There was an old man who stood at the playground
staring blankly in the air.
He stood there for god-knows-what reason
and I thought he’ll be willing to share.
I approached the old man quietly,
like a hunter targeting a very sensitive gazelle,
counting all my steps, making sure not to scare him away.
He looked behind and saw me,
tip-toeing my way to him.
He look puzzled but he smiled saying,
“What do you want from me?”
I felt scared at first, looking at his face
crumpled like paper, full of freckles, heck, he had no hair.
His face had this long creepy-looking scar
like he was axed or something I saw from a horror movie!
But he had a smile that was trusting;
a voice that was comforting;
a presence that was tempting.
Tempting to ask his story and understand his life.
He asked me again, “what do you want, kid?”
But this time, I mustered up all my courage
Looked up at him, and opened my mouth,
“I was wondering, what are you staring at?”
And then he told me a story I may have heard a few times;
A story which was very familiar,
yet, the way he told it was something I could never forget.
He told me about a friend he had when he was a kid.
They met in the same playground,
ran in the same pile of sand,
played in the same slide,
swung on the same swing,
hung in the same monkey bars,
and balanced in the same see-saw.
He told me how they grew up,
how they were both poor yet happy,
how they had to work during summer to earn money,
how they painted Aunt Molly’s fence.
And he told me how the both fell in love
with the most beautiful women that caught their hearts.
How they both wooed them,
writing the same poems as I am writing;
singing the same songs I am singing and;
saying the same words I am saying.
And he told me how they both got drafted to war.
How they got into the same platoon,
fired the same guns,
yelled the same song,
killed the same enemies
and stood for so long.
And he told me how his friend was killed.
Stepped into a landmine while raiding an enemy camp.
He yelled at his comrades, telling he’ll die soon
and they all have to leave or else
they too shall be no boon.
He told me how he wanted to save his friend,
how he tried to salvage his dead body;
enduring all the missed bullets;
beating the fire;
outlasting the wound that has already been bugging him.
But he failed.
He failed to rescue the only friend he made.
And now all he does is think about him.
About how they both got to war;
about how they both got married;
wooed the women they loved;
painted the same fence;
went to the same school;
played on the same playground;
balanced on the same see-saw.
The old man and the see saw remained there for a long time
with all kids meeting their best friends;
with all kids learning that you can never enjoy a see-saw alone,
and you can never balance life without a friend.
The old man and the see-saw remained at the playground for a long time.
The old man stared at the see-saw.
How it refused to move up or down
because the other side has left and gone.
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