The Old Man on the Corner

Says the Old Man on the Corner, his tattered, worn clothing hanging from his withered flesh.

“What would you give up to lose that last I love you?”

Startled, I could only muster a, “What do you mean?”

“What is worth the moment of anger within you? What is worth ignoring the love you feel? What is worth giving up what could be your last, loving words to someone you love?”

“Nothing,” I replied. “I guess nothing.”

“Then why would you? Why would you fail to honor what you hold so dear? Why would you cast away a torch in favor of the darkness? Why would you risk it all on what is nothing but an illusion?”

I had no answer, and could only stand there in silence, and suddenly the dollar bill I held in my hand seemed hardly enough.

“I once had it all,” he continued. “I loved her so very much, but our demons got in the way. I stormed away from her in anger, in love but angry, not knowing that she’d be gone. Now, all I have is this piece of concrete on which I sit, this empty cup, and the memory of all I’ve lost.”

“Did she leave you?” I asked as I sat next to the Old Man on the Corner.

“Yes. I left her in my anger, and she stormed away in her own. She died not far from where we lived, where I saw her last, where I forgot how much I loved her. I died too, although I have been sentenced to this hell for my sin.

So, tell me, what are you willing to give up to lose it all?”

“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”

“Please, son,” he said. “I can see it in your face. The hurt. The pain. The wanting to be special. But I can also see the love, the desire, the want in your heart. Which one do you choose?”

“I don’t know.” Tears started to well up within me.

“We all have pain in us, my boy,” he continued. “We all want our wounds touched with love, to be proven special to the one we hold so dear. Is that what you want?”

“Of course. I guess so. Life hasn’t been so easy for me. I just want something to be easy, to be so beautiful that it all seems so worth it. I want to love, to be loved, and never question my place in her world. I just want the dream to be real, the question to be answered.”

The Old Man uttered a short laugh. Not one that seemed dismissive, but one that seemed to suggest an understanding.

“I know. I’ve been there. You’ll figure it out. Just don’t give up, don’t lose the very thing you want the most because of the thing that once was. Try not to lose focus on the love you feel in your heart. You never know when that last ‘I love you’ will come. You never know when you will lose everything.”

“You are a very wise man,” I said.

“With pain and experience comes wisdom. Hopefully. Some of us never learn until it is too late. Don’t be one of us.”

I took out my wallet, replacing the dollar with a twenty.

“Keep it,” he said. “Buy her something from your heart. Tell her a story. Give her a kiss, hug her tightly. Remind her how much you love her. You will then remind yourself. That’s all the payment I need.”

I got up, and thanked the Old Man for his wisdom, and his time.

“Take care,” he said, “and let me know how it goes. If I don’t see you again, I’ll be happy. You would have come here for a reason. A good, loving reason.”

I turned, and walked away, wondering if one day I would be the Old Man on the Corner, yet knowing that I could certainly write my own story.

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