The old man sitting one table up is all alone. He’s wearing a yarmulke, a blue dress shirt, gray pants and running sneakers. He’s waiting for his bagel. “Where’s my bagel?” he asks. Not meanly, but impatiently.
I actually don’t think he has anywhere to go. He’s made a joke—twice now—about everyone here having a laptop, while he has only a cup of coffee. He’s a tad awkward. Clearly, he wants someone to talk to him. To chat. But we’re all busy, busy, busy, busy. Things to write. People to call. Projects to complete. Truth be told, I’m avoiding eye contact, because I don’t want to get locked down. I have to pick up the kids in a few hours. I have things to do. Important things to do.
And yet …
If I’m being honest with myself, the old man is my future. I’m almost 42. He’s probably 80. The years go past. Soon enough, I’ll be obsolete. People won’t buy my books, and request freelance pieces. I’ll just be an old writer awkwardly standing there as someone tells their disinterested grandchild, “Mr. Pearlman used to write sports books.” I’ll spend my days looking for something to do … somewhere to go. I’ll try and volunteer—but it’ll feel like mere busy work to pass the time between retirement and death. I’ll read books I don’t particularly care about. I’ll attend movies, and moan about things not being as good as they once were. I’ll fumble over new technology, sleep longer hours, get dressed up for a trip to the drug store. I’ll make corny jokes, and no one will laugh.
I’ll sit in a coffee shop, anxious for company.
And I’ll be ignored by some soon-to-be 42-year-old dickhead at a laptop.