Treasures

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic


There’s a man who regularly dedicates his evening to my grandfather’s convenience store. He must be at most twenty years old, with bulging eyes of raven shade and hair so black it appears navy in the glare of light. Most often, he sits atop a stack of crates reading the newspaper, dressed in full Hitler Youth leader regalia and humming melodies of music unknown to me. Other times, he waits idly for the shoeshine boy to stop by. I’ve noticed he rarely speaks, simply mutters incomplete phrases not intended to invoke conversation.

He radiates a dramatic allure, something exotic against the decrepit grandeur of this nowhere community. I sometimes think he doesn’t belong here. Maybe in the glamorous aesthetic of Hollywood, or those faraway empires with gold-paved streets and royalty. But he sure doesn’t have a rightful place here, where luxury comes in the form of run-down pawn shops and liquor stores and dingy supermarkets with rotting produce lined sloppily outside. No, I don’t think he’s figured out where he belongs just yet.

It’s on a summer evening that I first realize how adrift he is. My grandfather, with his limp and restless legs, paces at the door for any sign of the shoeshine boy. Upon realizing he won’t be showing up, the old man plods toward the cashier counter, where I’m trying to sneak lemon drops into my pocket, and asks me in that tired voice of his to grab the shoeshine box and polish the man’s scruffy loafers.

And so, I approach him. He peers up at me, his eyes the threshold to a mysterious depth. He looks at me, but there is no gesture of question in his gaze or in the angular planes of his face. All I see are the beginnings of a smile tugging at the edges of his mouth. I kneel before him, barely choking out my reason for doing so. He doesn’t protest, and with a tremor in my hands, I cradle his foot and begin my task.

My body surrenders so easily what my mind is desperate to cling onto. The quickened pulse in my veins, the pirouettes of my heart – I can’t quite understand why this adverse reaction is crashing over me like waves on a shallow beach. My eyes tentatively climb the length of his legs, drinking up their toned muscles. The storm brewing in my core, the war of thoughts being wrought in my head – it all feels intrusive and unnatural. I ask myself, how can I be so drawn to this man? Why is it that I cannot shake this feeling, this sense of attraction?

Amidst my tortured thoughts, I realize the man’s eyes are sweeping over me. Suddenly, I feel self-conscious, aware that my gaping hasn’t gone unnoticed. A burst of crimson rushes to my face, and I think to explain myself, to compose a lie about my eyes’ whereabouts. But in that instant, my mind is blank. Every second seems to be slithering by with the utmost caution, oblivious to my tired mind, or perhaps because of it.

Finally, my eyes level with the choppy motions of my hands. Maybe he senses my uneasiness or maybe the arrest of my breath is more explicit than I imagined, but before I know it, I feel his foot wriggle free of my grip and lift my chin to meet his eye. Nothing is clear in that sliver of a moment, everything is blurred into itself and unable to manifest in a sensible manner. One thing I know for sure: as his eyes hold mine like shackles and the tension builds to a crescendo, I realize he’s lost.

But it isn’t that he’s adrift. It isn’t that he physically strayed from his place of belonging. Somehow, the fire in his eyes isn’t an indication of confidence, but of a tragedy. They pour out sorrow better than my words could ever describe, more than I could ever unearth in this plain world. Maybe it’s inexperience, or maybe it’s that I feel driven to claw through hell to find the treasure of this man’s true place. Maybe I’m too young to fathom the potential damnation, but I know I’m too old to ignore it.


Submitted: February 12, 2018

© Copyright 2021 in-a-celluloid-scene-1995. All rights reserved.

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