Something happened this morning, when I sat in a café.
An old man at the table next to me,
who wore a hose attached to an oxygen tank,
removed it to get up and walk to the restroom.
For as long as I’ve had jobs,
I’ve had to work each Sunday morning.
Now that’s changed; I am free
to enjoy the ends of my weeks.
The old man, his head and shoulders slumped forward
with the weight of age and experience,
he shuffled around his table and the couple he sat with,
probably his daughter-in-law and son.
He passed my booth and the next,
where a hot young thing chattered with friends.
He rested his hand on the high seat-backs,
not because he needed the support, but just in case;
one can never be too safe.
I watched her eyes, which watched from their corners;
she was mortified, and paid close attention
to the wrinkled hand, lest it should inadvertently
brush her shoulder.
It was like she feared that old age is contagious,
and she might catch it if he got too close.
On his return trip, I saw his face,
the drooping, wrinkled skin and tired eyes.
Even behind the heavy lenses of his thick-rimmed glasses,
his tired eyes seemed bright and alive.
He was clearly thrilled
to have another Sunday brunch
to be with family.
For a moment I couldn’t help but think
that youth is oppressively sad, or saddening.
Suddenly I wanted to stand up;
I wanted to hug him, hold him close.
I wanted to kiss his cheek;
I wanted to whisper in his ear,
“You’re beautiful. I love you.”
The feeling was almost as strong as impulses I get
when I think some attractive young lady has smiled at me;
but there are ways to respond to those.
The feeling passed by as he did,
all they left me was desire
for some reassurance.
I just want to believe that the old man
will experience nothing but joy
right up until he experiences nothing at all.
After a full week at work,
followed by a weekend of play,
I look at this old man and wonder
if I can make it through the afternoon.
But then I see a girl in a booth
on the other side of the dining room,
twenty-something and still hasn’t learned
to cross her legs when she wears a skirt.
Tomorrow is Monday,
the beginning of another week.