He sits outside the Urban Piccolo most mornings, on his walker, drinks his latte, and shuffles on. He looks to be in his late-70s. He’s lined, tanned, and smokes with the slow satisfaction of the elderly, lifelong imbiber. He has blood stains on his shirt, from a recent fall. He’s lucky his wrist didn’t break when it hit the ground.
He doesn’t say much, but his eyes follow the young and hurried folks as they walk to the train station through this up-and-coming neighbourhood. Redfern has only recently been deemed so quite recently. Prior to that, it was a slum, by Australian standards, defined by junkies, crime, and indolence. In 2004 it hosted a riot, which burned down one of the city’s main train stations, a result of long-standing heavy-handedness towards the aboriginal community from the cops.
Brian must have seen this all through those glassy eyes, but if he thinks much of it, it’s hard to tell. His glance holds the faraway stare of someone who is resigned to their fate, and if he holds regrets about his life winding down, he appreciates the futility of the exercise. Why drag up those old bones? But I want to know more.
Does he regret the years spent working, instead of chasing travel and women? Does he regret settling down, and spending two decades of his prime mental years tiredly raising a family? The convention of your mid-thirties views such motions as the inevitable outcome, but why? An attempt at leaving a legacy? A passing of the time? Something owed to your ancestors? Can we truly not think of anything more creative or fulfilling? Even if you manage to run the pitfalls and raise a well-balanced, intelligent offspring, how could this drop in the bucket possibly battle such a tsunami of ignorance?
No one will ever tell you how much they regret following such convention. It has come to define them, and we grow more stubborn in our choices and views as we age, unable to consider how things could have turned out differently. But subtle signs, behind those watery eyes, might offer a hint.