Old Man; Old Pack Horse

A long, almost white, beard flowing down to the table. He was looking straight ahead at infinity along the plane of the half empty ale that he had apparently finished. An ornithologist perhaps or a physicist who had that question about quantum physics – a metaphysical question about the sense of existence – possibly questioning his own and of this young man who observed him in a fleeting moment as he walked past him. He is probably a photographer, I imagined – romantically seeing myself a few years from now – as much as I hate to have a bald head.

While my good friend and I were discussing the nature of conflict and delving into the past to find an answer that would somehow make us even more agitated (though that wasn’t the purpose) as the evening came to a close, in the Old Pack Horse, he seemed to be looking at the future.

Old age, we have all come to believe, looks towards the past for answers, even consolation, about the present. In this case, it seemed exactly the opposite – the young were analysing history – forming a context of the present on that basis – and looking towards multiple indeterminate futures. He seemed to be able to look towards the future just like that.

It’s not just experience – which he seemed to have loads of – that enabled looking into the future – neither is it divine intervention – an inexplicable phenomenon that allows visions into the future. It is one thing to look into the future – yet another to determine it.

On the large wooden table, the single figure, the pint glass half-filled, his ragged clothes exuding a confidence that even a Savile Row suit could not. It was some sort of a fishing jacket – the ones with more pockets than you need. From his left, through a stained glass in an ornately decorated frame, the late night sun cast hesitant shadows across his glass, made the smoke from his cigarette seem as fluid as his thoughts – shades of grey that I had never noticed. I didn’t notice his eyes; I often do not – because the face is a more comprehensive expression than just the eyes. Yet his eyes were resolute in looking to whatever he was looking at – no wavering, no blinks, no hesitation.

Is it possible that such an expansive thought can be captured in a passing moment?

There must be some reason that some images speak with you, even, if unfortunately, you don’t ever capture them on camera.


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