Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Old Man Thoughts
By Erick Harr
The bus lurched forward and lazily circled the roundabout which surrounded the historical monument commemorating Mexico’s independence from Spain. The “Victoria Alada” stood atop a 50 meter spire in the middle of one of Mexico City’s main avenues.
The statue itself, complete with gold plating, represented the greek goddess Niké holding out a crown of laurels, ready to place it atop the heads of Mexico’s victorious heroes. Looking up at the statue from inside the bus the old man could barely make out a silhouette, teetering on the edge of the railing. His sight was not what it used to be and by the time he had reached into his coat pocket and put on his glasses, the figure, which he could finally identify as a man, was plummeting through the air towards the ground, finally coming to a stop with a resounding thud.
His initial shock was overcome by his desire to see. It wasn’t a morbid curiosity which drove him to get off the bus and, even more frightening, it wasn’t his desire to help. As he took his first steps towards the monument he began questioning his motives. Why had he gotten off the bus? Why was he walking towards what were surely the mangled remains of a grown man? He could give no justification as to why his feet were carrying him in the direction of what were surely some poor fellow’s remains.
There was nothing there. No body, no splattered blood, no sirens nor spectators, nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, it all seemed overly ordinary. No cobblestone was out of place, not a sign of wear or erosion was visible on the monument. It was as if time had decided never to pass over here. He was certain of what he had seen and was left utterly bamboozled at the idea of his eyes playing tricks on him. He then caught a glimpse of something near the corner of the monument. As he approached it he realized it was a piece of jewelry. He picked it up and inspected it. It was a ring but it was old and corroded. He could tell that it had once been an exceedingly beautiful ring. It was the kind of ring that would make any woman jealous of the bride who received it.
Well this certainly puzzled the old man and left him feeling somewhat foolish - questioning his sanity. How often was it that one saw phantasms leaping off buildings and leaving behind cryptic clues? Maybe the nurses were right. Maybe he was getting too old to go on his leisurely walks around the city where he grew up. They had been telling him for quite some time now to act his age. He would always scoff at them, tell them that they tried to coddle him too much and that he should just be left to his own devices. However this experience made him question who was right. Being left with a feeling of utter confusion, which it seemed to him was the quintessential characteristic of old people, he decided to leave the monument, feeling somewhat uneasy after the experience but steadfast in his desire to complete his walk nonetheless.
Upon reaching his usual resting spot along Reforma Ave. he sat himself down on one of the many rustic benches which dotted the length of the walkway along the busy street. No sooner had his body touched the backrest when he was approached by a young man in an expensive looking suit carrying a small box in his right hand. There was a certain aura about him. He seemed to exude self confidence, as though all his dreams had just come true.
“Is this seat taken?” the young man asked in a soft yet stern voice.
The old man, who only wanted to be left alone to ponder his “old man thoughts,” because that is what he was calling them now that he was finally embracing his age, answered the young man in a deferential tone. “Yes it is”.
The young man noticed the old man’s coarseness but took no heed of his answer and sat down anyways.
“Maybe had you not always been so selfish things would have actually worked out you know.”
At this the old man turned to face his new unwilled companion. There was something about his face which intrigued him, but he couldn’t quite make it out. “Oh?” said the old man. “And who are you to be judging me young man? There are other benches you know? Leave me be and go about your business!”
The man in the suit looked away. “You never really understood how to treat people. Did you?”
The old man had had enough, as he turned to assault his companion with a barrage of insults he was met with an empty seat.
Well, nearly empty save for the box the young man was carrying. The old man picked the box up and turned it over in his hands once or twice. From the soft black velvet which enveloped its exterior and its small square shape he deduced it was a ring box.
His fingers trembled ever so slightly as he opened it. There was nothing inside but a crease, just large enough for a ring.
Writer Erick Harr was raised in Mexico City and is currently a senior at the University at Albany, SUNY, studying chemistry, and graduating in May 2012. He is a member of the UAlbany Rowing team and on a warm enough morning you can see him rowing down the Hudson River with his teammates.