A man was walking at night. He stopped at the middle of the narrow wooden bridge to gaze at the surface of shining water flowing below his feet. He ignored the inviting melody of the stream. It’s just a dark thought, already written so many times in so many different ways in my precious books, he thought and inhaled the fresh air of night mixed with the stench of the river.
He kept on walking and reached the muddy shores. A group of young people were swimming naked far from the coast. The sound of their laughter shivered his back. He sighed and envied their youth. I’ve read this scene in a red book when I was 14, he thought. But he didn’t take off his clothes to join them.
He walked and walked until the black sky turned red. He stopped and looked for the origin of the majestic light. A glorious sun was rising slowly from behind the tallest peaks of the mountains surrounding the city. A cliché. It’s just a repetition without originality, he thought.
The streets of the city lost their emptiness and their silence broke by the noise of the children going to school and the parents late for work. Cars honked and buses tilted heavily from one side to another. The man gasped and hid his face under his palms. If my children hadn’t left me, he thought but couldn’t finish his sentence. He remembered the books he hadn’t read yet.
As he passed by a green garden, he saw a young couple sitting on a bench. Their hands entangled and their eyes lost in the picturesque view. They could kiss each other, he thought remembering his dead wife and how soft her skin felt. His solitude grasped his thoughts and made him walk faster.
The man reached a black casket placed on the ground and a group of people gathered around it. They wore black.
“How did he die?” he asked.
The woman wiping tears off her face said: “By oldness. My father was 92.”
“So why do you cry?” he asked. “I am coming from a place where the children of my generation died of bombs or of hunger. Your father was lucky to have survived all those doomed children.”
The woman stared at his face with disgust and shook her head. “I cry because my father loved to live,” she said. “I am sure those children of yours never loved as much as my father did.”
The man couldn’t recall anything about his old classmates - already dead.
“Oh Madam,” he said and smiled tenderly. “I apologize. I never meant to be rude to your father.” He got closer to the woman and whispered in her ears but it was like talking to himself. “I’m a librarian and I’ve spent my whole life reading books. I just realized that I’ve forgotten everything about my old friends and my childhood.”
The woman sighed and ignored the one drop of tear sliding on her cheek.
“I assure you Madam,” he continued. “My sadness comes from the fact that nobody taught us how to love.”
“What’s life without love?” the woman murmured and started to cry.
The man couldn’t think of anything. What’s life without thinking, he thought.
The man knew it was the right time for him to leave. He bowed to the rest of mourners but they ignored his respect. He wished he could remember a few good lines from the black book about love and mercy, but the right words escaped his mind.
As he finally reached the library, his face was red and his hands were shaking. He couldn’t breathe and his chest ached. The sweat ran along his forehead and crossed his eyes. He thought about crying. He dragged his body to the top of the stairs and looked back at the city.
It was gray - almost black – the sky evaporating in the smog. The city was choking.
The scene held a different kind of beauty. The image wasn’t similar to any page he had ever read. He longed to come up with his first original thought. Like his first intimate reflection. Something not written yet.
The librarian smiled of joy and pain, but this time he had no time left to think.