A Stranger to the World

Essay by MattnzHigh School, 11th grade February 2008

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It was a cold winter’s morning; the rain was falling, forming lake-like puddles on the frozen ground below. The ferocious wind was whirling through the tops of the lifeless trees. The sky was dark, casting an eerie feeling over the dreary, dull day. Halfway down the metropolitan street, stood a house. Many years ago, it would have been a wonderful home. It was now boarded up, and very dilapidated. The wooden door was rotting around the edges, and the house had a haunted look to it. The slate roof which was once a major feature of the home was fading, and eroding with the ever-present rain beating down on it.

The wooden door opened, and an elderly man stepped outside. Carefully, he shut the door behind him, and pulled his coat up around his drawn-in shoulders. He turned to face the crowded street. His tweed jacket, now drawn up around him like a shawl was tatty; torn, and covered with the grime of decades previous was flapping around in the almost gale-force wind, offering him no protection from the relentless weather.

His hands, gnarled, and already numb from the freezing morning were struggling with the zip. The coat blew open, and revealed a stained white shirt. Finally, he got the zip done up, and hobbled to the steps that led down to the street a few meters below.

Still the rain fell, and without an umbrella, the last lengths of snowy white hair, plastered to his bony forehead exaggerated the other prominent features of his ancient face. Beads of freezing rain dripped off the end of his hooked nose, and his eyelids drooped half-shut, under the pressure from the many wrinkles that resided on his once smooth brow. Once the best feature of his face, his now sallow cheeks drooped unhappily, and his bottom lip hung loosely, exposing a mouth of very few teeth, as yellow, and as warped as the Morris Minor he had owned as a young man.

Cautiously, like a lion stalking his prey, his tatty, brown shoes moved down the steps in a repetitive motion. A breath of freezing air made the man gasp; an icy burning filled his lungs. It was enough to make him lose his rhythm; he misjudged the next step, and found himself flailing around wildly, trying to find the safety of the iron railing. A skinny hand, as white as the winter snowfall made contact with the railing, and he managed to save himself from certain death.

Hesitantly, he walked out onto the street, and found himself engulfed in the crowd of shoppers, going about their daily business. He felt alone. Alone, as he had always been. His narrow blue eyes darted between the shoppers, noting, and watching their every move like a hawk. He noticed them all laughing, and joking with each other; enjoying each other’s company on the dismal December morning. I don’t belong here, he thought. He hated going out; he wouldn’t go unless he had to. This morning, he had no choice.

Feeling more isolated than ever before, he reached into the pocket of his torn jacket, and pulled out a photograph. He also took out a pair of large reading glasses with his now trembling hands, and put them on. In the bleak morning, he turned the photo over, and looked into the smiling faces of him, and his wife. Though it was three years since she had been taken, not a day had gone by when he hadn’t yearned for her company. The only one he had ever known; the only one he had ever loved. The photograph began to smudge in the freezing rain, the inky memories fading away before his very eyes. His hands trembled more violently, and tears welled up in his eyes. He had waited long enough, he thought, but didn’t have long left.

Slowly, he turned around, and ambled back up the stone steps to the dilapidated house. Turning the key in the rusty lock, he walked inside, hung up his jacket, and quietly closed the door behind him, just waiting to be taken away.