I live with a gargoyle. Yes. It is true, no matter what you may think.
His name is Rassmussen, and he is somewhere between two and four hundred years old. He won’t give me an exact age. You see, he is a bit sensitive about his age, but there are signs. Why he once told me of when the first French colony of Quebec was founded. The details he provided, the emotion behind the words, told me more than his slip of the tongue into a first person telling. Only one who had been there could speak of it with such verve.
I asked him why he wouldn’t tell me. He muttered something in French and walked away. Frankly, after the first fifty years, or so, I would think it wouldn’t matter. By then, you have matured about as much as you will. The body has gone all to hell, and as history repeats itself, the world around you resembled a bad rerun.
The most disheartening age conversation Rassmussen and I ever had wasn’t about his age at all. It was about mine, or more specifically, about my death. Rassmussen had been dipping into the mulberry wine a little too heavily for way too long. His big, brown eyes welled up with tears, but it wasn’t the tears that caught my attention first. It was the incessant sniffling, and the way he wiped his wide stubbed nose on the back of his sleeve. I had asked him a million times not to do that. Gargoyle snot stains beyond redemption.
The minute my nagging reprimand left my lips, I regretted it. Those pools of tears, dammed in place by the multi-level bags beneath his eyes, poured down his sad face in flowing streams. More tears flew in all directions, refusing to conform to the face. He cried not from my words, but the thought of no more words between us. As old as the hills, my Rassmussen, and I but a babe in retrospect. Yet he saw me as the one reaching the end of life.
Here, I worried about preventing stains, and his concern was our time together was too short. What would to become of him, if I were gone? Without me, there would be no more chess games, no more warm blankets thrown about his stone shoulders, in case he grew cold during his daily slumber.
This old creature, who could tell me more about history than I would ever learn from books—who had lived, loved, and lost many time times over—found life too short. His own and mine.
I don’t ask him his age anymore. To do so is to remind us of my own and how short our time together might be. We talk of history. We walk in the garden. We find comfort in the company of one another, now. Today. The days past are a countdown of days used up, gone forever. The days to come are speculative, at best. No. We enjoy the time we have, just me and my gargoyle.