The Old Man

By Mark Robinson in People, Poetry & Literature

The music blares in my ears… some unknown song. I’m sitting facing the window, looking out onto the street but not seeing, not thinking. A rush of people, bodies, surge by on the sidewalk, then slows. Another rush appears and then slows. Like waves on the shore. I rest my elbows on the table holding the cup with two hands. I bring the coffee to my lips and take a sip, stare, no thoughts. I take another sip and think about its warmth.
So nice on this cold, damp day. Its taste, just enough sweetness. Just the right balance of cream to temper the sharpness of the coffee. So good. Then I see him. He is there.
Appearing from within the moving mass. And then, as if the mass has spit him out, not wanted. A being different from the rest. Standing in front of the glass, staring. His lips moving. I become uneasy but quickly realize he is not staring at me but through me, past me. The rush of bodies, not hesitating, but still moving past him, making slight adjustments in direction to navigate around him, past this obstacle. Not caring. His face to the window, staring, one hand on the cold smooth glass. Flat against the glass, fingers moving about as if clawing . . . no . . . caressing the hard surface. I watch – others around him moving quickly. Not touching him. Moving around and past him. His is still, the movement behind him becomes a blur. Nothing touches him. He senses no one else. He is alone in his world. Fingers still caress the glass. Lips move, mouthing unknown words. Eyes flicker with recognition. Mouth forming a slight smile. He leans forward, lips touching the glass in a kiss, eyes close for an instant, then open. Head pulls back, eyes find the imprint his lips have made on the clean glass. Fingers touch the mark, move over it . . . a smile forms on his lips. The smile disappears, eyes become blank again. All recognition has gone. He turns, moves back into the rush of bodies . . . slowly . . . faster bodies giving no heed, move around him. My eyes follow as he passes. Feet in old shoes shuffle with the mass. I see hair, long, unkempt, billowing out from under an old hard hat which is covered with all sorts of words, special and meaningful to him. A small bag. Around his neck hangs a pink comb. All his belongings he carries with him. His life within the reach of his arms. Moving further away from the window, the other bodies passing around him, by him, pile up behind him, he disappears within the mass, gone forever. I look back at the glass, see the imprint of his lips. Left on someone unseen to this world . . . now covered with water . . . squeegeed . . . no trace now . . . gone forever. I take another sip and again feel the warmth in my mouth, think, smile at the taste. Just the right amount of sweet and cream.