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The Disappearance

Shot of a happy mature couple spending quality time together at home

THE DISAPPEARANCE

By Geoffrey P. Jones

 

An old bearded man with a crooked cane

Sits on a blue park bench at the edge of a lake

That appears to be bottomless from where

I stand… He is alone, but he does not seem

To mind… Loneliness and aloneness are as

Different as night and day…

 

A knowing smile creases his face as he

Watches the world speed by without

Judgment… Or joy… Or apparent concern

For how the earth spins on its axis… He is

Neither indifferent nor engaged… He simply

Is… Merely occupying that place where space

And time conjoin… To clearly establish the

Boundaries of nothingness, while defining

Everything that ever will be… It is neither

Winter nor fall… It is November…When the

Months compete… To impose their will over

A grade school calendar that marks the days

Until winter recess…

 

There is confidence in the old man’s smile…

The kind of assuredness that can only come

From having seen it all… He knows there

Is no need for plans or schemes… Even as he

Sits there with holes in the soles of his ancient

Shoes… With mud on the cuffs of corduroys

That are in dire need of pressing… In the end,

He knows he’ll end up precisely where fate

Intends for him to be…

 

An expectant mother approaches him at a

Rapid pace as she jogs near the Hermann Park

Zoo… She is a thing of beauty to behold at a

Distance… She radiates… She inspires… She

Thrives in a state of grace and kindness…

And like all mothers-to-be, she controls the

Future of the human race in her hands …

 

The old man’s demeanor changes as she draws

Near… She produces a faint smile with great

Effort… But nothing can conceal the yellow

Purple bruises beneath her eyes… Bruises that

Peek out from the lenses of dark sunglasses as

She hides her shame and anger behind a grand

Charade that fools no one… The old man nods

At the woman while barely managing a smile

That is faked… He shakes his head in disbelief

Once she passes… Who could do such a thing

He wonders… And it’s the behavior of the few

That denies Darwin and Darrow their due…

There are monsters and inferior beings among

Us who will never evolve… All sinew, bone, and

Muscle without feelings or brains… And beasts

Like this will never change…

 

I can’t sleep lately and do not know why…

It has something to do with the now-ness

Of nearness… And of nearness to the end…

More than sixty-six years of good fortune

And bad luck are enough to blur and confuse

The original notion… The celebration of a

Birth… Fresh starts… New beginnings… And

It strikes me that the old man and I share a

Lot in common… He reaches in his pocket for

A cigarette and lights up… A ghostly cloud of

Smoke is exhaled… Gray blue… Almost as if

He is releasing a part of himself into this

Sullen November sky…

 

A young kid casts his line in the lake… Don’t

Be fooled… He’s a metaphor… We all throw our

Hooks and lures in the water without knowing

What we might reel in… The old man is lost

In his past as he dredges up memories and

Glorious dreams that he once entertained…

Promises he indulged in the waters of his own

Imaginings… Metaphors and worthy bookmarks

That were baited and switched by time’s brutal

Regime…But there is no bitterness in his life…

The old man knows he has fished for answers…

While others never cast their lines in the deep…

The bearded old man is without regret…

 

As am I… And I never imagined all of those years

Ago that I was searching… That I was on a mission

To find you in a game of hide and seek… That I

Was on a path that could only have ended in

Success when I found you… At that moment when

I first suspected you were out there… Just seconds

Before we met… We were children then… And

Here we are decades later… Fifty years on… Having

Brought each other up… Having raised each other…

 

Could you ever have imagined such a thing…

 

A street merchant deals ice cream, soft pretzels,

And cotton candy from his cart… The old man

Derives pleasure from watching the kids surround

The vendor while screaming for their parents to

Empty wallets and purses of spare change… The

Vendor hustles to grant each kid his wish while

Singing along to some Italian opera that rings

Strong and true from speakers that are hinged to

The cart… Unshaven, tattooed, and disheveled, the

Vendor sings to his heart’s content while looking

Most unlikely to appreciate the music… And that’s

The key to understanding human nature… You can

Never underestimate the capacity of one person

To astound another… To unleash the element of

Surprise… So the vendor loves opera… And at the

End of the day it’s all about the book and not the

Cover…

 

The old man rises up from the bench abruptly as

If he would like to share a thought… I wonder what

He has on his mind… Still smiling, he waves good-bye

To the kid who has yet to catch a thing… No bites…

No Nibbles… Behind the old man’s smile vague

Traces of uncertainty hide… Doubt… His eyes glance

Hurriedly over the surface of the lake in search of

Answers… He senses that time has run out… That

The race is over and that he has failed to make his

Mark… And that’s what we all fear, I suppose… That

There’s no higher purpose… That we never made

A ripple on the lake… That our lives didn’t matter

Much at all…

 

The bearded old man kicks the mud off the cuffs of

His corduroys and extinguishes the cigarette… And

Then he is gone… Vanquished… Or vanished of his

Own accord… Either way it doesn’t matter much to

Him… But it matters much to me… And I’m left to

Wonder if he’s hiding… Or was he ever really here…

I’m left hanging… There are questions still to ask…

The old man is gone… And where do I turn now for

Counsel… I’m still standing here at the edge of the

Lake… Stranded… Alone… And waiting impatiently

For the answers…

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