I saw him again yesterday afternoon when I was riding my bike along the beach.
He was sitting on a bench gazing at the horizon, oblivious of what was going on around him. I noticed he had a sad expression on his face.
Steve is tall and skinny with a rugged face and short grey hair. He is seventy five but looks much older. As usual, he’s smartly dressed, wearing grey gabardine pants with a matching vest, white shirt and a navy blue cardigan. He looks as if he’s again living in his own dream world, a world full of memories from the distant past; happy memories from his childhood in a small village in Greece where he was surrounded by his extended family of mother, father, brothers, sister and grandparents. He remembers the joy of his wedding day when he married his childhood sweetheart.
Then there were unhappy memories of his wife’s long illness and consequent death and the heartache of having an estranged only son.
I get off my bike and watch Steve from some distance. Two teenage girls go past in front of him talking loudly about some boys and giggling. Steve’s thoughts travelling in high speed did not seem to be interrupted by the noise. I do not want to interrupt his thoughts either. Not for the moment, anyway.
I keep watching. A middle-aged couple goes past this time engaged in an intimate conversation. They stop a few metres away from where Steve is sitting, look into each others eyes and then kiss. He turns his head towards them. A sad smile is painted on his dry lips. More memories surface in his mind.
I finally approach him. “Geia sou, Steve… how are you today?” He turns around. A big smile this time lightens up his face. His eyes sparkle with joy. ” I’m fine, thank you,” he replies. I sit down on the bench next to him for a while as I normally do when I see him, listening to what he has to say… whatever… He talks, and talks… he looks happy!
It’s getting dark. I need to get home soon. On the way I feel overwhelmed with joy. I’ve been able to put a smile on Steve’s face and a pinch of happiness in his lonely life.
from the collection “scattered vignettes”