Frame Story

The story begins like this. An old man sits alone in a hookah bar. Heavy smoke curls around his head, casting faint shadows in the light. This is his tale. One of a distant past.

No one approaches him, though they all wonder why he returns each night to sit at the same table, facing the same wall, smoking the same flavor of damp tobacco. They ask themselves what he sees, staring at that wall, whether there's a particular face that haunts him, or if a long litany of sins weighs on his soul. They whisper among themselves the stuff of legends, speculating about what sort of life led him here. Was it one of grand adventures, of conquest and loss?

One day a brash soul, or an ignorant one, sits where he sits. The bar holds its breath, waiting for him to arrive, to see what happens next.

The old man appears, walks up to the table with a slight limp, spies the young buck straddling his stool, smoking his favorite flavor of leaf. His face remains impassive, his expression inscrutable in the gloom.

"Yer gonna get up."

"Oh yeah?" The young man smirks, "And why is that?"

The old man sits across from him. "Yer gonna get up."

"Make me."

The old man sighs, and with a deep breath begins his tale. The bar sits in silence, and listens. It is even more poignant than they dreamed, one of romance and death. Each word weaves them deeper into a world of his memory and imagination. For an hour and a half or two, the bar sits, listening to a tale so evocative they can picture every twist and turn like they too lived it.

At its end, back in the story outside the story, the young man wept. He stands and allows the old man his seat.

"I'm sorry. I didn't know."

The old man watches him through watery eyes, grabs the hookah, inhaling deeply, scouring his soul of its telling. The smoke billows from his nostrils, and for a moment in the lowlight, takes on the shape of a certain face. One that no one else has seen, but they all know her name, her story and her fate. They know what these two were to each other, what they suffered through and what it all came to at the end. In a moment it is gone. The smoke fades in the dusk.

"Like I said, ya got up."