Weekly Writing Challenge: Snapshots

by Shawnong

I was amidst the stream of shoppers, leaving the mall in hurried footsteps toward the train station. Everyone was intensely preoccupied and self-contained within their world.  The bustling atmosphere was  full of activity, but I felt hollow on the inside. Every pair of eyes were fixated on different places. Some had their heads bowed to their smartphones, others were caught up in their personal conversations. However, for some arcane reason, none laid their vision upon an ascetic elderly man, begging for some money.

He was sitting on a flimsy plastic chair, clad in thoroughly faded singlet and shorts, with his pot belly protruding. He had fine white hair and wrinkles deeply entrenched on his forehead. The wrinkles were further emphasised by the perpetual squinting of his beady eyes, from which I presumed he had poor vision. The elderly man had a small tin can in front of him- a receptacle for coins passers-by brusquely tossed into. He had a fanatical obsession to maintain the can in a certain orientation, for he believed it had grave implications.

As more people strutted by, the more the elderly man seemed out-of-place. It was as if time had warped around him, landing him in a foreign land where he struggled to fit in. There seemed to be cloak of invisibility around him and he was made to feel like a social mismatch . I drew this feeling from the dark undercurrents of the environment that the elderly man was not welcomed; that everyone would feel better off if his presence had conveniently evaporated.

But my whirlpool of thoughts quickly turned to guilt. As I came closer to him, I found myself blending further away into the camouflage of the crowd…