Old man Johnny

October 2, 2002

old man johnny gave me hope last saturday, coupled with a wink and a smile. he was sitting at the left end of the diner counter and chatted me and tonia up the moment we sat down. “everything’s good here,” he said, as we thumbed through the menu. “everything.”

“oh, you’ve been here before?” tonia asked. (i was having a moment with my coffee.)

“i’m here all the time,” he smiled.

he has all the time in the world since his wife died last october, he told us. they were married 55 years. “married and happily in love,” he said. “we held hands until the very end.”

in less than an hour, tonia and i learned more about this man than i know about some of the people i call friends. he used to wear zoot suits and fedoras. he fought in world war II. he has traveled the world. he loves women, but only one has ever stolen his heart.

i was charmed that he still knows his wife’s measurements (“34-24-36,” he winked) and that his eyes light up when he talks about her (“oh, she was a real looker”) and that he remembers their first date like the back of his hand (“she wouldn’t kiss me! she turned her head when i leaned in”). when i looked at his 80-year-old frame, thinning hair and faded tattoos, all i could see was a 30-year-old man in love.

i would like to see johnny again, sit beside him and find out what the tattoos were before they blurred on his skin and ask him what his favorite place in the world was and get him to tell me the secret to his smile, and maybe i will. i know where to find him.


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