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The Age of Memory

Outside a quiet but busy library, an old old man sits in a comfortable looking fold up chair. He sits in out of the way, obviously put there by the employees of the small nursing home across the street, wishing him to get some fresh air. In the bright sunlight he relaxes, the rays warming his wrinkled skin and shining off his silvery white hair.

Each breath he takes is a raspy one, but he breathes in the day like its his first. He seems not to notice his age or withering health, or doesn’t care, or doesn’t remember.

Quiet and peaceful, the old man is given no notice from passing students, well-dressed businessmen and women, families and children. No one talks to him and he doesn’t talk to anyone. He keeps to himself and is perfectly content. Being alone for so long and being without anyone for as long as his damaged memory can recall, it doesn’t bother him. The only people in his life now are the nurses who care for his basic needs, and the many passersby he witnesses each day.

The old man’s eyes squinted and his skin crinkled as he suddenly burst into a fit of hoarse laughter. He gasped and inhaled heavily as he laughed and relayed the punch line of a joke told by an unknown, unseen person. He fades for a minute or two, laughing away and never considering the few people who took a moment to pause and look at the strange old man seemingly talking to himself. Eventually they went on with their own business, for the man became silent as he came back to reality. He smiles brightly, the traces of laughter still evident in the contours of his aged face. Smiling at the day, he sits in quiet contentedness once more. In and out he continues to fade, his mind going for long moments here and short moments there. This is the norm of most days. His moments of awareness filled with pleasant silences, there is a sense of alertness, and earthly attachment. In those moments where he fades, which grow more frequent each day, he laughs and talks to the unseen individual. The old man’s only dear friend, whom he talks to on a daily basis, but meets for the first time every day.

Through every fade in and out, he can only live in the present. To even have a memory is a luxury we all take for granted. This old man, sitting in the afternoon sun, no longer knows his past. Even up until yesterday, or a few hours ago, there is nothing. His childhood reaching into adulthood, the people, places and things he once loved, all gone. The regretted or rejected memories he once had were lost as well, but would not have been missed. Not even remembering what was forgotten or what he once had made losing it much easier. You can’t hurt over anything you don’t know, and suddenly all his life’s hardships, losses and sorrow didn’t exist. The people who had left him alone in the nursing home no longer mattered.

All that matters now is the present, and for the present, he is happy.





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