The child had been a child at one time, most certainly. But, when Allister answered the door knock and discovered the mysterious basket, the swaddling-clothed bundle was not a baby. It had been passed from doorstep to doorstep and had aged with each new knock. A new mother and/or a new father for every answer of every new door. Sometimes gifts were given. Milk, new clothes, a name written on a dated postcard that aged and wrinkled with him (him being named Nicholas), and eventually even solid foods. Nicholas was not kept. He was constantly given to others by others.
And when he arrived on Allister’s doorstep, he did so with perfectly white hair sitting calmly under a wool cap, another gift given by a giver. And bifocals with small wire frames. Another gift from another giver. The lenses rested on Nicholas’ nose, which was porous in the sense of a roman pillar. Thick and rounded. It was a knowing nose. A nose that had smelled much. It lay in between two blue eyes. They sat wisely. Rested snug in two pouches of skin. Pockets for the precious irises. Wrinkles traced so simply and sweetly. All the laughlines and frownlines, tiny fissures, reminders of the scope of emotion that face was capable of. The mouth was simple. The top lip rested on the bottom lip with the comfiest of patience. The tips where the lips meet both pointed in the slightest upward angles. Barely a smirk. The face sagged in an elegant way. More a droopiness than a sag. Kind. It was the expression, the look, that only came with years. Years of wind and warmth. Years of tears and smiles. Years of coming and going. Years of seeing it all and realizing how little and how large that was. An understanding that was simple in its complexity.
And, though Allister was very easily Nicholas’ junior in terms of years, Allister raised Nicholas for that was all that was left to give him. And, as time does, Nicholas grew older still. Allister was still much younger than his son. But, Allister was not immune to the chimes of the clock that painted hair white and gray (and, in Nicholas' case, white-er and gray-er) and carved the lines of laughs and frowns deeper. And, before Nicholas left the world, Allister told him that he was sorry he could not have given him more. And Nicholas said, with a smile, that there was no reason to be sorry. That, from the time that he could understand his thoughts, when he grew up, all he had ever wanted to be was someone’s son.