The old man

He sat on the footpath, propped against the shopfront.  The bright neon illuminated his face and cast deep shadows across his eyes.  He laughed loudly as I passed.

“Two small dots of light illuminate my black cell,” he said.

“Is that so?” I reply.

“Others have found freedom much earlier,” he says. “Sometimes I hear them calling outside.”

I stop and listen.

“I yell out,” he says “I ask them if there is a way out.  Some call back.”

“What do they say?” I ask.

“You must close out the light. You must plead out to a higher world. There is no more help than that.”

The old man covers his eyes and goes on.

“I cup my hands over the holes and plunge into darkness. You must find the way out yourself,” they tell me. “I try to find the way, but it is nowhere.  I peer out through the two pin-prick holes in my cell.  I ask those that pass to come into my sight, but they leave and go their own way.”

“Where are they going?” I ask confused.

“The light is blinding outside, the world is full and we can see to the horizon,” they say.

He uncovers his eyes, peeking through the cracks of his fingers as his hands slide down his face.

“I look once again through the windows.  I see the same things that are always there and try to make sense of them.  I am a camera.  I record all I see.  I search to find new things.  There is no way out.  I have looked for many years.  Now I grow old and the once bright rays grow dimmer with every winter.  The light will soon be extinguished and I will no more dream of that place.”

He looked up at me.

“Do you have a few cents for the bus?”

“The bus?” I ask and reach into my wallet. All I have is a five dollar note. I cannot leave him bereft.  He takes the note and holds it up to the light.  In silence mouths a few words.  He crumples the note into the palm of his fist and glares at me.

“I read your words and try to make sense of them.  There is no sense.  I have been here for such a long time.”

© Anthony Wood 2011


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