After Twenty Years…

In O. Henry’s story After Twenty Years a man returns to New York City to keep an appointment at ten pm that he made with his best pal twenty years ago.  Bob had headed West to make his fortune.  Jimmy had remained in New York City to pursue his life.

As Bob stood in the doorway of a hardware store which had been a fine eatery twenty years ago, a policeman was walking his beat.  Going up to Bob he began a conversation.

Bob was fully anticipating his meeting with Jimmy.  The policeman asked if he would wait beyond the ten o’clock hour.  Bob enthusiastically replied yes. He and Jimmy were pals, good pals.

We all have made an appointment to meet someone, but few of us have made an appointment twenty years in the future. Twenty years is a lot of water under the old bridge of time.

People change.  A good pal in high school may not be a friend twenty years later.  We all have experienced this type of experience.

If we were in Bob’s place in the above story would we be so calm?  What would be our expectations and hopes?

One reality may be disappointment.  One cannot just pick up where you left off twenty years ago.  Well, most people would find this difficult to achieve because we change.

The boy or girl from high school is not the man or woman who has lived twenty years on this planet traversing the cosmos.  Back there in those days of innocence, they had no idea what the vicissitudes of fate had in store for them on their sojourn on the road of life.

Eventuality of change is inevitable for the human race.  Time and experiences alter what we were into what we are.

One decision at a crossroads has consequences for what we become.  When you multiply this decision each day of our lives, then you have a concurrence of events and paths which make us different from who we were back there in the mists of the past.

Returning, to our story of Bob and his friend Jimmy, Bob is eventually greeted by someone who claims to be his chum.  When they exit the rainy shadows into the light of the drugstore, Bob realizes this is not his friend Jimmy.

The police officer who had first greeted him recognized Bob as a man wanted in Chicago.  For the police officer had been his friend Jimmy who asked a plain-clothes detective to impersonate him and arrest Bob since he could not arrest the man who he knew twenty years ago.

As the plain-clothes detective said in response to Bob’s statement about twenty years, “It sometimes changes a good man into a bad one.” Twenty years may not seem like a long time to the young, but a man or woman twenty years older realize life can never be like it was back then in the days of youth.

G. D. Williams       © 2012

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