"A gift, for you," the old man said to the newcomer. Although they differed by at least several decades in age, both had snow-white hair.
Uncorking the bottle of perfume, he set it down on the dirt by the young man's feet.
Still, there was no response from his companion, who continued to stare, glassy-eyed, into space.
White plums. The perfume was the scent of white plums.
"Have you forgotten?"
There was finally motion from the young man, as he picked up the bottle between his fingers. "I want to forget," he said, pouring the perfume into the dust.
But instead of disappating, the smell seemed to become more pungent.
"Do you want to spend the rest of your life like this? You're not like the others here. They'e already lived their lives. Is there really nothing left?"
"What could possibly be left for me?"
He felt empty. Regardless of how hard he tried, she wasn't there. He couldn't see her smile for him anymore. He couldn't see her at all.
And without her smile, the scent of white plums meant nothing.
Without her smile, what could possibly be left for him?
"She would've wanted you to be happy."
He didn't even know what made him happy anymore. He couldn't recall ever having been happy, except when he could feel the warmth of her skin against his face as she touched his cheek.
But at the same time... he realized now that he wasn't ever truly happy, not even then. There was always the fear there. The fear that he would lose her. The fear that that feeling would be taken away from him forever. He wanted to keep her, so badly it ached.
"You built your entire world around one person, but you've always neglected yourself. How do you think that makes her feel?"
There was no reply. The old man sighed and climbed to his feet. Pulling his ratty straw hat down firmly on his head, he said, "Well, there's someone I wanted to go see today. There's something of hers I wanted to return."
The young man glanced out of the corner of his eye at the item in his companion's hand. A woman's hairpin.
White plums... and a pin that seemed somehow familiar.
"She found her own happiness. And... she wanted you to be happy, too." With that, the old man left, whistling between the gaps in his teeth.