age groups

He is an old man when she is a little girl, with the beginnings of liver spots on the back of his hands and the skin bunching up loose and wrinkled.  His hair is still relatively full, but his scalp can be seen in several places.  She wears her hair in pigtails, upswept high on the top of her head, held in place by large yellow plastic barettes.  Her dress is white and the skirt cuts off at her knees, fluffed out by several layers of starchy petticoats.  There is a smiling yellow sun on the belly of her dress, accompanied by two equally cheerful puffy clouds.

He is sitting on a park bench when she comes up to him.  There is a red balloon tied to her wrist, bobbing along after her because she walks so fast she almost leaves it behind.  He sees the balloon first.  When he lifts his head, she is standing in front of him, her dark eyes wide and solemn, her mouth pursed into a neat little bow.

“Hello again,” she says.

He is a young man when she is an old woman, broad-shouldered and tall, muscled and confident with the strength of youth.  He has more energy than he sometimes knows what to do with.  Late at night when he is restless and his roommate has gone to bed, he leaves the apartment rather than pace the creaky floors (they’ve already had complaints from the downstairs neighbor several times in the past month).  On a warm summer night he goes walking with his hands in his pockets, with the easy confident gait of someone who has never feared anything and is ready and willing to take on the whole world if necessary.

She is standing under a blooming apple tree one evening.  Her hair is white and wispy, tied up into a neat little bun low on the back of her head and fastened in place by black bobby pins that stand out starkly once he’s close enough.  Her face is still pretty, but there are heavy crows feet at the corners of her eyes and the corners of her mouth are spiderwebbed.  The flesh under her eyes is dipping just a little.  She wears a white sun dress that cuts off at the knees.  When he approaches she looks at him, though his feet are fairly silent.

“Hello again,” he says.

When he is a child she is also a child.  They meet on the first day of class.  He is wearing all blue because his father is the traditional sort and his mother is agreeable.  She is wearing a white dress that cuts off at the knees.  Her hair is down and spreads loosely at her shoulders, silky and black; his hair is buzzcut short, barely more than a warm brown fuzz over the curve of his skull.  There is a bandaid on his knee from when he climbed a tree and fell before he made it very far; her fingers are already callused from her piano lessons.

He sees her across the room and knows she sees him in turn.  They cross towards each other, and when they meet in the center of the room, surrounded by fellow students and parents fussing over last minute details, she holds out her hand to him.  He takes it, and finds that it is neither too big nor too small for his.  He looks at their hands and then at her face; she’s smiling.

They say nothing, but they walk together.

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