The white snow hid the dreary brown earth from view. A futile attempt, indeed, for the dirt on the snow was far more despicable than the brown mangled earth beneath it. The white flakes from the blessed heavens lay there, raped by the dirt splashed on them by the passing cars and by the footprints of the humans beings and animals.
The cars parked by the roadside seemed to beg for pity. They stood there covered in the freezing mass of white and looked like docile, subjugated forms, which were victims to their irrevocable malicious fate to stand there and freeze.
The winter was fickle-minded, because there were days when the mercury climbed to 10°C and then there were those days when temperatures collapsed to -5°C. However, that made no difference to the appearance of the trees. They remained like forlorn beings staring helplessly into a cold grey heaven devoid of light and mercy. They stood there in eternal prayers that remained unanswered. The sparrows flitted about and a few crows flew aimlessly in the the cold air.
Everything was still, no wind blew past, the clouds remained unmoving in the vast skies, as though trying to send down the message that they were there to stay until the end of the world. A dreadful, dreary, cold, grey universe frozen in time.
The moving contrast to the unmoving surroundings was the moving form of a human being, standing still on the pavement. His lifeless eyes betrayed a stormy sea within, but he stood there, staring into the cold grey emptiness before him, without focussing on anything in particular. It was a sad stare that, although directed outward, was looking deep into his own soul.
People passed by, carrying bags containing fireworks. He saw them, he looked at them, passively, his eyes registered their movements and but his mind kept a distance from the moment! The people showed signs of happiness, they smiled and laughed but their faces did betray signs of stress.
They had done their shopping, planned their dinner and their schedule for the coming week. Tonight they are going to celebrate the birth of the new year. Another year was upon them, another new year of expectations, hopes, dreams and sorrows, he thought. A small, almost imperceptible smile struggled to form itself on his dry, parched and cracked lips, which showed through his silver beard.
The smile was a devoid of life, it was cold and painful. A smile that was burdened with tears and sadness that weighed down the fragile heart. His eyes fell on the fireworks people were carrying and a pain shot through his heart! Two small pearls of dropped involuntarily from his eyes.
He smiled a sad smile as he saw the happiness of the children. They were happy, as thought of the fireworks at midnight, about the dinner for there were going to be various puddings. Their innocent happiness made him smile but also made his eyes wet.
Pierre was not a man without feelings. His life had made him numb and listless. His movements were slow and deliberate. He seemed to be weighed down by a big invisible burden. His slouched shoulders displayed a frightening loss of strength, his head had a bow to it, his eyes scanned the pavement as he walked, his steps were short, measured, heavy and dragged a bit. His clothes showed signs of age. They were worn in many places. The wind creeped through the slits in his jumper.
Pierre did not complain. His was a calm and contented nature. He walked the daily stretch without castings his eyes about much. He noticed the people passing by. A few of them greeted him, the majority walked past, as though oblivious of his presence. For them, he did not exist. He was just an apparition that seemed to be there and was of no consequence.
As darkness began to draw nigh, he stopped, turning round with a bit of an effort and slowly retraced his slow steps back. He was going back to his flat. It was only a building with a living space. It was not a home and a home he hadn’t had for a long long time. At the entrance, he stood and turned around. Only a few people were passing by with their purchases.
Night slowly spread her dark silk over the earth and the electric lights cast their glow into the gathering darkness. Man did not want to remain in the darkness. He needed light, because darkness meat fear, a threat to life, a threat to their very existence.
Pierre entered his living space, walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Tea was his favourite drink and he generous treated himself to this heavenly drink many times during the day.
He settled into the worn sofa with his tea and took up the book of poetry. Now he was at home. Tea and poetry. That was his world. The only world that had not crumbled into a heap of ruins. His eyes wandered over the words, stopped every now and then to take in the morphology of the words. His intellect enjoyed going deep into semantics. His surroundings became non-existent as he sank deeper into the world of poetic words.
The first burst of fireworks pulled him out of the world of words. It was new year. Fireworks lit up the sky, the sound of rockets whizzing into the air broke the silence of the night. There was rejoicing! He heard the laughter and shouts of children. Happy children with brilliant eyes, their smiles glittering in their happy eyes, their hearts filling with joy. A new year of happiness was born and they lost themselves in the mirth.
Pierre walked to the window and looked out and smiled as he saw the children smiling, laughing and screaming with glee. Three questions welled up in his mind and two tears dropped from his eyes
What were his two little angels doing? Were they happy? Were they thinking of him?