By Chad Inglis
Copyright 2012 Chad Inglis
Life and Death, Hate and Love - each but Vain Pursuit;
Tears as well as Laughter oft bear as Sweet a Fruit,
and if in these you deem a Unity, in Truth,
where falls the Line between the Heart of a Man,
and the Heart of a Newt?
- Francis Sheldon, "The Heart of a Newt", 1889 (unpublished)
An old man is sitting by himself in a bar, muttering over a beer. His frail body is dwarfed inside of an oversized jacket, and the hands that jut from its sleeves are thin, pale things, with skin like dry paper. Slowly (all his movements are slow) he wraps them around a pint glass; there's only a finger's width of beer left in the bottom, already flat, with slender trails of foam clinging feebly to the inside of the glass.
The world has no shortage of old men, and many of them are lonely. They sit in bars, or in parks or libraries, and they can often be seen talking to themselves, but this old man is different. For one thing, he's not interested in picking apart his own failures, making a pile of well-worn regrets or detailing a lifetime's worth of small or large misfortunes. He talks about others, people he's never met and who, if all things were as they should be, would never have existed in the first place.