May I take your coat?

coat and hat“No, thank you. I won’t be long. I’ll just put it here.” And you imagine the man bending low as he carefully places the cloak on the bench before setting a small notebook beside it and covering it with his hat.

I ran across this monument in an upper-middle class neighbourhood of the Santiago General Cemetery and was captivated by its simple mystery. I’m not sure why it evokes both sadness and comfort – this hat and cloak placed so casually across the bench, as though the owner just dropped in for a cup of tea – this, his effort to make his situation transient when it’s so permanently cast in stone, his desire not to be there against the power of an unsympathetic destiny.

Or maybe it’s quite the opposite. Maybe it says, “Thank you. This looks like a lovely place to rest. I think I’ll stay awhile. May I leave this here?” and the man walks only a few steps to rest under a tree at the edge of the plaza.

I wonder if there is a notebook there and what it contains. Poetry perhaps, as Chileans are known for poetry. But it will remain private.

Who designed this bench that is not for sitting? Was it the wish of the person who died? Or did the family decide upon it?

I struggle with the ambiguity of the concept. Perhaps that’s the point and it rejects any discussion. South American resignation: It is what it is. Embrace it.

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