One recent Wednesday, I wandered through the Nyandungu Eco-Park. The sun hung lower in the sky, almost enshrouded by tall grass and trees. The workday was over; somewhere in the madness of the week, February had given way to March. The sound of chirping birds and crickets blended into the background like a song on endless repeat. A woman perched precariously on the stairs leading to Pond Kivu, her nose buried in a book. As I walked towards the southeast corner of the park, I noticed benches that might accommodate not only weary rears but also juicy stories. I had eschewed chatting up the other people in the park in favour of giving them the once-over and trying to hypothesise on what made them tick. It wasn’t exactly the journalistic way of doing things, but it was enough for now, I thought, as I searched for a place to sit. A waitress from a nearby restaurant greeted me with a warm smile and even warmer eyes before going ahead to take my order. The surreptitious glances the man on my right sneaked my way made me smile ruefully. It let me know my own surreptitious glances towards him weren’t all that surreptitious after all. He drank a beer while I was on my second cup of iced caramel macchiato. The evening air was so chilly that I made a mental note to wear a sweater next time. To my left was a couple seemingly in love, but upon closer inspection, you notice the uncomfortable tension and insecurity. He stood every time he saw her drift a few feet away, holding out his hand for her. She would pull him into a hug instead, holding him until she felt him relax and hug her back. Life flowed by around them—they didn’t care that ‘Kigalians’ aren’t familiar with public displays of affection. If the posts on Twitter and Instagram are anything to go by, social media has documented many instances across Kigali City of park benches appearing as part of a wider trend; the concept of outdoor seating is attracting more and more attention. In the huge roundabout at Kimihurura, there is an array of park benches. They lacked the same hurly-burly that the Imbuga City Walk, also known as Car-Free Zone, boasted of, though. The laughter of patrons and loud amapiano music in a nearby restaurant called Fratelli’s Brussels. Four men, seemingly friends, sat seated with their eyes glued to one’s phone. A kid in a yellow button-up shirt running through. A lone man in worn-out jeans and black sneakers. A pair of girls had very bright highlighters on their noses. A man peddling children’s books. It was the sort of spot that locals and tourists alike never spared a glance. Small and lacking in aesthetics, it boasted vinyl marquees that housed exhibition items. Seemingly insignificant and lacking in cultural richness. It wasn’t unique in any way. Few locals, however, knew the gem in their neighborhood and sat on the park benches that lined up the arena. A few hours earlier, I had been sitting on a bar stool at the cafeteria, playing “furniture” at a table of colleagues. It had been the same last week and the one before that. After several futile attempts at getting involved in the conversation, I finally gave up. I wasn’t mad at my friends and colleagues for ignoring me the same way you’re not mad at a baby for crying in a public setting. That’s just what they do. The golden rule for making friends in Rwanda is to go with the flow. Complaining will not make you any friends. But more to the point, Rwandans are a bit like ostriches, willing to bury their heads in the sand to avoid what they don’t want to face. Usually, when you communicate feelings of hurt, disappointment, or disapproval, you’re met with disdainful glances and ghosting. Rwandans don’t want to mend fences; they want an agreement to pretend the fences are sound. But alas, that’s a story for another day. A bench can be ordinary, commonplace, and meaningless, or it can be a priceless, colourful haven, depending on your options. And so, being on the Imbuga City Walk serves as a reminder of the beauty of residing in a place that allows for park benches in the contemporary urban environment. A chance to be reminded of the variety of options that were available in the past and will probably be available again, as well as how much of them were taken for granted. Examples include the endless greenery, the bus stations, the flow of traffic on the street, and cars of all kinds and white taxis bouncing wildly over the uneven surface. Residents trickled onto the sidewalks, talking on their phones or heading towards restaurants, stealing what time they could before the lunch break was over. Real ‘Kigalians’ cruised right through it all, their love for the city as comfortable and familiar as a favourite pair of shoes. Their eyes slid over the green expanse with economical indifference, their movements brisk and rough. There was none of the intimate worship I caressed the place with, none of the awe or love. Moreover, benches have a social purpose in that they introduce us to the lives of others. A bench’s accessories, such as used tissue and coffee cups, are mementos from other people’s lives. It’s where Jin Ah from Something in the Rain sat to swap her black sneakers for the same pair of worn-out pointed-toe heels every day on her way to supervise stores for a coffee franchise. It’s where Beth from Good Girls met Rio to exchange counterfeit money and discuss criminal activity with her friends. The discarded gum wrapping offers much to think about: Who was that person? How did their lunch break go? Was this their first or a frequent visit to the bench? Were they happy? Who do they love? And who loves them? It was 7pm before I made it back to my apartment in a state of well-relaxed dishevelment. The past months melted away. The days I’d spent worrying, the sleepless nights, the mounting schoolwork. The park bench had taught me the value of choosing to do nothing, to consume nothing, and to simply be. It provided me with a temporary reprieve from the troubles plaguing my mind. I wish I could’ve said that it somehow magically eroded all my worries and feelings of self-pity. That, however, is one baby step too far.