The birds cooed softly, their soft voices soothing in the early morning light. Sunlight slowly filtered its way through the clouds left from the rainstorm of last night, emerging soft and luminous. I sat in the wet grass, underneath the upside-down bus stop sign, certain that I would regret it once I stood up. But that couldn’t be helped, for it was Sunday, and I have a story to tell, and it begins like this.
"You’re here early," a gruff voice said from behind me. I jumped, startled. He wasn’t supposed to be here yet.
"I wanted to watch the sun rise," I said, pointing vaguely at the sky. The old man looked and nodded. He slowly sat down beside me, a feat that always amazed me, considering his age.
"People don’t stop enough to watch sunrises anymore," he said, his grey eyes distant.
I didn’t say anything, just nodded in agreement. I could still hear the birds cooing. Soon they would join us. The old man sighed.
"What brings you out early?" I asked. His hand, rough with age and hard work, slowly reached out to hold mine.
"I won’t be able to come out much longer," he said. And as he looked at me, I felt my heart break a little inside. I would miss him.
"But what about your birds?" I asked. There were a few birds, ones who had been around long enough to recognize us, coming closer. I pulled a few pieces of bread out of my pocket, and started feeding them. "Who’s going to take care of them?"
"They don’t come to me like they come to you," I protested.
"They will. Just tell them your stories and they will come. They’ll listen. And they’ll give you theirs."
I paused, frowning. It was something he had always done, tell the birds stories. I would always sit and listen to them, absently feeding the birds that dared come to me while the rest perched on him, entranced by his voice. He saw my frown, and squeezed my hand.
"You have many more sunrises ahead of you. And far more stories to tell. My time is up."
I didn’t have any tears. I thought I would have, on hearing news like this. I didn’t know they would come later, when I truly realized that he was gone, and that the birds were mine alone. And every Sunday I went out, I still felt like I was waiting for that old man, by the bus stop that no bus ever came to anymore, with the upside down sign and the birds that were drawn by storytelling. He was right. He always was.