I slipped into the bus shelter behind the old man, where it was dry. I bit into my apple, a juicy delicious Honeycrisp, sweet and mixed red and green in color. The old man, tall, white hair cut into near-invisibility in a buzz, barrel-chested and skinny-legged, looked like a football coach, his back to me as he watched for the bus. He jumped at the sound of my apple bite and looked over his shoulder.
“Oh, sorry,” he said. “I didn’t hear ya sneak up on me.” His voice was kind and a bit sad, not accusing me so much as he was wistful. He picked up his bag, which had been sitting on the bench.
“No problem,” I said. I was content to stand and try to finish my apple before the bus showed up.
He turned completely around. “You know,” he said, “30 years ago, you wouldn’t have been able to do that.” He had a slight lisp, and it looked like his nose had been broken and reset oddly. His lip half-curled. “I’ve lost some skills since then.” His eyes lowered and he stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets.
I wondered what he was remembering. Did he serve in the military? Or just have to spend a lot of time in places where one doesn’t let their guard down? I smiled around a mouthful of apple. “I’m sure that you’ve gained some skills in that time, though, too.”
“Oh, maybe so, maybe so,” he conceded. “It’s hard to know whether the gain has been worth it, though.” He turned and looked down the street. “The bus’ll be here in, oh, about two minutes.”
“How true. We take what we get and do what we can with it.” In the span of just a few minutes, I’d come to like this guy. I silently wished him luck.
It’s an odd feeling, liking strangers. I’m not used to it, yet. And it may only be for today.