The Old Man
based upon “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” by Ernest Hemingway
by AJ Wang
“Oh, look, there’s that old man again,” the first waiter said.
“He likes to come in and sit here,” the second waiter said. The words came out of his mouth like a slur. He had a slight foreign accent.
“Why does he come here?”
“He’s old.” The second waiter shrugged. “He’s lonely.”
It was early and no one had arrived yet, except for an old man who was sitting in the brightly lit cafe. The old man sat in the front, in the second table, near the doors. The table had salt and sugar on it and a silver napkin dispenser on it. There was track lighting on the ceiling and neon strips all along the walls. The cafe was brightly lit and cheerful.
The old man preferred to sit in the cafe at night. He liked the cafe at night.
He glanced through the glass window of the cafe. The street was crowded. It had old street lamps hanging overhead. There were people walking up and down the sidewalk.
“I would like to change tables,” the old man said to the waiters.
“Of course, sir. Where would you like to sit?” the second waiter said.
The old man moved to the back, away from the windows, bringing his cup with him. The waiters watched the old man sipping his latte.
“What was that all about?” the first waiter asked.
“I think he’s afraid of death,”
“How do you know that?” the first waiter asked.
“Something happened to him in the past,”
“What? What do you think happened to him?”
“The old man?” the second waiter replied. “He’s old and he’s waiting to die.”
“Doesn’t he have family to see or friends to visit?” the first waiter asked.
“He’s afraid of his own misery. He’s scared of the way his mind is going. He’s old, you see.” the second waiter said.
The first waiter stood with his arms folded. “I feel like that too sometimes.”
“Young and old, my friend, we’re all miserable and lonely.”
A group of four young men, well dressed professionals, came in the cafe. They sat down at the old man’s table in front.
“Waiter!” One of them called.
The second waiter walked up to them. “Yes, sir?”
“Green tea, please.”
A couple came in through the door. They sat in the front near the window. The first waiter went over to take their order. The waiters were busy. The old man was still sitting in the back, sipping his latte.