Old men, walking slowly.
On the streets of San Francisco, cars rushed up and down. The lights changed every 24 seconds, telling people to move back and forth, to gear up to the wind and press the gas pedals to carry their large steel vehicles up and down streets. Bicyclists wove in and out of the stop-and-go cars, dangerously and perilously balancing on their forward trajectories, trusting in the physics of a two-wheeled body and the visibility of their beings to dumb car owners.
The sun warmed up the thick cement slab outside of the liquor store. A homeless man lifted his head up off of his sleeping bag and asked me with his face and body for money. I said no, but I gave him a smile, wondering if that was sufficient to help him in any way. I walked, slowly, invisibly, down the strange street. I stopped at the corner. Between the changing lights, I looked down at my red shoes. My feet painted the slope of the ground and pointed slightly inwards. I ticked my right foot in and out in the rhythm of the music pulsating in my ears, feeling the need for my body to dance, to talk into the sky, to not be completely still. I watched a couple hold hands, talking softly, wandering across the street. A black-clad bouncer stood outside of the music venue across the street from me, waiting for people to aggregate in small crowds, to line up, to go in. I knew from experience that inside, the place was dark, a mix of black and red, a jangle of noises rushing in your face, a place to escape for a while and sink into music. At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, part of me wanted to go in. The wind paused for a second, letting the sun bake on my skin, keeping me outside instead. Every few minutes a gust of air, the early onset of fog, rolled down the western hills into the street, grabbing San Francisco’s sunshine and hiding it. The sun dipped a little bit behind the arching Monterey Cypress trees, their slanted, jarring branches breaking and withstanding the wind.
I waited, watching the flows of people behind a set of tinted almost-hipster sunglasses framing my face, hipster more in that I found them broken on the street, picked them up, washed them, and super-glued the frames together than because of their style (or lack thereof). I once bought a pair of sunglasses for a hundred dollars and commenced feeling stupid about it for the next month. I hate buying things. Things. They just keep accumulating, each item stacked in piles around my sense of self, choking, drowning my freedom in an effort to contain me. I want to get rid of things.
My black yoga pants warmed in the sun, like a hug, coating my thighs and legs in invisible support. I dreamed of the future freedom that wine would bring, a lazy love of alcohol, replacing the stress of my body with a magic whisper. I sat still, watching the people, curious. The five-o-clock hour brought out the couples, the movers, the cyclists, the grocers. We all met, in this public realm, the street, to do the things that were on our tasks lists, to live the life being of humanity, to be in public, separately, but together.
Across the street, two old men shuffled very slowly in the shade, clutching each other. The shorter man had a harder time, and grabbed the arm of the taller, thinner gentleman. Together, they made their way down the block deliberately, peacefully, gracefully. I caught their motions and tried not to stare, wondering, thinking.
What were they, when they were my age? Was the shorter one the boy of the party, the jokester, the smart-alec, the funny guy? Was he a man who won the ladies over, was he whip-smart, was he full of ideas and smarts? Was the taller one the one who would offer a bemused smile, a knowing nod, a wink? Perhaps he was a scientist, a meticulous man of many thoughts, a silent one, brooding, who would parse out knowledge when necessary, and abstain from conversation when he thought it was too idiotic for his taste.
Perhaps the two were college buddies, folks who had met a long time ago across kegs and noise and fraternities, bonding through small actions over time, embarking on adventures, sealing the fate, outlasting their peers, becoming a unit, becoming the best of friends not by urgency, not by necessity, not out of a crash of worlds, but simply because they spent enough time together that to not be around each other defied the definition of the world they understood.
Perhaps, alternatively, they didn’t know each other until they met in old age, wisdom interchanging across endless chess matches, park benches warmed by elderly bottoms engaged in an attempt to outwit or outlast each other. Perhaps they had a language, a quirk, a way of talking to each other about the beautiful females, the yoga-clad derrieres of the striking youth, a wink and a nod and a barely discernable agreement of the acknowledgement of the tremendous beauty flowing up and down the streets in a coffee-chase.
The world, it turns; the men, our forefathers, us, we disappear, too. We make friends, we make ideas, some of us make a bit more, but then we, too pass, our ideas, our futures, our beings just an ephemeral touch on the skin of the earth.