Friday, October 19, 2012

The Watcher

This guy is just standing in the middle of the hall looking at the restroom doors.  Is he waiting for someone or summoning up the courage to go in?  Old guy – in shorts, calf length socks and brown oxfords.  He’s stooped and wears thick glasses.  He stands there quietly watching the doors; his hands together in front of him like a fig leaf.  People pass by on either side and still he stands – serene. 

What did he do in life?  Maybe he was an engineer, or an accountant.  Perhaps he worked out production schedules for a small manufacturing plant.  Whatever it was, he became accustomed to solitude.  He is certainly comfortable in his own skin.  He may have been a writer, except he has no interest in what’s going on around him.  If he wrote, it was of a technical nature - instruction manuals or such.  Whatever he’s up to, he is little affected by others.  He is practically invisible, even in a busy hospital hallway. 

What kind of family life did he have?  Did he have kids?  If he had, they have probably moved some distance away.  His aloofness left them drift.  There are only very weak ties between them.  His small pension allows him to dutifully send token birthday and Christmas gifts to the grandkids, but they don’t really see each other very often.

His hobbies were of the model airplane sort.  He never cared much for sports.  He would have liked to travel but was unwilling to pay the outrageous motel costs.  But there were a few significant vacations.  Perhaps a trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell.  Maybe to Niagara Falls on a special anniversary.

He seems to be healthy enough.  A little worn, but after all, he’s been around for a while.  Why is he here?  Did he need a procedure?  Some tests?  What is he doing?  If we evade sickness and accident, one day we will all be like him; living in a world that gets smaller and smaller because there is  less and less concern with what is going on around us.  And as I watch him there’s a woman on the other side of the waiting area watching me.  I sit here inventing a life for someone else and she’s no doubt reconstructing mine!  I look around; there are a half-dozen of us within an area the size of a modest living room.  Two are looking at magazines.  One is playing with an electronic devise of some sort. The rest are staring off thinking of somewhere else - all of us waiting in our own world-bubble.  If we could hear our digital clocks, they’d be tick, tick, ticking away.  Time going by.  Waiting.  Detached.  The old guy across the hall is still waiting.  Staring at the restroom doors.  Waiting for something his whole life.  Waiting.  Waiting.
The restroom door starts to open and he jumps to hold it so.  An elderly woman with a walker struggles through the doorway and his purpose is apparent.  All this time he has been waiting for her - his thoughts and actions poised, ready and waiting to help.  What others thought or whatever else he could be doing matters not.  Even doors and walls did not severe the connection he had with this one person.  And they hobble off down the hall - together. 

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