The Angel and the Oak This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

November 28, 2012
The old man stood on the dirty sidewalk. Clothed in rags, his beard filled with dreadlocks and mange. His eyes sunken and deep, a cold heavy blue with pupils of charcoal black. Walking down the cracked pavement each step cracking and grinding pebbles and dirt; a rhythmic smacking of his weathered boots against the stone. The air around him hot and dead, dry and constant at his back. Past each trailer, eyes straight never looking to the sides eyes set on a destination an empty lot. A lone figure at the end an old oak covering it in it’s merciful shade. The figure growing larger and more distinct he could now see the wings reaching from the back of an angel un-moving staring into the old mans eyes. Closer still he walked until he reached the end of the pavement. To either side of him, run down rotting trailers, the familiar smell of meth and shame oozing through there walls. He closed his eyes and thought of the broken lives they contained. The heartbreak and misery they housed, the screams for help, cries of hurting children and wives, the moans of dead men still living that were muffled by the thin walls. He breathed in the dry air, letting his past come to the present. Letting memories consumed by innocence and grief wash over his conscience.

He let his feet walk over the last of the pavement onto the dead splotched brown grass, a low muffled crunch coming with each step. Towards the figure in the distance until the blur of an angel became the face of a beautiful woman forever held in stone, a look of sad acceptance looking over the broken lives it now watched. Her wings arched out over her back the end of one broken off at the tip as if signifying the complete imperfection of the place so many hollowed men called home. Her face though cold and stone held compassion and grief so that the man could almost see a tear seeping from its lifeless eyes. His own eyes moved up to the tree that now provided shade for them both. Though still the same he could almost see how the tree had aged with him. He looked at it as if it was an old friend lost with time. Now that he had aged and been weathered, beaten down by time by the rains that erode us all through life, he looked upon the oak as a being living and equal to himself. As each gentle breeze soothed through its leaves, he saw the old oak breath. With each small creak of the branches he heard the bending of an old soul’s bones. He circled to the other side of the creature, his eyes searching the branches until he found what he was looking for. A rope falling from one of the thickest branches tattered and frayed at the end. It swayed in the almost non existent breeze.

He remembered the old tire that used to hang there. His eyes closed; his breath became young. He was six years old laughing, hair blonde, and short eyes full of joy. Rushing through the air towards the leaves of the old oak and then back towards the ground, a small blonde girl laughing with him grabbed him as he passed her. Joy, happiness, a friendship that eventually would turn to love.

He walked to the trunk of the tree, and saw etched in it a single C and A. His heart ached. His eyes filled with sorrow, soaked in grief. He could see her face young and full of life. Why had he been able to grow old? Why was she taken? He thought of a life with her, what could have been. Instead of the many empty years he had lived. Things happen for a reason but he could not find one for the loss of her. She was forgotten by the world but not to him. When he dies so will she it will be final, her last memories will be forever forgotten. Her hopes and dreams forever washed away, they lived only in him and his ever fading memory of the poor girl who was overwhelmed by life itself and so took herself from it. He had spent his years looking for warmth and who can say whether or not he found it. Life is an art and art is subjective. In his eyes he had created a masterpiece, but happiness it did not bring him. For what is a masterpiece without someone who can admire it? The man pressed his hand against the tree, and spoke. His voice faint and dry, each word cracking out of his throat as if it were a struggle.
“You are all I have left, hold my memories hold me.

It’s all I have.

Everything I have ever loved is gone, but at least you have witnessed a small piece of it. You remain a remnant of me and of her. I spent my life chasing greatness and running from my past. Now I have come back to it, but it just ends with me talking to an old lonesome tree. Finally, once again, we are lonesome no more, or maybe we are lonesome together I don’t know. Is this poetry? I don’t know. They’re all gone, it’s all gone. I’m alone, you’re all I have”

The old man sat at the base of the tree looking up at the leaves that smothered the pure blue of the sky. He tried to let his life pass before his eyes but there was so much of it he couldn’t recall. So instead he thought of himself. He thought of himself not as an individual but as a part of something. He was the only life left for so many. He held the souls of loved ones gone through memory, but now he knew he didn’t belong. He had no more of himself to give to the world.

So in his mind he found peace with the oak absorbing the last of him, it witnessed the joys of his youth. Now it would see the melancholia of an old man’s final place in a winding down life. He breathed in his past, closed his eyes one last time, and let himself fall asleep. He hoped his last dream would be a good one.

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EPluribusUnum This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 1, 2012 at 2:37 pm
This is honestly one of the most beautiful things I've read in a while, it literally brought tears to my eyes. The whole thing fit togeather perfectly, with nothing forced and nothing missing. And the story itself is so sad, so true, so mature. So, so beautiful. I wish I knew more about the old man's life. It just sounds interesting.
Lithium96 replied...
Dec. 5, 2012 at 1:45 pm
Thank you, i'm glad you like it.
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