Over time the hair fell out and his memories spilled out from inside his eyes and formed wrinkles directly underneath them. White wires sprung from his chin and cheeks, enough to notice, but not enough to cover his straight lips; they only moved when his thoughts overcame him and became whispered words into the cool, spring air. His mind and his eyes wander during his short walks, towards the people walking now that the weather’s fair. Hand in hand lovers pass him, each couple moving faster than his slow patience neglected in his own youth. The lovers laugh about secrets and youth, the old man’s lips break and begin to move mechanically.
“It’s never all good. Can’t have it all. They’ll learn. They’ll figure it out.”
With hair, the old man knew the lover’s walk, knew their laughs, and the glances that shielded each other from death itself. He knew the warmth that came from making his lover laugh. Back then when he believed in a soul, hers and his intertwined and rose above the mundane sadness of everyday exhaustion. To the young man, his lover was a magician; a woman who turned the bored impatience of man into the profound and wonderful uncertainty it was. She created a passion in him that fueled hers; sometimes he was afraid to touch the life that glowed in her. She filled him when he was empty, poured out when he started boiling over. His young impatience became difficult for the young woman to overcome and although she asked for little, it became too much to give for the old man.
His wrinkled eyes looked down at the cracked asphalt and the few weeds that poked out where they could. Weeds’re fine too, they don’t mean no harm. Only doin’ what they know. He thought to himself. Bet she’d like that thought, too he thought.
“One day those kids’ll stop holding hands. It’ll be the hardest thing in the whole goddamn world. Make ’em hate love. Everything. I feel bad for ’em.” The air didn’t respond.
The young man, though so inflamed with the sometimes painful power of love, could not commit to his lover. He still didn’t quite understand his rejection to be with her; a puzzle whose pieces lied in his own calculated movements, in his possible but unpredictable future endeavors. He knew the way to success and knew the stakes. He knew what had to be done, who to be kind to, but was not aware that even love falls to the wayside. He loved who she was but had a particular life in mind, one he’s farther away from now than in his calculated youth. If she only knew, he thought, my life’s always been her’s…
Past the lovers and the asphalt, he makes his way to a red light and patiently waits his turn to cross. The wind is shallow but occasionally lifts his head from his loose fitting jeans and once shined shoes forward with an unnoticed sadness present in most glances he gives.
When the door opens and the light and laughter pours in from the park across the street, Janet immediately knows it’s him. It’s always Frank. Before the door closes he’s sitting on his usual stool in near dimly lit darkness.
“Hey-ya, Frank.” Janet says, as she does every day.
“How are ya, Janet.” Frank responds, as he does every day.
She never asks for his drink order anymore, just plants a glass of whiskey in front of him and unknowingly receives one of the only subtle smiles and nods he gives throughout his day.
Together, drink and hand, the old man tries again to pour into himself and wash away the wrinkles, the memories, and the unlimited sadness that came from one wrong decision; his everything.