Old Friends

   They sit there, two men. Two old men, sitting on a wooden bench, weathered and tired. They look at one another with eyes that still laugh as the winter wind blows the leaves about their feet. They are dressed in comfortable grays and blacks. Comfortably used. Comfortably worn. Coats, shirts and pants that have become like a second skin. Familiar and friendly and kind. Creased and wrinkled like old faces. Faces marked with the traces of yesterday's winks and smiles. The air is cold and it blows the brown and orange leaves from the trees. It blows against the old men, without grace, without charity, without thought, as they face out across the grass.
   "You came."
   "I did."
   "So did I."
   The trees receive the wind and sound out with a subtle shudder, almost imperceptible. Unnoticed. Unheard.
   "So, what's new?"
   "What's new?"
   "What's new?"
   "Nothing.... Nothing's new."
   The sky above their heads is clear and blue, like ice. Like crystal. White clouds -- soft, solid, strong -- move slowly and gently through the skies -- spotting the crystal blue -- breaking it.
   "You look good."
   "You look like hell."
   "Thanks a lot."
   They smile smiles that fall easily into place on their faces, showing teeth still there, still real.
   Leaves fall fast with the wind, raining down on gray and black shoulders -- leaving the trees naked and vulnerable -- leaving bare branches.
   "How are your kids?"
   "Old. My kids are old."
   "We're old."
   "And you look like hell."
   Nearby there is a playground where children slide for a moment, then swing as high as chains will let them as they dream of the day they go over the top. Their laughter is carried across the distance by smiles too young to know better.
   "How old are we?"
   "Too old."
   A child slips and falls and cries. His pain echoes over the grass to the bench where the two men sit. A paper cup, carried along by the wind, rolls past, then out of sight.
   "I miss you."
   "Because, I love you."
   "And... ?"
   The day is passing away. The old men stare at the children pleading for just one more moment as parents come to take them home. Some cry. Some fight. Some run or hide or sit on the ground refusing to get up -- refusing to go home.
   "You make me laugh."
   The sky becomes a post card. Quiet. Painted. Different, yet, the same. As seen before. As will be seen again. The children are gone, leaving their laughter and smiles safely hidden in the sand. The playground is still as the cold metal slide that stands abandoned. The chains of the swings ring like wind chimes in the breeze -- the wind -- blowing the sand, blowing the leaves, blowing the trees.
   "I've got to be going."
   "Going where?"
   "But here?"
   "I've missed you."
   There are leaves on the trees that have not fallen. Leaves holding on, fighting the wind, fighting the long way down.
   "I've missed you too."
   Old hands -- cold and tired and dry hands -- weak hands -- holding out -- holding on -- holding -- touching.



Return to selections from i through x