This is the story of a man who drew blood from his face every morning. Every morning he’d wake up and stare at the ceiling in disgust coming to hate himself a little more. For the man did not see the ceiling but instead saw himself. For the ceiling was an ugly ceiling as was his self. He’d fall from his rickety bed and stumble to the looking glass in the restroom. And every day as he slid his foggy glasses over his squinted eyes, he’d stare at the thick embroidered blanket that draped over the mirror. Without hesitation, he’d reach for the razor and cream and would immediately set off giving himself a shave as if the mirror were not covered. This, of course, resulted in his face becoming nicked and scratched and cut. After many years of this habit, his once soft skin had become callous and hard and dotted red. Once his shave was complete, he’d move on with his day as any other normal American citizen would. He ate his breakfast, drank his coffee and even read the morning newspaper that the rushed paperboy had unwittingly flung into his front yard shrubs. He truly was average in the main respects. But inside, he was like no other man I’ve ever seen. Perhaps the most intriguing phenomenon that always interested me when I remembered the man who drew blood from his face every morning would be that while he was average, he also was a paradox. This, in and of itself, was a paradox, therefore meaning that this man was a paradox within a paradox which is yet another paradox. While others looked at this kind man who enjoyed the company of others and did neighborly things that were all well and good, I looked at this man with his scarred face and saw a war that had been won long ago. Of course, winning and losing are matters of perspective. For the losing side could very well be the right side and the winning side could very well be the wrong side.
“Best not to take sides,” the old man muttered as he tossed the newspaper onto the table in front of him; a paper whose headlines read “Sheriff’s Debate To Be Held at Town Hall”.
Perhaps he was right in what he muttered, but for him, of all people, to say that was completely hypocritical. For he himself took a side many years ago.
Finishing his breakfast, the old man would then move onto the elderly events of his day. He’d make a stop at the grocers and retrieve his pharmaceutical medications, then play a few games of chess at the park with a former friend of his. Once retired from this, it’d be time to feed bread to the birds on a nearby park bench. He had already picked up the bread at the grocer’s, so he’d settle himself down and toss the bread to the crowding pigeons who picked apart their treat just as the old man picked apart his face every morning. His life truly was insignificant. He was little and old. Withered up like a prune with a fake smile plastered on it. It was all a play, a charade if you will. The plot of which was to convince the world that he was alright. But he was not.
After running other meaningless errands and visiting people he no longer cared for, he’d arrive home. Stepping over the rough mat that bordered the door’s floor, he’d place his wide brimmed hat on the hook in the closet that was conveniently placed to the side of the house’s entrance. Slowly removing his coat and shoes and slipping into his night time attire, he’d slide into bed to the point that he was sitting up ever so slightly; just enough to see an old, battered photo that rested on a polished nightstand opposite to the bed. Who the picture was of is unimportant. She had died long ago and was no longer part of the narrative. However, who photographed the woman is of great importance. For it was the old man who did so. Now even I do not why this man stared at the photo every night. I do not know why before getting into bed the following night, the man broke the glass frame in which the photo had been contained. I do not know why he took the shards of glass and placed them in his morning coffee mug before slipping off into yet another wretched night of sleep and I do not know why he drank the shards of glass in his morning coffee when he awoke. I do know why he is dead. It is because he drank shards of glass. But the rest of these things I do not know. Perhaps the story is better off this way.
“To us,” he had morbidly said before sipping down his infected morning invigorator. Then as he choked on the glass, spitting up blood onto his neat shirt and pants, he pulled the photo of the girl from his pocket and watched her one last time until finally, he died.
“He choked to death on these shards of glass,” the crime scene investigator had said a few days later, examining the lifeless body and the remaining shards that still sat at the bottom of the coffee mug, “on purpose”
The chief of police only nodded his head sadly. The old man was a good man, a fine citizen to the community. Removing his cap, the chief slowly approached the corpse. Crumpled in the old man’s hand was the photograph. Gently, the chief pulled the photo from the dead man’s hand. It was a picture of a fine looking girl that had clearly been taken ages ago. The chief just nodded his head again sadly. Out of final curiosity, he turned over the photo to see some words scribbled down in thick, black ink.
“What’s it say, Chief?” The investigator queried.
The chief just looked at the writing a moment more, then again at the old man. Purposefully and distinctly, he opened his mouth to read what had driven this man to abuse his own life and in a finale, take it. It truly was a heartbreak, what this man had to bear. All those years, pretending to care while all the while knowing there was no way he could ever care again. All those nights staring at the picture knowing what had been imprinted on the back. All those mornings waking from those torturous dreams that only reminded him of what the photo said. He died because of those words.
“You okay, Chief?” The investigator asked in concern.
The Chief’s lips quivered as he folded the photo in half and placed it in his shirt pocket.
“I’m fine,” he replied reassuringly. Returning his cap to his head, the Chief began to exit the room.
“Wait, Chief!” The investigator stopped the Chief. “What did the photo say?”
The Chief’s downcast eyes closed softly as a tear dripped down his face. The old man’s death should be honored, thought the Chief.
“The old man wouldn’t want anyone to know.” He replied quietly but firmly. And then the Chief continued to exit the house. Walking outside down the smoothly paved sidewalk and through the groomed lawn, he pulled his wallet from his pocket and placed the folded photo inside.
“The old man wouldn’t want anyone to know.” The Chief softly repeated, taking one final glance at the photo. “The old man wouldn’t want anyone to know.”