if a photo is worth 1000 words : story 2

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Source: 500px.com via Hannah on Pinterest

The man's hands were wrinkled and white under the leathery veins crisscrossing his knuckles. His bones creaked and the wrinkles in his face lay heavy, sagging in lines etched from his temples. He was the kind of person to have been born with a secret that it took an entire lifetime to understand. He woke early, before the sun flushed pale yellow flowers on the land, before the fishermen arose to head to the deep, before the peddlers gathered their wares for the market. He liked it that way. There was a kind of quiet you couldn't find unless you stole it from the first snatches of day, when all that was noise was the small gasps of breathing, in and out, in and out. If he was lucky, he arose before the birds. That was when all was truly right, when he watched the world turn and the stars shatter on the horizon embarrassed that it was yet again light.

He knew intrinsically when to wake up. It was not an alarm except for the one in his head. It woke him every morning, half past four, and he slowly pulled himself out of the rickety bed he shared with his wife. She never complained of his snoring, though he knew he kept her up at night because she worried about his breathing. I'm an old man. He would laugh in protest, but his chuckle broke into a cough that ached in his lungs all day. Her eyes were sad. Yes, and I want you to stay that way. She rustled in the thin sheets and he smiled sadly at the outline of her sleeping form. He could not look at her without some pain, because in her, he saw his own inadequacy, his own failure to provide.

The night before, they had sat at the little cheap cafe on the corner until late into the evening. The air was chilly and she breathed in deep of the smell of earth crumbling in preparation for winter. I'm sorry, he had said. She asked what for and he tried to find a way to say, because I was a failure. because I couldn't provide. because no matter how I tried, I wasn't who you saw I could be. But his tongue stuck in his throat and he only managed to cough, brusquely in shame, that I couldn't give you more.

Nonsense. She said, patting his cheek fondly. We have lived a good life.

Yes, but it could have been a great one. He spoke in the twilight, aware that the very world around him seemed to be listening to the hum of conversations flitting from table to table. It was the sort of night that demanded fireflies, but the only bugs around he swatted as they settled onto his sagging arms. Mosquitoes he spat, if only to say something to bring light away from his words, still glowing as they sat on the table between him. Somehow, she understood.

Soon it will be winter. Her words settled softly.

Now it was morning and as he crept from their bedroom, through the kitchen (taking care to not step on the knitting needles she had left on the floor), and opened the door to the creaky balcony overlooking the river, he recalled her words. With the bitterness and nostalgia that grows thick from old age, he thought back to all that wasn't said and nursed his heartache. It was a different sort of pain than what he had felt when he stubbed his toe, or when the last of their garden died, or when they lost their first child. All pain was different and some he felt hard in his lungs, some in streaks of pain in his heart, others behind his eyes, so white and sharp he thought he would go blind.

This pain though, this pain was all the more fierce and lasting, a dull ache in his bones that persisted despite the ointments doctors prescribed him or the medicines they gave him to ease the throbbing. Death was out of his control, yet his his life was in his own hands and he had failed to do what he had wanted to do. They had been happy, yes. He had worked his fingers to the bone and they had spent nights dreaming of what was to come. There had been joy and there had been pain, but that was not unexpected. All life is filled with the dizzying dance between tears and laughter, feet being careful not to spin into complacency or bitterness. But he reflected in the morning, what more could it have been?

If only. He whispered to the air, bitter in his throat. The sun was just beginning to leak across the horizon, spilling upwards as if in defiance of the laws of nature. He rocked back and forth on a chair his grandfather had made, barely held together by frequent patch up jobs. It groaned under his strain, though he was slight, and he leaned forward, his elbows digging into his bony knees and his protruding chin held in his shaking hands.

He sat there until dawn finally broke over the land, watched the spreading light across the city, crammed and crowded yet home. His legs were numb from the cold and he felt as if his fingers would fall off, but the beauty of the quiet morning and the thrill of being awake before anyone else was one of the joys he treasured. There was a creak and the scrape of wood on wood and he turned to find the door open and his wife standing on the small, metal balcony beside him. Breakfast? She asked and her voice was a smile that could never stay sad. All melancholy was wiped from his mind and he stood, gripping the railing to steady the tremors that came with old age. He beamed at her and felt that in all his age, she had never been more beautiful.

How can you not be happy with a view like that? he whispered shyly, gesturing at the whole of the tangled landscape seen from their small iron balcony. She gripped his arm and helped him indoors. You silly old man. Each word was a kiss. How I love you.

They went in for breakfast yet kept the door open, letting the sun in.


  1. this. my word, i love it. :) so beautifully descriptive and full of feeling. my, what a talented young lady you are. i imagine we'll all have those thoughts some day--what is incredible, is that you managed to capture those feelings and thoughts on 'paper', even though we don't know how that feels; to be old, and wish we could have done more with our life. But somehow, these words express it. anyway, i'm rambling. :) this is beautiful, Hannah.


  2. My my my, you blow me away. Hannah you must publish a book someday. I'd really love to own a story written by you. Your words never cease to be deep and heartfelt and real. And I love that. I wonder how you are able to so well describe feelings and emotions and moments in life. I've been looking forward to this post. I think your short stories are going to be a favorite read of mine every week.

    Blessings, friend!


  3. dude, you're an amazing writer! i'd totally read a book by you. no doubt about it. xx

  4. you have a gift, my friend. :) it's a real treasure to read your words!

  5. I'm smiling over here. I hope that's enough. <3

  6. this makes me ache in a good way.

  7. each word -so delicately strung together- is so rich with feeling and emotion that it feels like it might break at any given moment. beautiful. this is my very favorite quote from this story "All life is filled with the dizzying dance between tears and laughter, feet being careful not to spin into complacency or bitterness." so profound.

    aaaand, um...how do i ask this...have you ever considered doing a cover of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen? after hearing you sing skinny love i kinda think you'd do awesome at Hallelujah :)

    just sayin'

  8. I LOVE this story, but my favorite part was at the end... "You silly old man...how I love you." :) B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. <3