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Benched Dreams

I was walking towards Marble Arch this morning, and passed the bench I always pass. You know, the one outside the Nikko hotel, next to a red phone booth filled with postcards of European and Asian delights (that probably don't look anything like what's advertised if anyone were to actually give them a ring ... does anybody really use a pay phone to hire hookers in 2007?).

A guy and a girl were sitting on the bench, both in their early twenties and both hugging themselves inside the puffy parkas they were wearing.

He was stretched out and leaning back, his weary face and eyes looking up into the gray morning sky. She was staring straight ahead with a watery gaze. I wondered how cold it would have to be for her tears to freeze.

There's a story there, I thought. Perhaps a 200.

I pondered it on the tube and realized it wasn't so long ago that a young couple sat on the same bench, prompting me to conjure this.

Of all the benches in London, I think this one, just under the stone-cold stare of Raoul Wallenberg, must be the unhappiest.

Do you suppose these damaged souls purposefully sit in front of him, this great Swedish humantarian, hoping they too will be rescued?