The old man sitting across from me in the diner lifted up his porcelain dinner plate and poured the leftover, steaming-hot broth into his cup. While he poured he muttered to himself, whispering the other half of an unheard, or perhaps imaginary conversation. When the cup was filled, he put the empty dinner plate back on the table, then squared the cup of broth, his dinner plate, silverware, salt and pepper shakers, oregano tin, and candle perfectly one against the other. He smoothed his hands over the table cloth repeatedly until all the wrinkles had disappeared to his satisfaction and then inspected his table.
Upon seeing that all was now arranged in proper order he took in one deep breath, and then slouched into the corner of his booth with a rapturous exhale and raised one leg onto the bench. He closed his eyes and, after a few short breaths, slumped forwards sleepily.
His body hung halfway towards the ground as though suspended between one second and the next. The tinkling sounds of the nearby diners did not disturb him, nor did the passing advances of the waiter who cleaned around the old man’s neatly organized table with a wet rag. For the next quarter of an hour the old man only breathed an inaudible, “hoo hoo,“ of an owl through mostly closed lips and otherwise sat still as a statue.
When he finally awoke, he lifted his glass, sipped carefully at his cooled cup of broth, and resumed his broken, muttered conversation.
Finishing, the old man stood up, put a thin, plastic rain coat on over his sweater, left a few nickles on the counter, and sauntered out into the rain on bow-legged legs. Continue reading