Short Story – “An Elder’s Springtime” – 5,500 words – Unedited

I

He paces, in support of himself. His footsteps crumble remnants of a previous Autumn, for now the season is Spring. Something keeps his forward direction, though his heart requires a quilt, even as a hand to keep it company. This elder, this man, follows the sidewalk gleams, like it were a pathway of snow for the burial of a crippling load of memories. A true encore, a flutter of wings, press him on this path from the birds, overhead.

It is behind where nothing goes on, though the steps are speaking. Passersby are not telling his tale, though finding amusement in his loneliness. In his gait, there is what can be called the loner’s walk. He strides to the predictable speed of a man his age, though without energy in what could lift his legs further. It is this sight, perhaps seen of many elders, that their meaning for being old becomes greater when youth could hold his hand. It cannot be to mean this man is miserable, though memories could not be merely warm when they are hoarded. He falters, not with age, though with the carrying weight for being without much need for a smile. He will not receive the gift of an embrace, nor the kiss upon his crumpled lips, as his eyes can close for a moment more with morbid contentment.

Bittersweet. That must be the word of age. A fulfillment, though never perfection. A forcefulness, it might be, to be stilled of the self where movement cannot overcome another obstacle. The sun is at his back, though there is also the place of his history that will, without his needed approval, repeat itself in the young. This elder, all with grey of temples and partial lameness of back, can feel warmth where both that and coldness reside. His back is warmed, though he cannot stare ahead at sheer uncertainty.

What part of death is certain? There will be the end of a story where many pages are tossed in with a casket. Flowers can adorn death, while voices can scatter to be said of both ridicule and praise to that ending. Bittersweet is the face of death, showing equal judgement with allotted worship to a life having been lived. This elder is the mere lightbulb of many in the street, lighting the way for the youth to walk. Yet, even as the dark encloses upon such streets, no one notices those lit lamps. They are among the usual, as no one points them out. The one time they are spoken of, is when such becomes missing. Then, one can say of this old man, “Where was he? He was just there, walking on that pathway with everyone else.”

Each person, each light, burns out as though a spark, though leave no trail as this was already made for them.

This man can repeat his steps, can walk in this gait of being forced for content to his gaze. He can walk either in earnest or in the mindset of unendurable solitude, since that is to be alone upon a pathway fit for both Spring and Autumn. Upon what raises or what falls, memories shout loudest to his man, being of neither. Distance becomes recollected, since the trail that recedes backwards is the one a person can notice. Now to say that if someone shows signs of confusion, another can come upon their path to aid in the direction. For this elder, his aid is not the co-pilot to his imagination, weaving himself fears for where might be correct to navigate, and nor is it another person to take his hand upon the journey towards a place most unexplored. It is the memory that traverses itself, that he will follow its lead in whatever bitterness, in whatever sweetness, lands as the taste atop his lips and tongue.

Birds still encore, for his presence, and this memory calls him to his own youth. Springtime brings him to enticing moments, though draped in the pleasures that come with being gullible. Instantaneous moments of gratification, that similar to his place of the current time, fizzle and dry out as though drenched with the storm of reality.

“I am, or was, in that age, just someone who felt the urge to discover, even if that meant to shatter my dreams that were only a momentary awareness,” says he, of his mind, continuing to, “I wish I had lived longer in those periods, since I can now speak of life being far too much sheltered from bliss.”

His limbs are old, his walk is stooped, while his voice creaks as though he were in pain, though is not. An oldness, a coldness, while a warmth always surfaces to remind him of that much needed sweetness to belong. On days when kind souls press his hand, taken when he will find himself peering into their eyes, he wonders on the imageries of his youth. As a memory enters his mind of one evening with equal parts grey and also a sublime blue, he is witness to a specific moment for being reminded at what was meant to be lost. A gullibility for being in his youth, that this moment speaks of sadness in its escort to presupposed betterment. Wisdom would rejoin itself with him, on to the conceived ending.

