outfielder is chasing after a fly ball, looking up at it, the cap will blow off of his head and help him see what's happening with the ball better."
"Interesting," D replied. "...Is that true? Where did you hear that?"
"Oh, I can't really remember," admitted Henry. "I just heard it somewhere and assumed it was true."
"So are you here for me, then?" asked Henry, after a moment.
"Oh, no, no. Not today. Someone else. Someone nearby," D replied, glancing at his watch. "I'm kind of early."
Another pause lingered for a moment. A cloud obscuring the sun happened to move on just then, offering the sun's light an opportunity to thoroughly illuminate the bench. Henry and D both looked up for a second, as if to see where the light was coming from.
"You wanna sit down?" asked Henry. "I guess you're not in a hurry."
"No, no...I rarely hurry," D replied as he gently pulled up his pants at the knees and sat next to Henry on the bench. "I don't find it hard to be on time without being in a hurry."
"Oh...that's cool; I like that," Henry responded.
"Yeah, sure. I never understood why people rush about so maniacally anyhow." D withdrew a cigarette from somewhere inside his jacket, and with his other hand struck open a lighter. The lighter seemed to come from nowhere, as if he had been holding it there the whole time.
"Me either," Henry nodded as they sat and surveyed the sidewalk before them.
D lit the cigarette.
"So how are you, anyway?" asked Henry, attempting to create small talk.
"Oh...fine, fine...I'm just fine. Thanks for asking. How are you doing?"
"I am also doing fine."
"Good!" said D with a smile. "That's good to hear. Say, that's a nice shirt; I like that shirt."
"What? Why?" asked Henry, somewhat surprised at the compliment. "I hate this shirt. Just earlier today, I was thinking about how much I hate this shirt. I even decided I am just going to give it to Goodwill after I wash it next."
D paused for a moment, then asked "Why don't you like the shirt? It looks fine. It's a nice shirt. Nice color, nice pattern..."
"I don't like the collar."
"Oh...what's wrong with the collar?" D asked. "The collar is fine. You don't like collars on shirts?"
"No no, I do...it's just...I dunno, the collar is just so big, and and they've tailored it with this gaudily stylish curve to it that won't go away." Henry proceeds to crush down the collar with his hands, demonstrating his proof that the stylish curve does indeed snap right back into the collar once released. "Every time I look in the mirror, I think 'Damn, what's up with that collar? That thing needs to settle down.'" He shrugged. "I guess I prefer a more humble collar, myself."
"Huh. I guess it does have a little something going on, now that you mention it," D acknowledged.
"Yeah, it makes the shirt look ridiculous."
"I still like it."
"So, when are you coming for me then?" Henry asked, looking up to meet D's eyes.
"Ha!" D laughed, showing a grin. "Come on, now; I can't tell you that."
"I always keep it a surprise," D replied. "I always keep it a surprise, unless someone is asking for me."
"I see. Well, I'm not asking for you."
"You make me kind of nervous, really," Henry revealed after another pause. "Nothing personal."
"I make a lot of people nervous," D replied. "I don't get it."
"What? You don't get it?"
"Yeah...why are people so afraid to die?"
"People enjoy living, silly," said Henry. "People want to stay alive. Plus, no one knows what being dead is like, so there is kind of a fear of the unknown."
"Sometimes you take people before they are ready," Henry continued, "and it makes the whole thing even more sad."
"The way I see it," said D, "Everyone knows I am coming for them sooner or later. It shouldn't come as a shock or surprise. You've had your whole life to get ready for me. It's not my fault you aren't prepared at all when I finally come."
Henry considered this, as the silence that punctuated their exchange returned.
D, after the moment passed, said, "Well, anyway, nice chatting with you," as he arose from the bench.
"Yeah, sure thing," Henry agreed.
"I guess I'll see you around," D predicted as he dropped his cigarette to the ground and squashed it into the pavement with the toe of his shoe.
Henry hesitated, and eventually decided not to reply as he walked away slowly, methodically, and never once looking back.
Henry and D: a Conversation by Jeremy Ross, October 2012. May be used without permission. Please do not plagiarize.