“I met a man once. Even from several feet away, I could almost smell his stories, they were that tangible. It was like one could reach out and snag me at any moment, like a hook. (See what I did there?) He wore his silver (not grey, mind you) hair free and he carried himself like the physical embodiment of the phrase ‘tried and true’, and nothing short of a tsunami could’ve shaken him. Tattoos lined his arms like the tanned, leathery wrinkles tracing his face.
I approached him cautiously, like I might a ghost. Curious, but very, very careful — that was the key, being careful. You can’t expect the unexpected, but you can prepare for as much as you possibly could. He squinted at me sidelong, and without a word started talking.
I thought he would describe grand adventures in rich detail. Tales of trouble with pirates, (for he was surely of the sea,) and treasure, and treason. I thought he would recount rough tales of badly-kept secrets and beguiling women.
Instead, he spoke fondly of his love across the sea (I was right on that count, at least). He told me of friendships, speaking of the deep pain of betrayal like he wasn’t desensitized yet, like it stung even more now, likely at least a few years later, than it did then. He recounted stories of his kid (kids?) when they were younger.
I sat, enraptured. I had never heard someone so rough-looking speak so gently, so obviously caring about whomever was the subject at hand. It fascinated me, for a reason I couldn’t name.
Such a soft man in a rough world. Despite appearances, of course. I was called away before he ran out of tales, but I promised I’d be back. When I got home, I told my two children – Evie and Ren, my pride and joy – all about the man. I owe him, to this day, for lessons irreplaceable.
I came back, same time the next day. He wasn’t there. I never saw him again, but I never forgot about the kind man in the cruel world.”