THE MAN WHO LIVED TOO LONG (short story)

Posted: 10 May, 2019 in 2012, 2019
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IMG_0252 I went to a coffee shop to write a story. On entering, despite wearing dark glasses, which up to a certain point protected me from showing my age, I noticed with anxiety that a man, who apparently had lived many years, smiled at me.

I sat as far away as possible from him and his wrinkles, but couldn’t  stop feeling his stare and decrepit gaze.

Opening my computer I fixed my eyes on the keyboard to write a story, but couldn´t avoid giving the man a look from time to time.

And while sitting there, a couple of minutes later, between the grief and anxiety of my third divorce and my fifty and more or less years (depending on who asks), I realized that, after all, the gentleman was not so bad. At the end of the day, he had hair, and because of the sandwich he was eating, surely he even had some teeth left.

False or not, but teeth.

This brought me to mind that afternoon a few days ago, when I visited my grandfather. When arriving at the nursing home, a din in the dining room caught my attention.

–My teeth has been stolen! –I heard an old woman protesting –.Surely somebody is using them!–, continued the woman with her complain, while someone was trying to explain her that they took them to the dentist to be fixed.

–They are going to wear my teeth out! –she grumbled.

–Madam –I said from far away –, don´t worry. –What? I don´t understand –she replied–. Without teeth I can´t hear! –added the woman ventilating a naughty smile.

I left my memories for a few minutes to return to the table where I was trying to write.

The old man was still smiling.

“What you see is what you get” I remembered the saying I read in a self-help book a few evenings ago during my depression. After all, I was not as young as I pretended. The truth is that if you count with steady good health, you don´t realize the years that surround your body, until you see yourself in the mirror. I still remember feeling overwhelmed the day I discovered my first wrinkles. “Oh no!” –I said to myself –I must be looking through the magnifying glass! My wrinkles are obscene!

But no.

The mirror was not in the magnifying side.

From that day on, I opted for the dignity of sunglasses and I take this opportunity to ask whoever reads these lines, that when I die, please bury me with sunglasses. And be sure that I´m not asking this because I´m being pretentious. Absolutely not. Aren´t we suppose to see a light at the end of the tunnel when we die? Without dark glasses, the brightness may blind me and then I would not be able to find it.

–May I join you with a cup of coffee? –a voice distracted me.

“What you see is what you get” I recalled once again my self-help book and saw at my table the man who had lived many years.

And no, he had not lived many years.

The truth is that he had lived too many years.

And like in the story of the magnifying glass, his old age emerged insolently when he was near me.

At that same moment the last person that I wanted to see in my entire life, appeared. My third ex-husband came in the coffee shop holding a very young woman´s hand. I don´t have time to qualify or disqualify her, if you understand what I mean.

–Do you have sunglasses? Can you put them on? Here please, use mine –I asked the elderly man in order to protect my honor.

And when I thought that the worse was over, the man who had lived too long, smiled.

–But who stole his teeth? –I asked myself astonished.

“What you don´t see is what you don´t get” I thought as I stood up without inventing excuses and sneaking off to the next coffee shop to write this story.

 

 

 

(English version of “El hombre que había vivido demasiado” )

 

Rossana Sala. 2019

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