October 16th, 2001

emu

The old man

One of the disadvantages of changing jobs will be that I won't walk past the house of the old man anymore. I don't know him at all, just whenever I take the train to work, I have to walk past his house on my way to work and in the afternoon on my way back to the station.

At first you don't realise it, but after a while I'd noticed this guy sitting in his chair near the window. He's old, although I'm not sure how old. Old enough to have his bed in the living room at least. Usually in the morning he sits in the kitchen, in the back of the house. Like in the old days, drinking coffee with the Mrs. in the kitchen. You only use the living room for special occasions. Guests, birthdays and public holidays. But he is too old now too take the stairs, so his bed is downstairs. Whenever I walk past in the afternoon, 9 out of 10 times he sits in his comfy chair and watches the world go by. The TV is usually on, but he has his back turned to it. He prefers to see what the world is like, not watch the screen and see misery elsewhere in the world.

One day, when I realised that he sat there very often I waved when I walked past. He returned the wave. Over time the greeting has become a ritual. I do not take the train every day, in nice weather I like cycling to work, but whenever I do walk past and he sits at the window, I wave, often with my umbrella. His face is like a little child on the first trip to Disneyland, his smile widens, he throws his arm in the air and moves within his chair, as if to show that even though he is old and seated, he isn't dead yet, he can still move. I tap the edge of the hat I'm not wearing, in an attempt to show respect, as they used to do in the old days. I walk a tiny bit slower than I have to, to be able to complete the ritual.

When I'm two houses further down, the Neil Young song "Old man" is humming in my head and I start wondering about his life. I've never seen him inside, the evidence suggests that he doesn't get outside often, probably not at all. His house is old, I guess he has lived there all his life. He doesn't seem to have any relatives. I hope his family visits him in the weekend, though who knows if he has any. Sometimes I consider letting my train go and knock on his door. Even though we have never spoken, it almost seems like we know each other. I could go over and have a cup of coffee with him. But I don't drink coffee, apart from that, it would be an effort for him. Perhaps too big an effort. And maybe everything I think about me is wrong, I mean, they are only assumptions. So I leave him peacefully in his comfy chair. Waiting for the end. And every time I walk past I salute. It is all I think is appropriate. But I'll miss our little ritual, when I leave next month.
  • Current Music
    Tv in the background