Old Man Young Man
“RING RING”, the bell mounted over the old door rung as another customer entered through the heavy oak door. The old man stuffed his pipe with moist tobacco, releasing a heavy but sweet aroma into the quiet pub air. Only a handful of other people were there, and all were seated alone at skirmished tables, either reading newspapers with small print or staring serenely out of the window, registering the many passersby’s and cementing their already convinced grim views of the world with singular subjective logic. The young man sat down with the two beers he had just bought and slid one across the table, only guiding it with two fingers, till it rested in front of the old man. The young man lit a cigarette with a lighter, the old man lit his pipe with matches and then placed the matchbox back in the pocket on the inside of his worn brown trench coat, worn but still classy.
‘Why so sullen?’ asked the old man, noting the young man’s moribund face.
‘I lost my woman’ the young man replied, not lifting his gaze from the table, he grabbed his tall glass and his fingers wet from the tiny droplets formed on its smooth surface.
‘A woman, or your woman?’
‘My woman.’ His lips tight as barbed wire the words barely escaped.
‘Aaaah, my young friend there is no such thing.’
‘How can you say that? She was mine…’ he finally looked up, his black with sorrow, and anger, and now indignation.
‘…and now she is someone else’s, on so it goes, onwards and forever.’
‘She wanted me to fight, but when I did, she resisted it.’
‘They never really want you to fight my friend, they just say they want it, if you do it is already too late.’
‘But it hurts.’
‘I know.’ The Old man did know.
‘I just want the world to know I love her.’
‘The world doesn’t care.’ He puffed his pipe and the smoke surrounded his head like an emaciated mist hanging around a Japanese mountain. ‘The world is indifferent.’
‘That sounds horrible.’
‘It isn’t, it is just, well, it is just the way it is. And the sooner you can accept this, the sooner you will be able to enjoy your life.’
‘But my life without her is nothing, I mean: a life without love..is it even worth living?’
‘A life without love?’ The old man smiled a gentle smile, showing a line of still white poised teeth. ‘There is love everywhere, and there is nothing to stop you from finding more. There is an indefinite amount of love in the world, and I promise you, you will find some more.’
‘Did you have love in you life?’
‘Where is she now?’
The old man smiled again, that warming smile borne of wisdom and calmness that can only come with the aging of body and mind.
‘I had many women in my life, all of whom I loved when I loved them, but when life guided us down different roads I did not linger at the crossroad waiting for them to return. No, I kept moving and I always found more love wherever I went. But young man, most importantly you must love yourself, and life itself. If you love life, and yourself, you will always have love, and it will shine through, it will show, and you will meet other women, because they too are looking for love and then you will have it in droves.’
The young man kept quiet, drinking his beer, lighting another cigarette with the butt of the first one. He wanted to believe the old man, he wanted to feel free and light and glad. He wanted all these things in his life and in his head that the old man offered, but he could not make himself see it in this light.
‘Do you not believe that there is one perfect person for you out there?’
‘Sure’ the old man quickly replied with his deep calm voice. A voice meant to read good night stories to little children and talk people down from window ledges.
‘So?’ The young man was perplexed.
‘So?’ The word was slow to leave the old mans mouth before he continued. ‘There is no such thing as a perfect human being, we are inherently flawed and that is what makes us such an interesting specie, but sure, you can find someone perfect for you, but there is no rule that says there is only one, there might be any number of perfect matches for you. What is this obsession with only one, with “the One”?’
‘I guess it’s what I’ve been taught to believe. Is that not what art and music and literature is always telling me?’
‘Art, and music and literature? They are nothing but liars.’ But the old man corrected himself: ‘I guess they are not always liars, as in they do not only tell lies, but they have no idea about truth or love. These things you can only know by experience. And it looks like you have already gathered some of that yourself. The old man looked seriously at the young man, careful not to demean his feeling of loss. The glasses were almost empty now. A few people had come into he pub, a few had left. Nothing much had happened in the world.
‘Should I, I mean, I don’t know, should I try and beg, and plead with her and give it my all?’
‘No, you must never beg, or plead, for a woman who loves you would never make you feel that way, she would never want to see her man like that and if it is love, you should not have to, because your hearts should both be gravitating towards each other. A relationship, my young friend, cannot be carried by two arms, so never try to lift it alone, without help.’ On this note the old man took the final swig of his beer in a composed and confident gesture. A gesture, a confidence and a composure that is only attainable after a long life of living. The young man did not want the little beer that was left of his, it was rather flat and instead he dropped his cigarette butt into it. The quick sharp hissing sound the glow made when meeting the liquid surface felt as good a place as any to stop. The old man got up and stood next to the table while buttoning his coat and placing his wide brimmed hat atop his bald head. The young man was looking at the smoke that now filled his glass. The old man hoped the young man would be ok, but in his heart he knew he would be, just like he was when he first experienced loss in his youth. His wrinkled but warm right hand grabbed his walking stick, the ebony sphere atop it felt cold but he knew it would soon draw warmth from his hand, while he lightly placed his left hand on the young man’s shoulder.
‘It’ll be alright, just remember, don’t linger, don’t ever linger.’
He walked out and the last thing the young man heard of the old man was the bell that rung whenever the front door opened or closed, to announce arrivals and departures, “RING RING”.