Old Man | Teen Ink

Old Man

October 10, 2010
By Anne Gifford SILVER, Sudbury, Massachusetts
Anne Gifford SILVER, Sudbury, Massachusetts
9 articles 5 photos 0 comments

With every grimace of his mouth, I wonder where his wrinkles desire to go. Perhaps they’re seeking solace in his drooping ears and white hairline as they crawl into the corners of his saggy skin. Or do they crave to permanently detach from his face, rendering him naked of age? His grimace fading, my eyes revert to their own place of solace: my brown flip-flops against the brown car mat. Although my seatbelt physically restrains me, my thoughts scatter into a hundred directions. This man—this grandfather, like my own—does he see me? Are my stares the malicious ones, silently coercing him to grip his cane more tightly? Peering through the window again, I search for his eyes. His head is down, wrinkles clinging to his weathered face in fear of falling into the white parking lines. Perhaps with age, and with having freely walked the land for so many years, he’s built a rapport with the pavement. Perhaps he promises the pavement, If you keep me from falling, I’ll find a way to repay you some day. Perhaps he doesn’t think anything at all.

Having whispered his final secret into the pavement, his eyes carefully roll upward. Glassy blue. A smile emerges from where the grimace one resided. Or maybe it’s only his parched lips wavering, waiting for hydration. He sees me. Darting back to the car mat, I feel sheltered from his stares. I think of him shuffling through the rows of cars with only a weathered cane as guide—it’s like a Noah Baumbach movie on mute. His wrinkles reaching for elsewhere while the pavement reaches for him...is this my cue? Is this when I valiantly thrust open the car door, confidently stride through the parked cars, and courteously inquire if he needs a more agile guide? My window, being more a shield than a friendly outlook, reverberates from the noise of knocking knuckles. Looking up, I see Selina’s eyes growing with impatience. It’s second nature to comprehend a sister’s unspoken words: unlock the trunk. Pushing the trunk button on the console, the idea of the old man slowly meandering through the labyrinth of cars pushes my thoughts into a direction of shame and embarrassment.

His tan polyester jacket flags my attention. He seems lost in a foray of silver cars and jumping children, grabbing for their mothers with bags of groceries. A minivan pulling away, I can see his cane gently resting against the passenger door of a white Oldsmobile. The sound of our trunk latching makes my eyes dart elsewhere, but not for long. I look back to the Oldsmobile and see his wrinkled hand fiddling with something in his oversized khaki pocket. Keys? His glassy blue eyes flash in my direction, and a toothy smile reemerges from somewhere lost and forlorn. In the periphery, I see Selina pulling open the driver side door and plopping down next to me, pushing the key into the ignition. Driving off slowly, I turn my head towards the Oldsmobile, trying to smile to the old man—to let him know that I understand—but his face is turned down to the right, his smile completely faded and, for the first time, I can’t see him.

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