Ramblings of the Forgotten Man

He sat and waited at the bus stop in his tattered, checkered coat. Actually, he’d been sitting and waiting for some time now. He glanced down at his watch only to see that it had stopped ticking at a quarter past three some morning, he didn’t know when. At his age, he never looked at the clock or his watch much anymore, each second hand a painful reminder that time didn’t move any slower for an old man, no matter how slowly he moved.
He let loose a heavy sigh from his frail body, his shoulders quivered as he drew in more air. He looked down at his watch hand again, quickly this time as if spending less time staring at the clock would make the 78 express come any faster. Almost three quarters past 5. The bus should’ve been here by now.
As he had grown older he had become increasingly frustrated at today’s society running at its own leisurely pace, almost unaware as the world kept turning, the sands continued to collect at the bottom of the hourglass. Time. People these days had no concept of it, he thought to himself, no respect for it. That’s the trouble these days, no respect for time, no respec- he was interrupted mid-thought by the squeaking of the poorly oiled brakes of the 5:30 78. The man slowly looked up from his rusty, stopped watch as he heard the gentle hiss of the 78 express bus door swing open.
He looked up hesitantly at the driver of the bus and gently folded his day old newspaper he‘d been
reading to pass the time. The grey haired man looked up into the stormy eyes of the bus driver, colorless, much like the clouds of that Chicago February he sought shelter from on the Express. He stopped before getting on the bus, as if afraid to crack a smile, but his lips curled to show a twisted sort of grin. A smile not truly of happiness, but rather a tired smile that had been used many times before. He had used it at obligatory social gatherings, weddings, social situations in which he felt he had no place. This sort of smirk that the man presented to the bus driver as a sort of exchange of pleasantries without any actual spoken words, was quickly shot down by the man at the wheel. The driver, with an incredible lack of grace, scratched at his ass as he coughed up phlegm as he prepared to speak.
That’ll be a buck fifty. The old man looked at the driver once again. He began to study the driver’s features as he mounted the steps, his eyes fixed upwards. His slightly dampened shoes from the afternoon shower squeaked as they made their way, slipping across the rubber of the steps. The driver, the old man had noticed, had some sort of sadness about him. Make no mistake, the driver’s face showed no signs of sadness. But that was just it. His face seemed almost comfortable in its hardened state. It was this that gave him away. Also his eyes, the very same eyes that had once looked down on the old man, now at eye level, for some reason or another, seemed to melt as they met with the man’s tired, blue eyes. He turned his head away from the stare of the driver as he fumbled through his pockets for the change to make up his fare. He blindly dropped the coins into the slot, never once making eye contact again with the bus driver, and made his way back to his seat.
As he made his way towards the back of the bus, he casually looked at his watch. 5:49. It had taken him almost 5 minutes for him to make his way onto the bus. Well, what can I say? He thought. I just don’t move like I used to. He was sure of that. He remembered all the times he had hated time, all the times he had prided himself on his disobedience to Father Time. He thought about those old days. That one summer when he had won the regional finals for the 100 meter dash. 12.37 seconds. Even till this day, he still held the record for his small, desolate Kansas town. But times have changed. He could no longer run 100 meters in 12.37 seconds. This is Father Time’s way of getting back at me. He thought to himself. This is the price I pay for my hubris.
Excuse me. A young man, a twenty something, briefcase in hand, ready for another day at the grind interrupted the man’s thoughts. Would you care for a seat? He asked. The twenty something added a nauseating smile to this offer, as a sort of effort to seal the deal, a technique he had no doubt learned from some second rate community college in Noweheresville, USA. It was the old man’s turn to smile, a sort of fuck you to the young businessman. How dare you comment on my age? The elderly man wanted to say. Instead, he looked at the young man, thanked him for him for his generosity, but assured him that he would be quite fine standing or looking for another seat.
The younger man scoffed a sort of good luck and returned to what he was doing before the elderly stranger had come along. The old man began to look around the bus for any empty seats, but much to his dismay the young businessman had been right, seats were hard to come by. He stood holding on to the plastic hoop hanging down from the metal bars of the bus for support.
As he stood there, he once again began to look around the bus. However, this time he began to look more closely at the faces of those who surrounded him. All of them seemed to be lost in their own definitions of importance. The businessman looking at the Wall Street stock exchange. The young woman blissfully unaware of her surroundings as she listened to her music. The teenaged school boy with a look that could only be described as apathetic.
He began to wonder. I see all these things when I look at them, all the people around me, lost in a category. I see the twenty some year old man, trying to work his way up in the business world. I see the young woman searching to find some happiness in her escape of reality through any means necessary. I see the stereotypical teen, lethargic and uncaring as he makes his way home to yet another evening of “How was school?”s and “What did you learn today?”s. I see all of this, clear as day. But what do they see? The question he was so afraid to ask. What do they see when they look at me? Do they see what I was? How could they? My former days of glory, surrendered to an age of osteoporosis and arthritis. All they see when they look at me is a shriveled old shell of a man. He was sure of it. They can’t possibly understand what I was, they can’t get past who I am here, now. And they’ll never know. No one listens to the ramblings of an old man, talking about the good ol’ days. No one hears him. They all pretend to listen as they continue running about their daily lives. This is my punishment for my arrogance, my flaunting in the face of time, my eagerness to race through it. They will never see who I was. They only see how time has made a fool of me.

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