The old man appeared very frail. From the few white hairs on his scabbed head . . . to his watery eyes . . . to his trembling hands.
“Good morning,” he said politely as he boarded the city bus.
The driver ignored him.
The old man nodded and struggled down the aisle to get to an empty seat. His feet shuffled. Slowly, painfully, he turned his body, grabbed the rail, bent like a skeleton to sit. The passengers on either side did not look up from their phones.
The bus started with a sudden jolt and the old man tipped into a neighbor. “I’m so sorry,” he laughed with embarrassment.
Each stop on Fourth Avenue brought a fresh tide of riders. The old man sat without moving–except trembling hands. All eyes avoided him.
Until the arrival of a young man.
“You’re really, really old,” said the youth, who sat across the aisle and stared directly at him from behind dark sunglasses.
“Doesn’t life suck when you’re old and about to die?” The young man spoke mockingly.
“You have to be at least a hundred years old. Don’t you worry someone like me might beat you up?”
“I can tell that you won’t,” smiled the old man.
“Oh, yeah? Why’s that?”
“Because I can see you’re just an ordinary person.”
The youth turned his head and laughed at the window. Outside the city blurred past.
The old man said: “I know you’re an ordinary person because a long time ago I was exactly like you. I thought I was something special, nothing could touch me. I could insult the entire world and nothing would happen.
“Nothing could stop me. I would crush every person that stood in my way. The future was mine.
“Now what do you see?”
The young man saw in his window the old man’s smiling reflection.
At the next stop the young man jumped up and hurried off.