by Joseph Mack
I was searching far and wide for you but never did I find you until I returned home.
There once was an old man who, on one night, while resting in a chair, that was sitting on a porch, thought to himself the most curious of things. And this, that he thought, to put quite simply, was a question that most in their short lives have asked, and that is, what if. What if he just suddenly packed up and left town without so much as a whisper would anyone even miss him. And the answer, that he didn't want to believe or say, was no, which was a response, that in time, convinced him to do exactly that. And so, the next day, with the coming of the moon, the man quickly began to pack up his belongings for the long journey ahead. And as he did, a little bird landed on the ledge of a window, that the old man had looked through on many occasions, and began to sing. And the song this bird sang was so amazingly beautiful that it left the man with a feeling of bittersweet for you see the little bird had been doing this very thing ever since the old man was young and he knew that when he was gone he would never hear this song again but despite knowing this the man continued to pack anyway.
And once he was done, he locked up the house, then off he went, knowing in his heart, that no one would notice or even care that he was gone.
But then, one late afternoon, many years later, a message came to the old man which caught him by surprise, who, at that moment, was far away from the house that he had left. And it had been delivered by a small boy who he knew not. And on this note, was a simple request, that being, would you care for a nice cool drink of water? And this is when the man asked the boy who was standing next to him––
“And who gave this note to you son?”
And the boy replied, “The man that I work for.”
““Oh? And who is this man that you're referring to? And does he have a name?”
“And that, he does sir, as any other would I suppose,” the boy said. “And his name is Mel. And he runs the post office.”
“Ah, I see. And so then, was he the one who sent this note?”
“Well, yes sir, in a way that's true,” the boy said, “but the note didn't really come from him, but more so, it came to him.”
“Oh? And who sent it to him? Do you at least know that much?”
“And this sir, I don't, but I'm sure that Mel would. And I can go ask him for you if you'd like. So, would you? And I can go right this very instant too.”
“And so can I youngster,” the old man said as he began to walk towards the same town that the boy had just come from. And the answer that he got from Mel was that the message had came from another town to north and that’s all that he really knew. However, Mel was positive that the post office, that was located there, would know more about this note, so the man, after hearing this, packed up some food and water and went to that town expecting to get an answer to his question but instead of getting one he was told, once again, that the answer he seeks is still farther north. And so, that's where the old man went. And again, he was told to go north. And this is what happened time and again, from town to town, always trudging north until one day he ended up in front of a place that was familiar.
A place that looked as run down as he felt. And on the window ledge, of this house, was a foot of dust that had been left undisturbed for many sunrises and sunsets. And next to this ledge, pinned on a wall, was a note that said: to the owner of this place. If you should ever return please come and see me right away. I live at 2020 oak street. Thank you.
And this is what the man did after thinking a bit. And once, he had arrived at the address given, he rapped on the door and waited for someone to answer and indeed someone did. And the person, that did this very thing, was a women in her early eighties who, with the door now open, asked––
“May I help you?”
“And that, my fair lady, I don't know,” the old man said, “but perhaps so. This however depends on if you were the one who left a message by a certain window at a particular house. So, was it you?”
“Who left the note you mean? Well, I'm not sure if it was me or another but several years ago I did leave a note at a home, that indeed had a window, though I've never gotten a reply to it and that broke my heart. In fact, I had to post it up a second time due to the fact that the first one just up and vanished.”
“Oh? And when you decided to do this posting did you, by any chance, know the person who lived there? I assume, that you did.”
“And that would be a good guess but the truth is I kind of didn't and I kind of did,” she said. “And I say kind of didn't because him and I never actually did anything together. And I say kind of did because when I was at work, on my lunch break, I use to watch him from a set of stairs. And that would be five days a week and I didn't miss a single day either. And you know what, the more that I spied on him, the more I came to adore him, and the more that happened, the more I realized that we were meant for each other. And so then, with this in mind, on a day that's as common as the next, at a time of my choosing, I decided to give him a gift to show him just how I felt without actually revealing myself to him. And the gift, that I gave to him, was my bird, for my bird can sing an assortment of ballads that can't be matched by any in the land. And this I gave to him each and everyday for months upon weeks and weeks upon months until, on this one rainy afternoon, I got enough courage to visit him. But when I went to his place I found that he was gone and I've not seen him since. And so, I posted this note up in the hope that if he should ever return he might decide to drop over for a visit so I could tell him all that I've just told you today, but this, however, has never happened, I'm sorry to report, and because it hasn’t, my heart is now forever broken, which reminds me, who are you, and why have you come?”
The man tilted his head downward and let a tear fall. He then said––
“Who I am, matters not, but why I've come does. And it does because I’ve traveled hundreds of miles in search of something that I only had to walk a few feet to find and now I'm badly in need of a nice cool drink of water. And I don't suppose, that when it comes to this fine wine, that you would have any of it left to give to me, would you?”
She smiled, then said––
“Well, yes I do. And it's still some of the most refreshing stuff that can be found anywhere. And certainly, I will give you a glass or two if you'd be willing to stay with me for a little while. I could sure use the company.”
The old man, after lifting his head and looking directly into her eyes, responded––
“And that, I can do. In fact, I was just thinking that maybe, perhaps, I should stay in this town for good. That perhaps, the place that's been needlessly abandoned for so long could use a good cleaning and a nice coat of paint.”
“And a bird too,” she said, “but I have none to send to you because the one that I did have, who use to watch me weep over the man's disappearance day and night, has left me long ago. And like the man, who has a name that I've never known, he'll not be forgotten either and nor will the song that he use to sing to the man, that now sadly, only frolics in my dreams.”