I had seen the old man before. He sat in Whataburger every morning alone, looking at the newspaper, drinking his coffee.
He was balding, his face wrinkled, and he wore loose casual clothes, the “uniform” of old men. He had a cane with him.
Sometimes, his face would look off into space. I wondered what was passing in his mind, because he seemed melancholy, almost wistful. His face seemed to suggest memories, ghosts. Every day I would watch as he drifted into the past. His facial expressions told stories of those times.
A slight smile told of a woman that he loved and lost.
A grunt, with a memory of a mistake in business.
A look of wonder as he thought of the day his children were born.
Sadness at the memory of the day his grandmother died.
You could see so many things in his face.
Why his grandkids never came by to see him.
The romance he never admitted to.
The day he killed a man in battle.
The year he played Santa for his kids at Christmas.
The person he hurt.
The Thanksgiving he invited a poor beggar to join them for lunch.
The friend who committed suicide.
The year he lost his business.
How much he missed his best friend, who died last year.
His first bicycle.
What his doctor told him after the last exam.
Where did the time pass?
If he could live it over, would he change anything?
For a moment he wished there was more time. But then, he didn’t have the energy to fight the battles that more time would bring.
He sat. He was, like many old men, waiting. Running out the clock. Alone.
After a while, I spoke. He seemed eager to speak to someone.
“Anything good in the newspaper today?” I asked
“Not a damn thing.” He said with a smile.
"Politics, you know, that president told us we would lose our banks, our homes, our jobs, and then said, 'Bye now, I enjoyed being your President." I said.
"You know, it was the truest thing he said. Some things never change." he replied.
In a moment he got up.
Hesitated. Looked at me and said: “Good day”
But his eyes said: “Thanks for speaking to me, friend.”
copyright by: Ben B. Boothe Sr.