I could see the backs of the elderly couple in the Burger King booth. Side by side, they plowed into huge burgers and supersized fries. The man wore jeans, his shoulders not quite fleshing out the grampa-plaid flannel shirt. The woman had cocker spaniel-curled, blue-tinted hair due for a perm. More power to them, I thought, helping the economy by eating out.
The next time I looked up, I caught the man’s shoulders jerking and woman’s head bobbing. They were laughing. Imagine. What’s there to laugh about like teenagers on a date when you’re in your 80s.
So, on my way out, I stopped at their table. “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I hope my wife and I are able to laugh together when we’re your age…or even have any jokes that we haven’t already laughed to death.”
The woman looked up, spoke for both, “Oh, we’re not married. His wife is gone. So is my husband. We just know each other from way back. Why my mother taught him to play piano. And I live on 118th street and he lives on a farm. And how old do you think we are, anyhow?”
I had to step back a bit and reassess. She had obviously sized up my turkey wattle and thin gray hair. The look she flashed me made me pause. Like, I was someone she wouldn’t mind asking her out for a cherry Coke. Now I was embarrassed. I was certainly a lot closer in age to them than to anyone else in the place. And I suddenly realized that I was just a couple of rapidly accelerating years away from their age.
I decided to humor them by underestimating the old timers a bit and said, “80.”
“Well, I’m 82, and he’s 84,” she replied with chin firmly squared and lips tight. Ouch. They were a lot closer to my age than I guessed. The guy canted his head and held my eye with his clear baby-blues as if to say, what makes you think you’re so young and invulnerable that you can patronize us. Give yourself a couple of years, buddy and you’ll be glad to have someone to share a joke and a burger. Now quit crashing my date.
I smiled—more like grimaced—and took my leave; chastened about how slowly it takes for our self-image to catch up with our real age.
Retired trainer, and writing instructor, Joe Novara and his wife live in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Writings include novels, short stories, a memoir and various poems, plays, anthologies and articles. Read more at https://freefloatingstories.wordpress.com/