Saturday, November 14, 2009
from a park bench on a november afternoon
The old man came toward us, assisted by a cane and wearing a yellow parka that hung, in modest and neon swags, over his shuffling posterior. He did not give in to the temptation to look away, but his eyes wobbled on the edge of sliding somewhere else.
"I remember then," he told himself. "Sitting on a bench like there was all the time in the world spilling, like fat and endless cats, into our laps."
He had started looking by accident, and now he had to keep going or risk looking shifty or embarrassed when he meant to be neither. His eyes held firm, and so did his face; and he was proud of himself until he discovered the noticeable pause that had developed between each of his steps.
Then had been fine, he thought. Back then, he had imagined he knew all sorts of things. Things that let him sit on a bench and pretend that he could say one honest story about the person with their shoulder pressed close into his. Not that he had dared to ask, in case he got it wrong. It was enough to have the gold and the blue and the green of an afternoon, a satisfaction to wallow in the thin sun with the knowledge that, if he tilted his head the slightest degree to the side, his cheek would bend the cool curve of her ear.
He put his feet down with care now, humming a little rhythm, just to himself. He could have closed his eyes if he had headphones, made believe that whatever song happened to be on was worth blotting out the world for; but he never walked with headphones on principle, so he kept his eyes open and shuffled past us, until all we saw was his back draped in yellow, and then even that faded around a corner, and he was gone.