The girl in the red-feathered hat got all the attention. She was striking—ice-white shock of lace at her throat; gleam of pearl earings; her head turned in startlement or perhaps a coy version of same; cheek and parted lips grazed by sunlight slipping into the dreary room. Vermeer’s tiny lady was no great beauty, but worthy of the attention.
Still, it was the old man who drew me. He was just an old man, but I was transfixed. It was not his unreadable eyes, but his demeanor that captured me, his downcast, somber gaze, fixed on distant memory.
In his mottled and grooved skin, I saw myself, not yet maybe, but soon, so soon. Time has tucked me into the folds of its whirlwind cloak, and I have but to blink to be the old man in that picture. We are kin, he and I, though yesterday I climbed my tree and dreamed of flying like Wonder Woman.
T.K. Thorne is a retired police captain (Birmingham, Alabama), director of City Action Partnership, and an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction.