There’s an old man living just down my street. I used to see him every single day from my balcony since I moved into this building, at the same time, taking his usual walk, leaning on the arm of a new person each day.
There is something special about this old man. He reminds me of something I can’t quite define. He is tall and imposing, walks very slowly and only with help, and he paces the street in front of my building for half an hour. That’s how long it takes him to walk 300 meters. After two months of seeing him every day, I started analyzing him with more interest. One day I could notice that he wears the same clean, perfectly ironed suit that he also wore last week and the week before that, another day I could see the pain in his eyes from who knows what loss or inner thoughts. But still, he never gave up walking down the street. There was a day when I met his gaze and had the urge to say an enthusiastic Hello!, but realized I am no more than a stranger to him, so I just smiled his way. When I was pregnant I had to turn my gaze away, because sometimes the pain in his eyes was too much for me to handle. I always asked myself what his story might be? Did he have a nice life? Does he have a nice life now? Why does he have a different person beside him every day? Why does he never speak when walking?
Today, while watering the plants from my balcony, I gazed outside and realized I haven’t seen him in two weeks. I don’t know if it was sadness or worry that overcame me, but I couldn’t stop thinking about him all day. Is he alive? Did no one come to help him take his usual walk? Is he going to show up tomorrow? And thus another question popped into my head: how long does it take for a stranger to notice we are gone?