At the library. I’m working on emails, and down sits an old man at my table (MY table) with a stack of Clive Cusslers. I suppressed the rising lava of exasperation and hid my cringe with a smile, but things were okay because he stayed quiet and opened the book on top.
And then his friend stopped by. An old lady who knocked on the table to get his attention (did I mention there was an EMPTY table right next to me?), and then launched into a ‘guess who died this week’ dirge, with all the subtlety of a Boca Girl complaining about the waitstaff.
But I forged on, biting through emails with combative keystrokes. And then the WORST happened. She left and he turned his attention on me.
And he was amazing. I’ll tell you what I learned: he was born in 1919 on March 10th, his grandfather was Polish, his uncle Romanian. He met his wife 75 years ago and lost her 5 years ago, and they did not sleep with each other until they were married (because back then people did not ‘audition’ for lovers). He was an engineer once that had no time for small talk, but now he hates to eat alone and has met a ‘lady friend’ at Century Village that he can’t afford to feed all the time, but still really likes and who resembles, slightly, his wife. I saw a picture of his wife, a vixen at 80 with bushy eyebrows and fire engine lipstick. He has three children, four grandchildren and six great grandchildren, all who keep him alive and well.
And oh, his eyes. They were dreamy–a golden brown that flared with his inflections and swept the library out from under me. I saw a handsome soldier and lover, a brilliant, engineer introvert etching his progeny path in the wet cement of choice. It was the most wonderful conversation I’ve had to date.
I’ll leave you with a joke he told me.
King Arthur says to Lancelot, ‘When’s the last time we had an inspection?’ Lancelot says, ‘It’s 11pm. No greater time than the present!’
So they line up the knights and survey the shining mass, testing armor and sword, finding each to be in superb order. The reach the end of the line, congratulating one another on behalf of their troops.
And here they find a knight in despicable shape. His armor is dented and unpolished, and it creaks like a toad. His sword is blunt, as though he’d been sparring with stones for a fortnight. King Arthur takes a hair from his own beard, tosses it on the blade and watches it bounce away, unharmed, to the earth. And then he turns to Lancelot and says,
‘Ma Nishtana Ha Layla Ha Zeh?’