An Old Man's Sorrow

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: January 18, 2018

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Submitted: January 18, 2018



“How, if our fates are to be forever entangled and intertwined with one another,  if I am forever bound to you and you to me, am I expected to suffer through the woes and tribulations you face? My heart is yours and in consequence I am as enthralled in your sorrows as you are, and I must admit I fear what your heartbreak would feel like. I think, no, I know, that the only indubitably sound course of action for us two is to always stay with one another and keep each other in mirth in the stead of sorrow.”

This came tumbling out of the old man’s mouth, rundown words directed at a rundown grave. At one time, these sentences had been his wedding vows; now, they were a practiced monologue and the only thing he could think to say to his wife, who was no longer there to share in his sorrow.

He had no family nor friends to alleviate his pain. The children of the neighborhood took him as a ghost, his pale skin looking unearthly as he stood unmoving in the graveyard day after weary day. Because of this they feared him, and that fear had slowly infected their parents as well. Thus, the old man did not even have a neighbor to lean on. His pain had all but beaten him, and now he was only threadbare skin on fragile bones. He was so, so tired.

At last, his eyes dragged away from his wife’s resting place and he lifted himself to his aching feet. In small, shuffling steps, he shambled away, stumbling over broken headstones and overgrown grass. The creak of the cemetery’s gate bid him goodbye, and he found himself on pavement, ambling down cracked sidewalk towards his apartment.

The old man had long since stopped taking care of himself, and as a result, his face was gaunt, his arms bone-thin, and every motion he made was slow and stiff. Things that had been commonplace, like brushing his teeth or even changing his clothes, had simply fallen away after he lost her. It was as if without her, he himself was falling away, bit by bit.

“I see you, old man.” The words very nearly didn’t register, but something about the voice made his feet stop dead in their tracks. He raised his gaze to meet the gleaming eyes of another man, who was leaning lightly against the rough brick of the street corner.

“Yes, I suppose you do,” the old man rumbled, voice hoarse from disuse. The other man blinked slowly and pushed off from his wall, now standing completely in the old man’s path.

“That isn’t what I meant,” he said. His voice had a disconcerting intensity to it, like if silence was a sound. He was wearing a long coat, darker than dark, and a hood obscured his pale, bald head. “I meant that I see you, and the sorrow that clings to your every action.” The old man didn’t respond, his thoughts already back with his wife. Undeterred, the other man continued. “You could join her, you know.”

That captured the old man’s attention. “What?” he whispered. The bald man’s lips peeled back to reveal a bare, apathetic grin and gestured over the old man’s shoulder. He did not need to turn to know that this stranger was pointing to the graveyard from which he had just left.

“I said you could join her,” he crooned. “It would be so easy.” There was nothing violent in his voice; this wasn’t a threat, this was an offer. The old man could muster no words, but his counterpart didn’t seem to mind. The old man could think all the thoughts he wanted, and the grinning man would wait.

There were quite a few thoughts to think. As much as it burned him to admit, it was a tempting offer. He so longed to be at peace once more, to be with her once more, and he was so very tired. He thought of a future with no more sleepless nights, no more creaking bones, no more visits to a grave with nothing to say. He thought of taking this grinning man’s hand and simply ceasing. But then he thought of a smile made from sunshine and honey, and trusting eyes staring back at him, and a clear, lovely voice telling him exactly what it felt. Suddenly, there were no more possibilities to consider.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to decline,” the old man decided, a wistful smile alighting on his face and erasing his tiredness, if just for a second.

“Are you sure?” the stranger said. For the first time, his face showed something besides a detached interest. For the first time, the grinning man seemed just a little surprised. “You’ll be coming with me soon enough.”

“Yes,” the old man agreed. “But not now. I don’t think she would like it very much if I gave up now.” The other man nodded thoughtfully and turned away.

“Well, I guess I shouldn’t take up any more of your time, then,” he said over his shoulder. Whistling a slow, melancholy tune, he began to walk away from the old man. As the stranger turned the next corner, the old man could have sworn that, just for a second, there was a scythe clutched between his pale fingers.

The old man stood there for a while before beginning to meander forward again, content to carry his sorrow for a few moments longer.

© Copyright 2018 N. B. Hill. All rights reserved.

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