Everyone else had gone to lunch. The vigil was left to the young boy. Alone. The old man’s frail body quivered beneath the sheets, rustling the fabric to match the wafting of the drapes stirred by a slight breeze through the open window.
The old man sighed, whispering the boy’s name.
“Great, he’s awake,” the young man thought, his face hopefully masking the annoyance he felt at the interruption of his online game, “Now I’m gonna have to feign interest until they get back.”
The old man slowly opened his eyes, blinking in the severe, sterile I.C.U. light. He called the boy’s name once more; his voice barely a rasp.
“Yeah,” the boy answered, “I’m here.”
The long pause that followed led the boy to think the old man had drifted back into his morphine slumber.
“The worst thing,” the man began, startling the boy. He spoke through long ragged breaths, as if in great effort to merely force the words past his lips and into the antiseptic air. “The worst thing . . . about dying . . . is looking back . . . over your life and wondering . . . if you’ve ever really . . . lived.”
As if on a slow swivel, he turned his head to gaze at the boy, moving the young man to discomfort with eyes of sudden intensity.
“A man may walk by his neighbor’s house . . .” the old man said, his eyes locked onto the boy, his breaths deepening and his voice steadying; deepening to a quiet baritone, “and admire his gleaming new car. Yet he may also take notice at the weeds and unkempt vines surrounding the driveway.”
The man’s eyes turned once again to the lights above as he continued; his strength carried on by a growing momentum.
“A young boy may revel in all of his toys, yet never notice the sheer amount that lies broken or gone lost.” Another deep breath as his eyes fleetingly glance to the boy. “Or that he himself is lost . . . and broken.”
“A man may know in his head what he wants, but only because the eyes are the closest gateway to the world beyond, seeing only what surrounds him; knowing that he wants only more.
“Yet that is a ruse; a game the world plays within the minds of men. You can not be all, do all, have all. That game will always end in bitterness, jealousy and disappointment.”
“It is a man’s heart alone that truly knows what he wants, what he seeks, and what he must have; because a man’s heart is closest to his soul; to his spirit. This sees nothing of the world yet sees all; knowing that it wants not more, but simply the One.”
The boy looked up from his distraction and scoffed. “So you’re saying,” he asked through a smirk, “that if someone believes in ‘the One’ that they’ll have not only a great car, but a perfect lawn and all they’re stuff’ll never be broken . . . ?”
The man smiled with a patience that only the old and learned could have for the young. “No. Not at all, my boy. I’m saying merely that if you seek the One, all the rest will find its rightful place.
“Search your heart. What would you truly rather have? Shiny, nice toys?” he asked, his eyes shifting to the boys tightly clutched Ipod, “or time spent with your father? Your family?”
The boy scoffed again. “Depends on which dad you’re talkin’ about.”
The old man nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Indeed.”
He closes his eyes and sighs. “Guard your heart, my boy. For the heart pays heed, not to the eyes, but to the soul and to the spirit. The heart knows what it wants. What it needs.”
Opening his eyes once again, he turns, looking to the boy for a hint of understanding. The boy’s eyes are alight with the iridescent glow of the Ipod screen as cartoon birds continue smashing into the rickety structures of brick and wood which hold the pigs aloft. A long, mournful breath escapes the old man’s lips.
“But, what do I know,” he says to himself, closing his eyes and settling in once again to await the arms of death; to awaken forever into the arms of the One, “For I am only an old man.”
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