By Dr. Agonson
The dying man sits alone forgetfully sipping his tea. He watches the people walking around him. A young man looking for love stops by the pier and gazes out into the ocean. Fredrick thinks on how long this boy will stare into that ever-changing-constancy of sea and sky. These two men, like pillars holding lofty heaven, remain immovable as the flow of tourists builds and breaks, builds and breaks, like the tide, never the same and yet never really changing.
Fredrick wants to know why this young man holds onto this moment; How could hot youth find the time? The two spend their day under a darkening sky hung over the ocean’s eternal dance, and as the final waning of passersby trickles to naught the twin pillars hold. They stay as darkness sucks away all color leaving nothing but form.
Has he turned towards me, wonders Fredrick. In the night a man’s back is as his front, only a shape, the same coming and going. Why would he turn towards an old man? He had left the lid off his thermos and found it half full of cold tea. Staring out into the mystery of blue horizons and wondering at minutia always lead Fredrick to half-finished thoughts, and this half-finished life.
Was the young man now looking at him? He could not tell. It disturbed him, watching his vision blur with time, he liked to know. The gulls’ calls seemed to become a drumbeat leading Saturn’s march. A blind march lead by men who knew not where they would go. Fredrick rarely left his little spot by the seashore, never marched forward in time, but still, anachronism though he was, his passing was assured.
There must be an end to this story, Fredrick decides. Why has a young man stayed this day as if he were old?
The young man sighs, wakefully dreaming in the night. She did not come. Gently his fingers play with the rose bloom holding it past the railing. If he were to let go the rose could fall; He’d leave to seek a new morning. In this night he only knew the flower by the softness he felt on its petals, the memory of its deep red, and the cut of its thorn.
Night falls on his daydreams and they crumble like sandcastles, nothing left but mounds of dust. The breeze cuts through his shirt, making him as naked, eviscerating the warmth in his chest. His hand shivers and the rose falls into the gathered tears of ages past. The forgotten sorrows of all the world envelope his token, his memory of forsaken love.
The deed’s done; the weight is lifted; he can leave. But he decides to follow his rose into that great washing tide. The old man rises. He knows the time is for going out, the ocean has given and now takes; he knows the purpose of that boy, but with his elderly eyes sees the future the world is blinded to.
Oh, how inglorious is age when knees called to bend hold still and legs called to spring sluggishly move. But some hearts never age and when called surpass their known restraints remembering a freer day half forsaken. The old man crawls like a child escaping his crib over that weathered wooden rail, and falls sidelong towards the hungry sea.
Not too late, not too old, he prays.
Swimming with the current he flies away from sure harbors towards unknown fortunes. His beard gathers water and his thin wispy hair clings to his skull. He has forgotten his clothes. A heavy jacket, he had worn it a younger man, now gathers water and pulls him down.
Gasping he is submerged and disappears. Only the dark spot where the careless boy floats is seen. It had been night long now, but the sun’s light returned and a rosy finger of dawn broke that cold darkness, while, in the neverlight of Poseidon’s prison, Fredrik was born from his old coat. Rising, rising, the water breaks as this man, man in the very image, conquers death.
Born anew he seems, filled with zeal unknown of an octogenarian. He doubles, he triples, his time and races towards the forsaken youth. He meets him. In one arm he holds the boy up while the other makes great strokes towards shore. The battle is met.
The ocean’s due is of a will to consume them, but life battles on. Awakened youth sees the glorious sun rising in bright robes and now begins to see the morrow night had hidden. Youth joins the battle swimming hard towards what he had forsaken.
From nowhere, it seems, orange salvation floats towards them, a lifeguard’s gift. A guard not on duty, but always on duty, by the light of dawn espied them from shore and bravely joined the rescue. The three of them make their way and overcome the devouring ocean.
Reaching the shore after many hours, exhausted and cold, Fredrick expires, a man, for once in his life, a man.
Listen to my beautiful voice: