This Old Man
by Chris Hibbard
(Authors Note: In a creative writing class at the University of Lethbridge, one of many ‘prompts’ or ‘cues’ to get the creative juices flowing that the instructor skillfully applied each day, was to simply take some time to observe someone during the day, without them noticing you watching. Then write about it. Simple as that. The following is the result.)
This Old Man
Across the aisle from me there sits an elderly gentleman.
He has more wrinkles than a sharpei.
His eyes are closed tight.
Is he in pain? Immersed in prayer?
Reliving memories of a day gone by?
There are two golden rings on his hands,
One on each ring finger.
Has he been married twice?
Renewed his vows?
His mouth is open. Not much.
Perhaps just enough to inhale and exhale.
His lips do not move.
If he is praying, it is silent and internal.
If he is in pain, he bears it with dignity.
If he is remembering yesterdays,
It is impossible to tell if they were fond or melancholy.
How many sunrises has this man seen?
How much love? How much hurt?
Surely he was around for war and strife,
Through Hitler and Kennedy, Jazz and Disco.
Is he tortured by our modern times,
our frantic societal ways,
Our hustle and bustle and bigger and better.
How many children has he seen married off?
How many of his peers have laid down
Only to never again share a cup of tea or a game of crib?
I hope he is happy,
Or at least content.
I pull the string for my stop,
And smile at him.
Does he see me through his closed eyelids?
Is he asleep?
I wonder about him as I step to the curb.