Old Man

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I perched myself on an old chair and sat by the window. Outside, the world looked gray and old. It rained cats and dogs. It would have been a perfect April Sunday. But the rain marred what would otherwise been a perfect day. My wandering mind couldn’t keep still. I was restless. I wanted to go out. But given the situation, I deemed it best to stay inside the house.

I was stuck in the house, wondering what to do. Feeling resigned to my fate, I took a chair, put it in front of the window and sat there. I watched the almost empty road in front of the house. Thoughts rushed through my mind as swiftly as the pouring rain. Boredom had set in. I heaved out a sigh.

I looked out of the window again. This time I was no longer alone. A lonely, old man stood by the side of the road. Somehow, his very presence eased my loneliness just a bit. At least, there was another human being within my range of vision.

Egged on by curiosity about the unknown visitor, I stared at him albeit hesitantly. His back was turned to me, so he was probably not aware of my presence. If he was, he certainly did not show any indication. The welcome company seemed to invite me to observe him some more (which I must say gave me an unfair advantage).

The old person carried an umbrella to protect himself from the rain. He wore a dark coat. But I saw him shivered. He clutched his coat tighter around him. He must be cold. ‘What could be his business in this gloomy April day? What could he be doing alone, in the middle of the rain? Doesn’t he have kids? How about his wife? Where is she?’ I asked myself all these questions and more.

Someone like him should not risk walking in the rain. Let’s face it; an old person has no business walking in the rain. It was a dangerous situation for him given the delicacy of his frail body. It could be slippery. He could catch cold. He could be stuck in mud. The worst scenario ran through my mind. Despite the fact that whatever concern I felt for the old person seemed lost on him. He was too focused on what he was doing to even give a glance in my direction. How different it must be, to be alone with nary a care in the world.

Somehow the lonely figure intrigued me all the more. There was no escaping him. But the more I asked, the more frustrated I became. There was simply no way I could get answers to those questions. I realized my helplessness somehow. And I began to wonder what the point of this whole exercise was. It did not seem to lead me anywhere.

He crossed the street and continued to walk. This gave me an ample view of his face. The old person was probably in his sixties. The white hairs on top of his head were prominent. His gaunt face looked refined by age. His gait was slow yet purposeful. He looked anxious, hence, the self-absorption. His worries occupied him more than his surroundings. More than the bothersome rain.

Somehow I envied him. Here I was, young and healthy, yet I dared not venture outside. Trapped in my own hesitations, I am imprisoned in this lonely house. While he, who ought to stay home, was outside braving the rain, looking more ardent in his pursuit. Upon closer examination, it seemed pretty clear that I was the one wearied by the world. I was afraid of risks, afraid of its consequences. Unlike him. I’m young in years, but old in heart. Now, who was the old man?

Struck by this sudden realization, I tried to make peace with myself. Life has a way of passing us by. In years I would be an old person too. Whatever risks or obstacles I need to face, I need to face them NOW. Just like the old man, under the pouring rain. Not later when the sun came shining out. And right there, I understood. I understood the old person. I understood his predicament. There was no time to waste. Advanced in age, he did not have the luxury of time.

I smiled. For the first time, I saw a ray of light under the pouring rain. How lovely could rain be? I turned to look again at where the old person was. But he was almost out of my range of vision. In few strides, I would not be able to see him. Goodbye lonely stranger! Goodbye my nameless friend! Gratefully, I watched as his lonely silhouette faded in the distance.

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