I’ve seen old white men before, and messenger bags too.
I’ve seen long, sheathed hunting knives gripped in palms. I probably have seen tatty blue jeans sprinkled with ball point pen signatures, presumably from friends or a self-inflicted hobby.
But I’d not seen an old white man with a messenger bag, a long, sheathed hunting knife and tatty blue jeans sprinkled with ball point pen signatures set a bottle of ouzo and a metal goblet on the ‘L’ platform during morning rush.
It was a little after 8 a.m. and the man was clearly not on his first ouzo of the day, either having started early or continued very, very late. His goblet gleamed silvery — if not silver itself, it was quite the replication. The goblet was intricately engraved and, as I saw when we found ourselves next to each other on the train, full.
He tipped the goblet to me in a way that, if he wasn’t offering a swig to me, sure looked like it.
“Oh, no thanks,” I said.
He smiled a smile so warm and genuine I’m smiling in response just thinking about it.
“Breakfast!” he said, slightly raising the goblet.
He took a sip.
“Ever been to Greece?” he asked.
“Ever been to Greece?”
“Oh no,” I said, picking up a non-verbal clue from him that he thought I might not know what ouzo is. “I just don’t like ouzo. Tastes like licorice.”
He clowned hiding the goblet from me, then got off at the very next stop. He had either not wanted to walk the half-mile between the stops or was spending the morning drinking anise aperitif stop by stop down the Blue Line.
I said goodbye when he left. He smiled that warm smile back. I like to pretend he raised the silvery goblet to me in salute, but that didn’t happen. I can’t even remember if he smiled.
His spot was replaced by sad-faced office workers mentally gearing themselves up for the day.
Old man, quit drinking. I like the Hemingway and Fitzgerald nonsense, but not to the point where I’ll romanticize what’s clearly a problem.
But, old man, stay kind. Keep flashing that warm and genuine smile that makes me ever so slightly want to romanticize you. Just flash it sober.
You’re a sad old drunk with, let’s not forget, a large and menacing hunting knife, but you’re a sad old hunting knife drunk who I want to love.
And thank you for that.