At that moment, he discovered that to love a woman means to first pay attention to her. At first sighting to what strode dashing in comparison to his adolescent self of rebellious outlook, he ignored his manners to behave as a boor. He followed her past sceneries not too shaded, though her instincts compelled her to turn a corner towards an unspecified motel. There, she sat within a chair, hoping for attendance to herself not by her follower. Seated, and thus appearing swept at the green eyes of hers with plain somberness, her follower, now standing at the window of this motel and looking in on her, observed her dipping her head.

“It was upon that moment that I ever saw a grown woman cry,” says the elder, once more, continuing with, “I had never known my mother, always rebelling apart from my father, in earnest. I saw this woman’s eyes, as I was witness to the tears that came clashing against small traces of light beneath where she was seated. I could not help it, as that was when I wept my first time, too. As a a mere toddler, I felt my father’s hand. When it grazed my cheek, its burn meant I could fathom Hell. Though, when I discovered a woman’s tears, it was as if I also could find Heaven.”

What was it to him, that a tear formed by some apparent sadness, could remind him of a chosen destination? As though to route himself, upon radar or GPS, towards a place he would most like to crawl, once more as the curious infant. He grew from adolescent to simple adult of early design, still with an engagement for what is merely wanted. “I want,” said he, being one adolescent in an age budding with neither fear nor certainty. “I want to keep doing this,” continued he, referencing what will be done, until pain is greater the cure until the end of it. Alerted at the sting of life, since fear would grow into him before certainty’s lesser form. Certainty’s lesser form, such being that of confidence, as out of itself he will not ever endeavor to take Heaven apart from Hell. His endeavor to have lived, upon multiple misdemeanors that shape his form of a million particles of dust, still while he, as an elder, knows of nothing certain.

II

“Softness had allowed me to glimpse the sun, because I never knew what warmth had meant. A woman’s tears. Soft, though with their gleams, a certain deadliness resided. It was all I needed to conduct my own war, within my mind.” This had been the elder’s words, lifted as though taken from bewildering fragments, still at the confusion upon how they were ever collected. He might have had clarity, though certainty would not amount to it.

With a short conclusion to his current thoughts, his mind goes to say, “I needed a heart to latch upon, while my mind had spun. There was impulse to the decision, because I would come to learn that love forgets freedom.”

Give a man time to be broken, and then he’ll speak of wanting an infinity to correct himself. That was he, during an early adulthood, where mistakes were common, though even the majority to them can be only an excuse for not growing. To be someone, then to find it is not enough, should or could not be to the blame or with gratitude with those minor errors. We can all describe the most poignant moments that caused us to spill the rainfalls from our eyes, since rebellion has a way with choice. Though, love? Love is no choice belonging beside it, because outside itself we are meant to fly.

We are meant to travel, we are meant to walk, to find the sunset as beautiful as the sunrise, though love will connect us back to importance. Love will tie the strings that had been loose, because nothing is more beautiful than the face before us.

In early adulthood, he gravitated to choice, ending with more mistakes than to the responsibility that would forfeit freedom for improvement’s sake. He loved, or he thought he did. He thought he did, since he found for himself that it was not rightness. His heart failed, upon that occasion. His heart stopped beating when the wind had called him away. Teardrops had given him a lesson, in meaning to count his footsteps traced backwards. He felt there were walls, though no corners for comfort. While one corner was perceived to be a woman, it was mistaken as the only one. He saw beauty being transparent, though faceless, before his eyes.

He spoke to her of words he could not, himself, repeat, “Do you also cry?” as the relationship was fresh, and his feelings were being poured.

To her response, she gave the reply, “Only if you endeavor to hurt me.”

“What hurts a woman?” was not his spoken words, though said in his mind. And, so, what hurts a woman? The leaves are hurt, because no one caught them before their landing. Yet, they landed softly. The clouds were hurt, because no one says the rain is a terror unless it brings a flood. Even then, what blocks a flood? What devours it? What hurts a woman, as what softens her landing? What ceases her flow of sorrow with the spillage of endless tears?

Truth. “I can say that honesty both hurts and heals her,” says he, of his elder’s mind. Carefulness. “I can say that the confusion of a man is the inability to know what to speak, when the rain comes from a woman’s eyes. It shocks him. It enthralls him.”

