By John Clise
It was getting late in the afternoon as the aging man sat soaking up the last of the day’s sunshine before heading inside to eat cheese, apples, crackers, and sweet tea for dinner. He had the same thing for breakfast and dinner each day.
He was contemplating what tomorrow might bring if it showed up at all. He contemplated if he actually wanted to show up himself. His life had been rich and rewarding. He thought about all the people who advocated for going out with dignity on their own terms. His nose involuntarily crinkled at that thought. He’d never been sure that was the thing to do.
Sitting there in his orange lawn chair, he heard the lyrics of an old Patty Griffin song echoing up from another apartment window. “You are not alone… lay with me tonight… put out the fire in your head…
He sat listening to the song, watching clouds that seemed motionless in the sky. Fall was definitely coming. Followed by another cold winter. It was his least favorite season. He didn’t care for snow on Christmas.
Still, he wondered what tomorrow would bring. What demands would be made on him. What rewards may come. What new opportunities would come. What inspiration would make him want to live again. What tragedy may want him to pass over to the next world.
And, he thought, maybe all that shit doesn’t mean a thing one way or another. Maybe life is just life, and you just take what you get. Maybe it isn’t anything special at all. It just is what it is… a number of years spent in consciousness amongst other people experiencing the same thing.
Religion, he knew, kept many from taking that step before what they deemed was their time. Other people thought that was just bullshit. Maybe so. Maybe not. He’d always been of the mind a person needed to find what would keep them going day to day, and year to year. Even in some amount he’d always managed to find whatever that something was for him.
In truth, it had been a struggle the last little bit to find that something to keep him going. Friends had moved on. No one wanted to fight anymore. Times had changed greatly. He’d always tried to keep up and adapt. Lately, though, he seemed to be running well behind the curve.
Physical limitations were beginning to take their toll. Failing internal organs slowed him almost to a crawl. He was losing the use of his left hand. His memory was slipping away.
Still, he knew somewhere out there somewhere was a fire waiting to light him up. He just needed to find it again. There had to be something somewhere to snap him out of the fog.
Perhaps he’d been caught in a web of yesterday contemplating his youth. That was a complex, and complicated time for him. In his his younger life he’d committed acts of great kindness that truly helped entire communities, and he committed great acts of violence… also benefitting entire communities. In life, he learnt long ago that sometimes you can do the right thing for the right reason or you can do the wrong thing for the wrong reason… but you can also do the right thing for the wrong reason and you can do the wrong thing for the right reason.
Another bit he learned was that a brief case full of rocks didn’t float.
He also learnt that you live with the things you’ve done or not done… both can keep you awake at night thinking.
Not every smiling face is your friend, and not every frowning face is your enemy. Not every who runs away is a coward. Sometimes people just recognize a lost cause. Self awareness is healthy.
He slipped back into contemplating what tomorrow may bring, or if he even cared to be part of tomorrow.
Another song came up drifting up from below… Too Late To Turn Back Now by Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose. They were telling the tale of love, and the protagonist wanted his lover at least ten times a day…
So what makes him want to meet tomorrow, and maybe even live again… a woman of course. How could a soul refuse the love of a beautiful, caring, brilliant, attentive woman… quite simply he could not.
He snapped out of his fog. Collected himself, and made ready to meet the coming day with his eyes wide open to the possibilities.