Uncle Gustave

Self-Portrait with Straw Hat

at times, i was barely four back then, i kept company with an ancient man in a black ribboned straw hat, gustave, uncle gustave, as he was known throughout the neighborhood. but i called him gustave.

he slowly walked down our street, with the help of an ivory colored cane, vulnerable, yet erect like a king who
though victoriously has fought his last battle and now
has nothing left to prove.

he left his sun yellow house with the forest green shutters
at exactly 2.10 pm every sunny day,
to an agonizingly slow approach of his bench,
even the birds stopped twittering and held their breath
as he was passing by
for fear to startle him.
his bench: dark green under an old chestnut tree,
facing away from the the bay, towards the street.
he carefully sat down, pulling up the legs of his dark suit,
and i climbed onto the bench right next to him,
but threading my legs through the wooden lattice of the back rest
i saw the silver water of the bay, the light caught in the crescents
of the small waves the undercurrent stirred up.
he looked at the street, I looked at the bay,
and we were silent
or talked in low, whispering voices.
we both knew he was dying,
right there and then,
and then for some more weeks to come.
we did not mind,
neither the three nor the ninety-three year old,
i had not been alive for the longest part
of his life,
and he would be dead for the longest
time of mine.

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