Today coming home from work, I noticed a very old man sitting on his front porch. He was withered and pale and looked a little shell-shocked and as I turned to look at him something moved inside me. I admired what it may have taken for him to be there. All the events of his day leading up to that moment in time… Who washed the clothes he was wearing and prepared his lunch? Was it difficult for him to get out of his bed this morning? Had he watched the news and what did it stir inside him? What did he think about the cars whizzing past his house driven by much younger people in a hurry to get to the gym or the grocery store… What kind of life had he led? Did he have family and friends to love and be loved by? Maybe an old dog asleep beside him on the porch… Had someone called him today to make sure he was doing ok… Had he fought in a war or been injured or lost friends or won medals? Had he ever been in love? What was his favorite TV show? Did he play hooky from school ever?
Was he happy or ravaged with regrets? I could not tell from his expression. He was just there. His gaze revealed nothing to me at all. His posture could have been effortless or painful. I could not tell. His elbows rested on the arms of his chair and his hands were folded on his lap. For all I know he could have been sitting there, expecting someone like me to notice him and his sole purpose was to give no indication of his condition. Maybe that’s how he gets his kicks. Or maybe he was defying me. I’ll never know. Or that crazy part of me could become obsessed to the point of marching up to his door and demanding to know his name and life story. Not likely.
Now, after having tossing these thoughts around in my head, I can’t help but feel a deep respect for this man. Simply because he was there. And what he’s endured. Some might think, yes, but maybe he was a bad man. Maybe he was the meanest s.o.b. on the block. If that were the case, I would curse the events in his life that caused it. No one is born bad or mean. We have choices, yes, but who’s to say…
I will look at that house every day now for a couple of weeks to see if he’s sitting there. If he is, I will give him a name. I will start to notice if he’s wearing the same clothes, if he’s sitting in the same chair. I will be concerned if he’s not there. I will catch myself after a time and realize that I’d forgotten to look for him for several days. Before much more time passes I will forget about him. Maybe years from now something will trigger the memory of the image of him as I saw him today.
One day I could become him, sitting alone on my little porch watching the world go by… a prisoner of my thoughts in a fragile and aged body. Will anyone notice?