Then, to tell the truth is to simply let. To be careful is not to force, though allowing what falls of leaves or what floods of tears to happen.

He asked her that question, for which we shall repeat was, “Do you also cry?” since it perhaps meant to wish for a warning. She gave that, to mean that should she be hurt would be enough for tears to fall.

Tears of a woman can grow a garden, though whoever tends to it is the one there to keep sadness pouring. A man can be that misery for her, with continued hurt to cultivate such a garden where briars with thorns are the only sights among it.

In giving her response, his presence there or anywhere was not to offer her hurt. No, with hurt, could only come his own. A man would break at the chance to do so, only to ask for an eternity more to correct himself. The elder, here an adult in those early stages, wanted just a moment to give her heartstrings music. An experimentation upon them, since he had not ever played music. A mere novice composer to the harp of a woman’s heart, aiming to, all at once, compose the masterful symphony that accompanies the gentlest, though saddest, aria.

It was not love, in their eyes. Not love, though instead the typical infatuation that takes its hold at the immaturity of two people lost within the other. They were made at this fatal arrangement, and were just the type to end it so quickly.

Not two weeks since their first meet, and then hearts were heard to crumble. She fell, though he came to the ground sooner. He was meaning to sweep her, though he let the form of hers give its descent way to the solid her feet were upon.

He had only come down low to see what it was brewing in her eyes, despite them being shut as well with hands to shield the downpour. He had seen what was meant by her, as the hurt he would or could give, should that be what entices her tears to fall.

This was the second time he had seen the tears of one he could call a grown woman. More than all else, he wanted to know why she concealed her face with the tapered fingers of the feminine hands. He wanted to know why it seemed like curtains before the storm, as if the clouds were not enough to shield the sun. Even to minor sections of detail, he wished to comprehend why her cries were so light, even if his words, though daring in nature, come upon her as abrupt and senseless.

Words were spoken, not of truth, though came to say that he was abandoning her. An admittance that spoke more to her, than to himself. Youth, in their infatuation, thought meaning was inevitable upon both the beginning and end of a single glance. A glance that could tell the whole story is upon youthful mindsets, gullible for trust being sent to the wind, while nothing would amount to this endeavor save for shattering simple hearts.

It might have been ever the monument of trouble with his father, soon when he broke the news of his departure from the woman. For danger being possible at the sorry risk the son had been forced to reveal, the father’s hand did not come. Instead, after the latter inquired over her, he spoke of the mother who his son never knew. He spoke with the restraint that was all too visible, because his irises danced in faint puddles, while his hands had a grip to the armrests where he sat. His words were, “What had ended so soon with your mother was just the same with that girl you have left. There was no fire in my wife’s and your mother’s veins when you, as an infant, had just opened your eyes to see the light. When was the first occurrence as you saw a woman weep, will not ever be the final time. There will be many instances where you will see a woman dance in streams of her own making. Some will be flavored in sweetness, while others with bitterness.”

As it was with that speech the father gave, his son gave his attention perhaps for the first ever time, too. He saw what he could not see, because youthful obstinance held him at bay. His stubbornness deprived him of greater bounds to maturity.

“I could come to ask myself what keeps the heart beating for a moment more?” says he, the elder, for a moment outside of his memories, to go on with, “Then, I’ll inquire on what a moment more amounts to. For that, I will have no answer.”

Is life simple? We complicate what we cannot ever comprehend, as such thoughts cause the turbulence. We may weep, even if there is no reason to show a vulnerability while both lost and comforted in the darkness. Life could mean to understand it, though understanding the unfathomable would result in a complicated existence. Endeavoring to solve complex fault with simplicity would be key. Though, in adjusting our eyes to darkness, we no longer stumble in being aware to our wounds. We accept the dark, finding meaning in questioning other ideas, another person’s light.

Where a person goes to discover, is light. We had been this way since we first needed to hide. Then, what would be necessary in hiding from those who wish to see?

