As the old man wandered down the lone tan sidewalk in the dead of night, his thoughts began to meander along memory lane. He thought about his family, long gone. He was the only one left, but he remembered when he used to go with his mother and father and two sisters to his uncle’s house for Christmas. They used to be so happy, gathering around the piano to sing together. Just like in the movies. He thought about his friends. In the summers he used to go to the beach with those boys, whom he hadn’t heard from in years. He walked for hours and hours, down the quiet street, and with each minute came a new memory. Every memory brought on another one. He strolled, with his hands behind his back, with no intentions of going anywhere. Walked just for the sake of walking. The memories were all very pleasant, but they all reminded him of how none of it was his anymore. It all reminded him of how alone he was. His right hand left his back and traveled to his chin, whereupon it stroked his thick gray beard. It tended to do that when the man was thinking or upset. The feeling was overwhelming. He needed to sit down. So, the old man found a bench right under a streetlight. He sat down, and rested his elbows on his knees. His heavy head fell into his palms in exhaustion. He just sat, staring at his shadow for hours. His eyes began to feel so heavy; he couldn’t keep them open any longer. The lost old man slept there on that bench alone, until morning. When he awoke, all thoughts from the night before were still with him. The street was now crowded and busy with throngs of people, yet he never felt more alone. No family. No friends. No one passing by looked at him or spoke to him or acknowledged him whatsoever. After a minute or so, a young man, about twenty years old, sat down next to him on the bench. He turned to the old man, looked at him in the eye, and said good morning. That was all he needed. The old man made a goofy, toothy grin he hadn’t made since he was a boy. He then proceeded to shake hands with his new companion, introduce himself, and tell him his story. The two continued to talk the entire day on that bench. They didn’t even notice when night fell because they had been so deep in their conversation. The men sat there on that same bench in the middle of the night, under that same streetlight. They sat there through morning, once again. And because of the young man’s simple good morning, the old man was no longer lonely.
Wandering Down the Road
April 15, 2009