come here old man
His gaze was dismal. His face pale and furrowed by his old skin. And those eyes… almost inert yet burning with sadness as if they were looking straight into empty meaninglessness. What happened to him? Had he found irrevocable proof that the universe has no purpose, had he understood the absolute nonsense of existence? His face was like an ancient ape, the first animal in the history of the universe to become aware of mortality – the original simian that understood:
” I AM
but I must die one day”
Oh poor old man!
Those eyes scanning the infinite indifference of the civilized world. Somewhere in the glimmering of his left eye I read his thoughts.
They were thoughts of a hopeful pessimist:
My life in shadows.
My life in this modern world
Splendid technological forms unfurled
Nobody knows the monster that’s been created
But who will listen to my voice recluse and alienated
If only we could invent a new auspicious religion
To bury our fears and escape ever-lasting oblivion
The old man stood up and got off the bus and sat by a tree. And then we rode off into other streets, other corners.
As if a long dreary dream had vanished like a dark cloud blown away by warm winds, the dim and vague dome of winter skies was lifted and fresh vivid rays from the sun basked the city with a joyful promise: a blossoming Spring was on its way. That long dream of darkness and chill was receding slowly into the past and along with it the sad and gloomy emotions that had conquered the lives of the creatures imprisoned by the cold and abysmal dark. Springing from an unknown source, like tiny white flowers peeking out in an ocean of green grass, words rose afloat in the consciousness of Mr. Vår, provoking him to hum the melody of his poetry as he strolled along the crisp blue sea. The awareness that sprung from the warm radiance of the sun was confirming one of Mr. Vår’s most optimistic assumptions; life was dear and enjoyable. Sea gulls suspended in the air, dogs playing in the sand, newcomer infants free to discover their new planet, Spring allowed earthly creatures to roam freely without the sting of winter’s cold. Hour and minute needles made their rotation round the clock’s axis and Mr. Vår aimlessly enjoyed his leisure. A cup of Chai tea, a fluffy white cloud, and the quivering of leafless tree branches were the pleasant impressions that struck deep in Mr. Vår’s perceptions of the day. As if the frightful command of daily duties was a forgotten myth of ancient history, the first part of the day was spent in trivial activities that far from emptying his spirit enriched it with new vigor. The complexity of life was reduced to the sipping of hot tea, taking deep breaths, rubbing a smooth pebble within his palm. The brief conversations with amicable strangers flowed like short pieces of Debussy’s piano preludes.
As the day progressed Mr. Vår fell into a lazy reverie. Rejuvenated by the richness of the sun’s light his steps seem lighter, closely resembling the hops of a small Goldcrest bird. He found his way through the city’s plaza, brimming with cheerful people and lost in the tides of idle pedestrians he gave rein to his memory. Transported through time in the lucidity of unclouded remembrance – Mr. Vår alone in the attic, smoking from his pipe, drinking his chilly whiskey, reviewing papers of bygone years, wind carrying unbearable temperatures, hail disturbing the sound of silence, alone in the attic, Mr. Vår.
Winter, slayer of light and color, had blurred the gay images of a warm autumn life. Trapped in the small confines of a wooden attic, restless as he poured all his weakened strength into completing his memoirs. In his most dejected moments he suspected the effort was in vain. A life, one in piles of numberless generations, one life recorded – for what? But Mr. Vår trusted the evidence of his years, the heights of his passion for life, the fathomless cliffs of his suffering, his message of hope to his people, his nation, his world. How urgent was the need to preserve his experience as an anonymous man, torn by the cruelty of solitude yet endured by his relentless attention to the question: what is life? His doubts were brushed away, guilt of pride withered away. It mattered not who had lived it, but that it was lived. Fully, totally.
Mr. Vår picked his memories of wintertime like fallen apples on a country field. The torture of writing his reflections on life, of reliving the pain and despair, the fear of death and the misery of lost loves, was observed from a distance- like standing on top of the pharos of Alexandria and making out the ships that came from other civilizations, bringing with them rare riches.
Fire crackling, the cold in his veins and a rough blanket covering his fragile old body. The years had swept away legions of dear faces, happy moments, and astounding dreams. What was left was a near carcass enveloped by the cold dark air of a winter’s night. But still a faint light glared in the menace of dark extinction, his memory, though severely battered by time, retained the core of his experiences and as the last ticking second of the clock of his life came closer, his passion was poured out through the tip of his pen. The candle on his desk flickered to and fro resisting its death when a strong breeze came gushing down from the chimney. The light of his memory similarly faced extinction, battling with the ailments of old age and fatal disease.
Mr. Vår found a resting place under the oblique shadow of a big Beech tree. The sun had traveled more than half across the dome of the sky. The memories of this winter’s past resumed. They were lonely nights. Uneventful. Searching for elegant words as you would search the beach for shiny pebbles. Retracing the steps of his life, reviewing old notes and unlocking repressed emotions. Then finding the words to express all of that. All of that which is inexpressible. Why? Mr. Vår had no definite answer. As futile as it was to record the fluidity of his experience with the rigidity of words he had no other choice. Language can at least communicate, however imperfectly, the inward life of any person. What no eyes can see, no hand can touch, the true experience of life as felt by everyone inside the dome of the skull, the moment of life – what no word can describe but merely point to it.
Before the sun set in the glaring sea, before the final light of the day revealed to human eyes the variety of color in this world, before the starry night came sliding over Mr. Vår, he walked back to the shore, in search of a last moment of tranquility. The great body of water in motion. A chaotic yet comforting spectacle. The sun drawing near to meet the distant arc of the earth, to sink behind the gigantic mass of this rotating orb.
Mr. Vår struggled through those last freezing nights to rise from bed and continue his project. Life was leaving his body, draining with each sentence, with each memory. But as Spring approached an unknown force reappeared in the marrow of his bones, a new vitality was felt as the final apothegms were being inked. He remembered those last days when he was closer and closer to finishing his work, he felt a second opportunity to live, to savor the fullness of life before he must submit to his ultimate departure.
The sun gliding down like a droplet of water down a window pane. A satisfied day. A satisfied life. He had finished his work after all, he was free just to live the new springtime. The memory of previous Springs came to mind but the moment refused comparison. It was the beginning of a new cycle, a new journey. When the last brim of the fiery star could be seen, Mr. Vår closed his eyes, abandoned all memory of himself, utter no thought to himself and in a profound silence experienced something he could never describe.