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The bright intruding sunlight peeking through my bedroom curtain woke me on contact. I looked out into the early morning blaze and pushed myself upwards lazily then stopping when upright to rub the sand out of my eyes. My father entered the room giving a passive demand to get dressed and ready. He was a tailor, he had been since before I was born, he’d tell me of how he sewn my mother’s dress for their wedding. How he’d made my christening blanket, the suit I wore for my first day of school. He made most, if not all of my clothing while growing up.
Today was Saturday and as usual it was market day, I would go with father to the town market as he would sell the clothing he’d made that week. On our way to the market we would cross a small aging bridge that expanded itself across the river. I would always bring some rice grains in my coat pocket to feed the ducks on the muddy coasts of the river.
I did this for months before father caught me and told me never to hand out the rice to the dumb animals, I asked him why and what he said still stays with me to this day. He said that they have an obligation to themselves and their families to feed them himself, not through free handouts like a parasite would.
We would have crossed the bridge today but in its old age it finally collapsed under its own weight. I stopped in shock to see the old bridge finally gone, my father gave it little attention and continued on to the next closet river crossing. I stared out at the splintered wood and beams protruding upwards in reverence of the old bridge, I turned to father and asked if he cared that the bridge was gone.
He looked back with the box of cloth still in his hands and told me of how old things pass on and thus was nature’s intent. I questioned whether one day we could return to rebuild the bridge and restore it to its former glory, he declined such a wasted effort on something so miniscule and pointless and pressed on.
I stood at the bridge for a moment longer then ran to my father’s side once more, he handed me some linens to hold for the moment. We never spoke of the bridge again, but secretly in my young age I return to the bridge to be by myself, I would look down into the river water and stare back to myself and then I would understand what I was needing all along.
As my father and I neared the entrance to the market, I caught a glance from a sad shape on the corner. He had his head down, looking into his lap as he slept, his whiskers brushed against his chest as it moved from his drawing breath. I gave an inquiry of the man’s purpose.
My father simply looked to me and answered that the man had no purpose and that he was but a parasite feeding off of others hard work. My father put down the box of linens and looked at me sternly. He told me never to dare give that man a handout, I would ask why and he would simply say that he’s made his choice in life. We kept walking down the market and I just looked back at the man on the corner, I looked back and wondered why he would have chosen that life.
On our way back home we passed by the man on the corner again, his position was unchanged, his posture none the better. Before we left the town I caught a ray of sunlight in my eye, I turned to find a bright silver dollar laying near the street gutter.
I picked it up and inspected the coin, its form was simplistic and it beamed in the evening sun. I turned around to see the man on the corner still sleeping as usual, I looked from the man to the coin repeatedly thinking. I was at a general moral impasse, suddenly my father called for me and I would be wise to listen to him. Before I ran out of the town after my father, the lowering sun hit my eyes once more blinding me for a second, my father held me close as we walked and as I rubbed my eyes I pocketed to coin I had found.
For years that coin would serve to be my own keepsake throughout my life till the day I gave it away. Soon I was a young man, my father passed on one day by causes I would never know of, I lived on by myself in the house. I had enough skill farming to keep myself fed through the coming years, I would return as I said to the bridge from time to time.
I would sit down near the edge of the river bank and stare out, the ducks would swim up to me as if to beg for their rice. I would in turn, refuse their pleas and through the years I would find less and less ducks until, one day, I was alone at the river. I only had the old bridge and my coin to keep me company, to guide me in my state of melancholy.
I remembered the day at the market and the subsequent Saturdays afterwards, the man on the corner sleeping, how he never seemed to age and how the townsfolk would ignore him outright or how the children there would tease the man. But he never spoke back, he never spoke at all really, he would just sit there and sleep.
I returned to the town years later to find the man on the corner, I found him easily enough, I found that corner where he sat all those years ago and where he still sleeps to this day. I stood adjacent to him on the street, midday sunlight reflected off a nearby window and caught my eye.
I held the coin in my hand and I at it with great intentions, I saw in one of the smooth surfaces on the coin my reflection. I saw my dark eyes looking wistful and caring, I stared at the man across the street once more and then, suddenly, as if pressed on by an unknown force, I started moving.
I walked a foot or two and then stopped, I threw the coin over into a dark well next to me, and continued on to the man on the corner. I heard a small splash of water as the Silver dollar reached the wells’ ending point. I felt a chill run up my spine and kept on going towards the man on the corner, I stopped short and held out my hand for him.
He looked up at me silently, gazing into my eyes, not saying a word. He took my hand and went with me to my home, to live out his life there, indoors, in a warm comfort.
I gave him my home, I gave him my food, I gave him my life.
And as I told him this he thanked me, in a gravelly voice that seemed to be unused for years. I left the home for the last time that day, all I took was a small bag of rice grains.
And for the rest of my life I never again got the light in my eyes.