I hate the sound of children laughing. I urge myself to yell at them to “shut up,” but I am too old and too weak to fight anyone who I anger enough. So I just sit here, rocking slowly on an old beat up chair that has more life in it than I do. Rocking back and forth, even though it hurts my back and knees, and even though the loud creaking on my weathered porch feels like a slow drilling in my brain.
I am a lot older now than the last time I took the effort to recall. At some point, you have to stop counting because it no longer makes a difference. I feel emaciated, exhausted, and continually anxious. I stopped caring about me the same day everyone else did. I peer out of my beady, hateful, bitter, eyes. People like me need peace. This beach is mine alone, and my home is the only one that should belong here. Even if it does reflect me in its broken down image. It is lost among the grander, updated models that line the coast for miles. My home is lost, and yet it stands out among them all. The tiny, two bedroom ranch, once a bright white with a shiny spindled porch, now just peels gray strips of splinters and spits out rusty nails. Brightly colored hanging baskets have long been replaced by molded and blackened wicker pots of insect infested mire. All of this is encircled by an overgrown mass of wild grasses and dandelions, and plopped along the strip of sandy beach. If only time had not taken over and shoved my life out, although none of this really bothers me. The sun stopped shining here a long time ago.
I am nothing but an old man that God has obviously forgotten, an old man waiting with increasing impatience while those around me continue to discretely look upon my existence. And those brats run past my dwelling, releasing their ridiculously exaggerated screams. Calling me the “crazy man” is fine, for that is what I have become during this process. I hate them all anyway. And they return that sentiment. I see them whispering and I imagine their words. “He’s always lived here,” they say. “He sits there, waiting, day after day after day.” “Who is he?” “What is he thinking?” I’m thinking that you’re all a waste of space. It’s not even a real summer and yet here you are. Bearing your goose bumpily bodies. The world should never be exposed to such sights. I wish I had the nerve to take pictures of the enormous bottoms that try in vain to hide beneath those ridiculous bathing suit skirts. If I had a Polaroid camera, I would hand people pictures of their rear ends. See how they like it. Then there’s that dim-witted bird man. He’s young and pimply and attached to a giggly girl in her twenties who snorts and lets out the most unattractive peals of laughter as he throws pieces of his sandwich to the battered seagulls. I hate those wretched birds, and hate more those that encourage their existence. As I watch, I pray that he is swarmed and eventually buried by those nasty vermin of the beach. It would be a pleasure to watch his pain.
But this is all a game for me. I find it amusing. I need the amusement while I wait, and it makes the time go faster. Although the waiting has taken over my life and my whole being is consumed with the tiresome task. One I have never learned to tolerate and had I the choice, would fight the imposition.
A cool breeze fans my face. It’s a tiny pleasure I force myself to ignore while I pan the beach some more. My eyes stop, suddenly captured by a young family. Their scene is different from the others. It’s brighter, more alive, for some reason. With them the sun shines, the sky is a clear blue, and the sand is soft and white. I see only them among the hundreds running in the way of my view. They find their chosen spot and begin setting themselves up for the day. The man, whom I assume is the father, sets down a large cooler and begins twisting an umbrella base into the sand. The two little boys squeal and start digging in the sand while the woman lays down a bright multicolored blanket. She is the one who almost immediately caught my attention. Usually I watch to sneer, but for now I just watch her because my eyes make me. She turns so that I see her full in the face and the creaking suddenly stops, my heart leaps, and a gasp escapes my lips. I am instantly young again and a joy from the past consumes me.
It is my Anna. She is here, but only for a second. Maybe it was the way the sun fell on her face in that instant or the angle of her head. Maybe my desperate need to see her instigated a sudden apparition within this stranger. What ever it was, it created a moment that triggered a sensation that, in turn, opened a wound. Joy, pain, sorrow: they all wrestle against each other to gain power over me.
My Anna. Where is she now? Is she alone? Does she know what she’s doing to me? Does she know that I’m waiting here still? From the moment we met, she’s kept me waiting. My Anna, who left me not so long ago in a world that no longer wants me. In a world that I no longer want to be in because it is without my Anna, whom I yearn for. I was so happy then -as happy then as I am miserable now. I wasn’t kidding when I told her that I wanted us to go together. I told her that it would tear me apart otherwise. I wasn’t kidding. And I thought that she understood and agreed to it. We were so in love then, so earnest in our feelings, but the love drained from my every vein the second she was gone and I realized that my greatest fear had come into fruition. The love was replaced with the most opposite of emotions and it devours me now.
Now I sit alone with her words echoing in my mind. I look forward to the day when I see her again, and when I hear her voice gently tell me that she is mine. I feel her arms around me now, enveloping me with a sense of urgency, as if I would escape should she let go. As if. I dream of those arms every night. I dream of her. I don’t always see her exactly. Sometimes she is just a shadow or I just see wisps of her. The way her dark brown curls would tussle around her shoulders, her peach lips would melt into a smile, and the mere sight of her would radiate my days. None of these things changed as time took over. Not even her soft brown eyes of years ago. When they looked at me, they drew me in, all those years, and right up until the last moment when they closed on me and I was shut out and left behind. My memory is fading with her image. But I will never forget her touch or her voice. They will die with me. If ever that day comes. When will that day come?
How many more days do I have to sit here and wait with the patience of a punctual man, waiting still, an hour past his appointment and checking his watch every minute. I have no need for a watch as it would just prolong my agony. Until then I just sit here and wait for my turn to leave. The creaking commences, reminding me of how much my body aches. The world around me resumes its usual murky setting and I settle back into my consciously mean spirited, yet dependable, disposition. I will sit here and rot with my house, and glare at those who have got what used to be mine. That is all I have the energy to do. I will wish them all ill because it hurts more to miss what they have, until the day I am released back into the arms of my Anna. I hate them all. I hate their joy. I hate the sound of children laughing.
It’s amazing how perspective changes everything. When I was a child, there always seemed to be a house that my friends and I would run past. I remember one specifically that was near our school. It was in London. And we would run past, screaming, as if being chased. I don’t know if the stories were true about a crazy man watching from the window. For all I know, it could’ve been a made up tale, created to add spice to our journey home. But the aged person, whether the mean old man in the rocking chair or the scary cat woman, existed in our innocent minds. And I am sure, in life.
I never forgot these memories as I grew older, and I always wondered what the real stories behind these strangers were. What made some old folk so bitter and hateful? What made them so scary to little kids? And were they always this way?
My story, Anna introduces the typical old man that kids run past. And when you begin reading his narrative, it conjures up negative feelings about him. He’s so rude and mean. But the sun shines even for the reader when the man sets his eyes on the young lady on the beach, and his memories of his lost love are revealed. And also his lost faith, if he had any. He blames God for what he lost, rather than praising Him for what he had.
The day Anna died was the day he gave up on life and allowed everything around him to die too. Now, as the reader who sees from the old man’s perspective, you get it. He’s broken-hearted. And when the story ends with him resuming his bad attitude, it’s almost okay.
What did you guys think about this story?