Past and Future

The world is full of problems. It made the man wonder why he bothered to get up in the morning. The sun was shining — but it was too bright. And was it possible for that baby across the street to wail any louder? He sighed and opened his fridge door. Most everything within it was starting to go bad. And now he would have to go to the store. "Maybe," the man thought, "It's not worth it. For me, there is nothing left to live for. So why should I continue to live?" He walked outside to check his mailbox. More bills. The man vaguely wondered if he should leap in front of the car speeding by. Over the speed limit. It was blaring music. The man shook his fist and went back into his darkened house. Glancing out the window, he saw a woman and her husband pushing the baby who had earlier been crying in a stroller, but he now realized it was actually older than he had thought. Two years old, maybe? Strangely, he felt a pang of jealousy — or was it sadness? The child reminded him of someone, but that was long ago. In another life, where the man had been happy. But that life was over. The man again ventured outside, though he wasn't sure why. He sat down on a bench and stared into the distance aimlessly. His hands, as if from their own accord, reached into his pocket, where a small photo was tucked away. He held it out in front of him, running his callused, weathered thumbs across it. It showed a little girl, smiling, her pigtails blowing in a wind frozen in time. As he stared at her, the darkness inside him growing, longing for something that he would never again have, another breeze outside the photo slipped it out of the man's hands until it landed on the ground a few feet away. He was just about to get up when the toddler, who had escaped her stroller, came over, and lifted the photo, staring at it with fascination. Her own pigtails shined against the midday sun. She then looked at the man and smiled a semi-toothless smile and held out the picture. "Is this yours?" she said in her little toddler voice. The man felt something inside him lift. 

"Yeah. That's mine." 

"Tomorrow's my birthday," the girl replied triumphantly, giving him the photo.

"How old will you be?" asked the man.


"That's interesting," he said. "Someone else I knew is having their birthday tomorrow."

"Who?" asked the girl.

"You've already met her," said the man, motioning to the photo.

"Ohhh," the girl said in wonder. Just then her parents came over. 

"Hello!" the girl's father said.

"You have a very nice daughter," answered the man, and smiled for the first time in what felt like ages.

"Mama! Daddy! Can he come over for lunch tomorrow?" the girl asked excitedly. Her mother glanced at the photo, and smiled a sad but knowing smile. 

"Of course he can, if he would like to." 

"Yeah... yeah, why not?" replied the man.

"Yay! I can't wait!" said the girl.

That night, after setting the photo under his pillow as he always did, the man closed his eyes and was surprised to find that that night, his thoughts were not of a longing for the past, they were of a hopeful future where he could remember, but also move on. As he drifted off to sleep, he dreamed of the girl's smile as she held the photo, her pigtails seeming to drift between one color and another, almost as if she were two people at once. 


Posted in response to the challenge Cynic.



14 years old

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