To see what another understands? To see what another feels? Light can combine, though it is darkness that is indestinguishable when merely itself. It is when this elder, while a young adult, could only endeavor to discover tears, that to question it resulted in the outcome he latched upon. A heart, as he latched upon it. He wanted to see what a heart could do, when it is squeezed.

To that woman’s heart, he found an answer. Even if it was, for the second time, witnessed after a question was first proposed, the sight was ample for his father’s words to hold greater effect.

III

How does love begin?

One can say that it will either rise from Hell, or descend from Heaven. At first as a stone to make a foothold, then to be a rope that brings down a coiled ring. Faces wake at the guise for where the night was not the day’s identity. We see sunrise, and so we believe in warmth. Soon, we cannot endeavor to be cold, even if that means to follow another dark path. It is always daytime in our hearts, when in love.

A magnificent sea we spill from our eyes, when in love. Each droplet unquenchable to the fire in our hearts, as the next. We yearn for love, though it does not belong to desire. We speak of where we will place ornaments, tinier decorations, and tears. Though, love comes as not the want, since it is more the need. Every flower is a memory. All moments become their frozen place, when lips are locked to taste the fruit within the other’s comfort. Secure are we in the arms of love, minding ourselves always to continue the reveal even when it could be too late.

Too late, when a heart has stopped. Too often the hand drops, as the words were still being uttered.

“I am in your shoes,” said he, during a later period of the elder’s earlier life. Continuing with, while placing his hand to a beautiful, though giving off a slight pallor to the countenance, face of a woman before him, “You are what I could not ever want. You are what I always needed.” He looks down at her hand, reminding to himself, with glimmers to his eyes out of some sprung denial, that wrinkles are apparent even at her rather young age. From her hand to her eyes, then back to her hand, and he puts an individual kiss upon the edge of each finger.

Silence is her response, though he denies nothing of her ever smiling even through the ongoing illness.

“Three times I would be watching a woman weep,” says he, of the elder mind. It was the third time, though as realistic were his own father’s words, it could not possibly be the final time. She had wept, this dear woman to the now-adult from the elder’s past. She was to weep of pain, brought from illness. Though it was upon noticing the frail sight of her husband, this man sickened by his somberness, that gave her more to the pang than what was spreading throughout her form. A lost case with cancer, though her battle was not given up on the sight of her beloved, already bereaving as he was under her stilling gaze. Her eyes were becoming frozen at the focus upon him, seeing his weariness, noticing how much a engrossing illness, called guilt, had been finding its way through his veins.

Upon the observable mention of light, entering from its haven of Heaven, branched down and piercing the glass of a window, this young man’s eyes seemed to look up and pass those of his wife. The light, running in as swirls of white wine, gave to the face of himself the full, illuminated picture of grief. Stunning even to that of his wife, who no doubt was always finding this malady winding its course as deep and as beautifully painful as their love.

He wanted a tear to drown him, there. Just a single, solitary teardrop to keep him from ever floating upwards, to catch the sunlight. His face to the sun only spoke of what could be the words, “I wish I was not able to see what looked like hope.”

He then looks to his wife, pressured on the weight of what keeps him lowered on his knee, pressing her hand. He has seen her. He has seen, perhaps to once see it, before, in her, a different sort of pain. A pain not so like what kept him guessing for the last moment, though one that he kept turning his eyes from to see better into what agonized him. Towards the sun, the beaming counterfeit in place of what is ever required. He will neglect to turn back the pages, as all grieving people misplace from mind. Photographs are the mental imagery. Within mind, memories keep love rewinding itself back to familiar sceneries. We would call those places blissful, as we could not say they were what we wanted. Always will the notion be that it was what we needed.

Hope, though a great force to its own design, is more the convenience than the true necessity of love.

What looks beyond the waterfalling tears is not for the place of hope, though remembrance. That is love. What is love? It is where we go to say we were certain. Certain of what? It is being sure that bittersweetness is the absolute. Memories both black and white, as even the first of photographs were imaged.

With eyes remaining in place to her, something is meant to be realized. Something so vile, by its narrow viewed recognition.

