Writer - Author - Poet
Writer - Author - Poet

The Old Man in the Corner

It was a last-minute decision to grab a coffee at one of my favorite coffee shops. I parked and walked briskly inside. Oh, no! There were 10 people in line with probably the same thought I had. While waiting my turn, with the person in front of me ordering six drinks for her pals back at the office no less, I sighed and looked around at the crowded space. Every table was occupied with people sipping their daily joe while working on their laptops or chatting with friends, munching on a cranberry-orange scone or a cinnamon roll. I didn’t recognize anyone until I noticed an elderly man sitting in a corner by himself. His hands and body shook rhythmically. Something about him seemed familiar but I couldn’t recall who he might be. He had thin white hair and was hunched over his cup, blowing on the top rim. Just then, someone behind him bumped into his chair and his drink spilled. The person didn’t notice or maybe didn’t care. I thought to help him but didn’t want to lose my place in line, so I watched as the elderly man slowly got to his feet. He shuffled carefully to the back exit door, keeping his eyes glued to the floor.

“Miss, what can I get you today, “the barista asked.

“Oh, I’ll have a small latte with oat milk. Could I have that extra hot.” I smiled. “Thank you.”

While I waited for my order, I looked out the window, scanning the parking lot to see where the old man went. There he is.

He opened the door to his car. A pile of paper fell out and a small book with a red cover. Perhaps it was the way he bent over to pick up the book or how his coat covered most of his body, leaving just the side of his face in view. I don’t know, but I knew then who he was.

I hadn’t seen Professor Acton for at least a decade, maybe more. I had attended some of his lectures on East Asian Studies. In his prime, he was a respected scholar of non-theistic religions. His classes were full of attentive students. He laughed often.

I regretted that I had not at least picked up his cup or held the door for him or helped him to his car. I felt ashamed that getting my coffee meant more than assisting someone who could’ve used it. And I felt sad that I had dismissed him, not seeing who he truly was, allowing the moment to pass, and ignoring the truth we all share. No one escapes injury or illness or aging or death.

“It’s not what we look at that matters, it’s what we see.” Thoreau

Enjoy the Passage of Time.

Sharon

© 2024. Sharon Kreider. All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “The Old Man in the Corner

  1. Sharon, your posts always leave me with a sense of gratitude for having met you, namaste.

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