These kids, they wander. That’s what they do. Sidewalk to sidewalk, stopping in the middle of the street to fire up their vapes. What the hell is a vape? Commit to it, I want to yell. Smoke like a real person. A cigarette, or a cigar, even a joint, I don’t care. They wear their expensive hats that look ridiculous, like it’s a costume party for the self-possessed. Hey, look at me, I’m a moron who wants to stand out, just like the rest of my wandering friends. We’re collectively unique. And they wander.
I sit here on my stoop, every night after supper. I watch the street, wave to the neighbors. They wave back. They mow their patch of lawn, or rake their leaves, or shovel their sidewalks. It’s routine, a pattern of life. I sit here for maybe an hour, until it’s time for “Jeopardy”. I think they’re dumbing it down, because I get about half the answers right. I remember when I didn’t know what the fucking answers were. Now, it’s “Who is Shakespeare?”, “Who is Richard Nixon?”, “What was ‘A Hard Day’s Night’?” I’ll bet the wanderers don’t know those things.
I smoke a cig, sometimes two if it’s not too hot or too cold. If the air is right, and the wind doesn’t lift up the stink from the lake, I’ll sit longer and watch the cars go by, watch the traffic lights switch, listen for kids’ bicycle bells, or just read the expression of the sky. People wander by, and not just the kids. Men I’ve known for years, women who still wear skirts that don’t show their underwear when the breeze catches hold, boys who lug baseball bats over their shoulders, girls running to the A&P parking lot to skip double-dutch. Simple things. And I never wonder if I’m missing something, something important, something big enough to make me feel small. I was a beefy guy when I was older, but the years have melted me down. Gray hair, saggy jowls, arthritic knees. No one’s intimidated by me, because I’ve never given them cause. I sit here minding my own business, friendly, but not too generous with my friendliness. A man needs his space, particularly after he’s lost his wife. I take my early nights outside, my late nights in front of the tube, and my sleeping nights not sleeping.
I read a little, I write a little poetry (terrible stuff, really, but my Rosa liked it), and I think about growing older. I don’t really have to think about it that hard. It happens every day. “What is dying, Alex?”
I wish those damned kids would figure out how ridiculous they look. Wandering is fine, but do they have to act like they’re so special when they do it? Special is moving on to the next day. And the day after that. Even when you don’t have no good reason.
I wander, sure, in my head every day. But I don’t need no stupid fucking hat to impress anyone.