In love, his heart can stop just so easily as her’s might, in the next moment. Why would a second be allowed to pass, would death then decide to rake its fingers about her form, in the shelter among that grotesque cave? Darkness and decay. Strewn remnants of what was held, now no longer.

She can see it. His beloved wife is here, as a witness to his momentary defeat, upon that realization, until she opens her mouth for a weak whisper, “At this window, you saw something so sad. Look at me. Look, and then see something not so brutal as the uncertainty of hope. Kiss my lips as many times as you wish. You were not meant to be alone.”

In love, he sees her. He sees what would not pass from his hands nor fingers, nor the mouth where kisses were gathered.

“I can be in love, for the next moment, upon the next. I can love until her heart stops, and then I will endeavor to love her even more. I will love until my heart stops, and perhaps the miles will continue on that same backwards path.” This, he said, in both the past and of the elder’s mind, seeing things that do not change.

“But I loved what I could not let go, and so I aim to continue love,” says he of the elder mind, ending with, “It was much too painful to forget what was meant to be released, and so I decided not to.”

“Kissing her smile will be the betterment to this hour,” says he, the past adult of himself, of his thoughts. He adds, “Do I gift her that smile? It is more radiant than the sun.”

He goes to kiss her lips, to press smile against another, combining the breaths they had shared, quickened at the increasing flow of blood. He kisses to stay there. Staying there, beginning to tremble, as the wet about his eyes begins to tumble. He had not adjusted to the darkness when it ever began to float about the room. He had never allowed his life to simplify. Fumbling at the stupefaction for his wounds, though to accept them at the final second that ticked at a nearby clock upon a wall. He was fearful, he had waited, all when his wife was passing between the moments. She had allowed her heart another minute more, before he sucked in her last exhale.

She was adorned as though pictured for the renewal of vows. Many arrangements and ornaments had been dressed about her, to the headboard her bed and the walls near the always opened window. All to keep afloat the spirits and state of mind always finding its method at sinking.

“I must been, or simply had been her light,” begins his voice, now before the deceased woman, “Though, I will never find pride in that. I could not consider than an accomplishment. I would merely enter this room, hold her hand, kiss her cheek upon a meet, to then hope for God to gift her lungs more than the earth has for breath. I had imagined her sighs to soar sails of fishing boats, to keep dandelions of their seeds travelling the elongated fields, to never allow the sea to stay still while fish ride the current. I had simply been in love, until the last breath.”

No breaths could count her. No exhale could sail her onwards, within life, though beyond it. Beyond life, within his heart, breathing the same fog outside of his mouth, and bringing in the same particles of dust that escape any and all surfaces.

Love had showed him a path directly back to it. As love being always a backwards journey to remembrance, to the photographs as black and white, bittersweet imagery that fascinates the viewer. Love beholds life, sheltered under its wing to see a story as more certain than the ever unaware future.

There is something he had heard before the curtains within her was shut upon her heart. At her lips, and nearly faded out, she whispered what he now repeats, “Sleep, will you? I cannot see you leave, at the time I do.”

His own heart, so weary. His fingers, now trembling.

He had unloaded, in his later adult years, a weight that was carried, and then had directed it down onto the bedsheets where his departed beloved rests, at final ease. Sleeping with soundness, and never leaving. His heart, now a feather, though would he weep, it should stop. How could he never again shed a tear?How could he never again find the colors in the sky to uproot his sadness, once more for the clarity?

She was loved, and now she dances with those feathers of his heart. She wields what he had long cradled. Love became his certainty.

To whatever tears may once again fall, let it occur.

Let it occur as the puddles where they are gathered how the same reflection of his perservering face. As he will either be among his wife’s spirit, or be questioned, among his days as an elder, where he was when he was just standing there. While he was a light for his beloved, his old form, haggard and nearly discarded from no further attention at an offered hand, can still be a light to those who, with hope, should not burn out.

IV

It is his day. It was always his life to find something that meant he could be contented. Then, it could not be without the guilt. He was given the ship. Throwing much overboard, to have saved more atop the deck. Memories as black and white, bitter or sweet in their nature, while at times there was no wind to keep the sails moving. At those times, while the current was dead, when the direction seemed to have none of itself, his choice was merely to push.

