A raw, unedited short short "written" on my way to work and inspired by an old man standing on a street corner, waiting to cross. These challenges sure are tough - and rather uncomfortable.
He was standing in the middle of the mailroom, his hands stone fists inside the pockets of his pants. His lips drawn in a thin line, he focused his eyes on the flatscreen display with unusual disinterest. He was still staring at it ten minutes later when I took the elevator back to my apartment. A rather peculiar old man, I thought, always seems to be waiting for something.
I had seen him before, many times, always disengaged from the activity he so intently pursued. In each passing contact, his eyes were unwelcoming and cold, rejecting acts of urban civility commonly accepted in tight living quarters. His wardrobe displayed a sense of monotone, matching the despondency that enveloped his behavior; he never parted with his steel blue jacket, always unzipped, his cream collared shirt, always buttoned up, his white socks that peeked out from under the cuffs of his dove gray pants, his white sneakers, and his blue baseball cap.
I was leaving for the evening when I saw him for the third time that day. He was standing in the hallway, seemingly overwhelmed by the soda machine selection that had not changed in a decade.
"Who is that old man?" I asked one of the doorman. If anyone, they would know.
"You mean the guy in the blue baseball cap who stands around waiting?" he asked and nodded his head toward the hallway that dissected the ground floor.
"Yes. Just seems an unlikely person to live in a highrise in midtown. I guess I am just curious."
"He sure is strange. I have never heard him say a word. Someone told me years ago that the old man was a prisoner of war in Korea and then served in Japan for a while. I don't think he has any family - he has not had a visitor in the five years I have been working here."
"Who?" a sharp voice interrupted from behind the concierge desk.
"The old man in the blue hat," I told the night shift. "I am being nosy."
"Him. Yes. I don't really know what his story is, but I heard that he was a stock broker back in the day and used to live in a townhouse uptown before he lost everything. You know, most nights he walks the corridor between the mailroom and the gym, as if he were waiting for something."
"Well, I guess we are all waiting for something," I told them and headed out the door.
The old man in the blue hat was gone when I returned later that night. The morning shift told me he had died of natural causes.
Was that what he was waiting for?