Where is his destination, at this time in being an old man? He will say it, would he be questioned over where he was heading. He will say to the inquirer, “I was heading to the flower store, to get something pretty,” for his next batch of words to be, “Did you want me to bring you back something?”

Could the inquirer’s words next be, with eyes upon the old man’s decrepit form, “I cannot request that, as I could not be much closer to death”? Words as such, proven biased and crude of the speaker if they were to be uttered, match the very fact of life. All of it, as individual sources of light, can never be certain of when their eclipse will come. Life is not out to be a safely guarded essence of light, of warmth, of serenity when riddled with such uncertainty. All to love is what comes to mind for being certain. The past, the bittersweet tales that never lose this middling flavor, as this is what offers the notion of grim and pure inevitability.

He will walk, this old man, at the task of finding something pretty at the flower store. However, he will not bring anything back when his eyes now follow the rays of the sun to its source. To its source, to the darkness that comes at a given glance.

What a moment to be blinded, to weep at the defeat of this Spring weather, because he cannot see it. Still, he cannot part from it, just as it seems like an eternity that his eyes will not stray from the sun. He sees hope, fading. He noticies life, disappearing. At the words that no one hears, trembling as if a gust of winter breath was against his flesh, he repeats what his departed wife did say, “Sleep, will you? I cannot see you leave, at the time I do.” Since it was never hope he looked at, though the sunrays were gushing his eyes into darkness, speeding his heart from pain into lifelessness. What emptiness is here clung in his hand, because the forward march to the flower store or perhaps it had been to the next town over, is no longer the task.

Here it will be all his memories to look behind for, in the endeavor to be bathed by them.

“Please let me fall,” says he, stammers to his voice as though wanting repetition in these words for a thousand more times spoken, continuing at, “Let me sleep, and most of all, let me keep.”

A teardrop falls. One single, solitary droplet mingling in the salt and pepper at the color and discolor of his hair. It descends down from his monochrome visage, beyond where his lips tremble. It casts off his chin as though a fish finding a diving opportunity.

It will be his last time to ever cry. When the tear falls, it lands upon the pavement of the side-street walkway quicker than his body collapsing.

One light, now surrounded by many others. Multiple hands reaching as if to give their fleshly quilts to comfort, not to smother, a gleam still belived to be alive. Their hope, though his love. His love is great for the past. Their hope, full of fear, remains uncertain even to the exact moment he had fallen. What had he fallen upon? Only could it be a bed of feathers, a place where perhaps other hearts stopped in this same spot. Other contented hearts, and where other faces were at least full in realization upon what was bitter and could not be changed or sweet and could be simply remembered as such.

His mind, still functional even after his heart had quitted its rhythm, floated in those flashing memories. All that he could not grasp, he touched now with residual softness. Since what was still a mystery to him, as such a thought could be applied to anyone, was heaved to the cellar of his unawareness, there was nothing to uproot places so abandoned.

Remaining softness now reaches, and now takes what could not be fathomed during the gradual growth of life.

The past, the terms that were met at to never defeat it, can to the understanding that certain places are for acceptance’s sake, as others can be readily regretted. Then, with what was dropped in a basement of his own mind, his hands can now find their place to enter such into this balance. Smaller moments, of details not made to be addressed, though can always add to the larger or smaller portions in what is known.

His light shined for the greatest areas of the world, and perhaps in one moment when a child asked of his stories, he told them with the same stain of regret and immaculacy of cleanness. Bitter or sweet. Regretful or satisfactory. What else could he respond to such an inquisitive child, other than, “You will, though do not hope for it, end all your stories the same as mine. You are already a light. A torch. A candle. A flashlight. You respond to the breath of fear. Hope is your way to let those lost know you are there. When your light is gone, you will sleep because others whom had loved you wished at your peace before theirs.”

If hope takes us on the road past fear, then what recalls ourselves away from looking over our shoulder?

Were we to only regret? No, as we were to find ourselves seeing a light that could never disappear.

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