Like most magnificent men long grown old he had turned to limestone. A bedraggled version barely recognizable as the real thing he had hung on long past his legend. He walked in its shadow unbeknownst to the strangers that walked past him in his guise as an obstacle. The paths in the sidewalks seemed not too different than the lingering rails of old streetcar lines. Well worn in the sense of once familiar travel but now long disused. A few of his old familiar haunts were hanging on still not due to close as a son or younger uncle still persisted in prolonging the tradition of goods and services as they were once known. If he still took time to look in the mirror he might have noticed that while at a glance he still seemed to possess the same general proportions. Tall. Slender. A wide back and narrow hips. But one had to squint to blur the fact that his trunk had become gnarled by the characteristic vacuous nature of the deterioration of advanced age. He would have hoped that he night still be mistaken for someone in their fifties. Late fifties. But that was risking too much to venture that any other sensibility might have been so forgiving enough to take notice. It was a young man’s world now and old arthritic specimens even if they hailed from a past golden age were mere lingering artifacts not worth much more than a passing glance. He had gained that cloak of invisibility called senior citizen.
The darkened lounge was as he had left it. The balding Perry Como type in the baby blur Cardigan perched on the stool Humpty Dumpty like was not much impressed with the fact of his appearance. The egg had gone stale from being left there overlong. He escorted his charge within the embraced of dark oaken wainscoting warmed by a multiplicity of all too forgiving brass chandeliers. Their spidery arms each sporting its own dainty cocktail lampshade chapeau. Sinatra crooned slowly in a deliberate manner summoning up that free and easy world now long dead to any other sensibility but those still lingering on of his generations. The younger generation by comparison might have felt anesthetized? The waiters were all younger males schooled in the art of simulating the etiquette of the former century in a sort of Disneyland style of approximation. Right in the sense of basic steps and the sequence of phrases but clueless in the sense of an unspoken mutual bond of implicit contract between customer and server. It didn’t matter because he didn’t have his glasses anyhow. Stuff appeared and disappeared in approximately the right order without to much acceleration of the time of removal. A drink came. Wine now as opposed to the usual Martini as the palpitations of the heart caused by same in the midst of sleep were not worth the effort. He fussed over the small text on the large cream colored menu card fighting for clarity in the dim light knowing that the house specials for the night would be duly recited verbally.
The glory days of fire eating and advertising were now but anecdotes of a time seemingly not so far away by the third sip of wine. Nelson Riddle was now using the string section to uncoil the snake coiled around Frank allowing for a more upbeat classic. How much like Mt. Olympus were those days lost in high rises and lofty business towers. When the nation’s direction was charted on prospective ad panels and young dynamic knights in shining silk and sturdy flannel led the charge of the latest trends. The booze, the broads and the bravado! He still could carry himself with the best of them he thought. Never letting his back bow of his shoulders to sag. Even the slow withering exodus of female companionship over the years away from his worship over to the demands of their children’s families had not humbled him. He remained fixed in the world he had come to know at the height of his career. Even if it had fizzled like steam now to anyone else in near vicinity who simply saw a tired worn out old figment of his determined imagination as but another old codger. The blond in black velvet tending the bar was still superficially approachable after all. A ready smile for both one’s entrance and come back soon departures. The floral net tights painted upon her good sturdy forty year old legs was reminder enough of the youthful maidens whose implicit attention he had come to expect. The thought of the amount of energy it might take to court anyone else paled when weighed to the unbound pleasure of returning home for a quick sit on the throne, the ten o clock news and an early turn-in. There was no embarrassment or disappointment about this.
He stared about the room at the other older settlers. Their wagons pulled up around tables of four and six keeping out the present for that acceptable limbo of a few friends and now. If you sought to overhear them, the conversation was the same. About children and grandchildren and how they would one day learn life’s hard lessons. Perhaps avoid them as long as possible, if you were lucky. The fish came and went as the pinot blank slowly evaporated in measured sips. The butter was spread on the rarity of dinner rolls the way they used to be. The way you could no longer find them. Save in the few places such as these. What once might have been left on the plate as a concession to public decorum was not dutifully consumed. Random thoughts of old familiar faces and the momentary surfacing anecdotes of events that were recorded only within the tablets of his mind alone. All the great things he could think of that he had done were when someone now gone were alive. Now there was the heavy absence of presence. Nothing held on to for too long lest it stain the present tense experience of the physical essence without dwelling on what essentially had irrevocably been lost. It was too easy to look up from his fork and expect to see someone who had too long ago been laid to rest under marble and stone. The tasty full bitterness of the coffee was now at hand. No ritual of accompanying dessert was needed. The musical program lingering in the background was grinding to a halt like a locomotive pulling its passenger filled cars into the station. He thought briefly of the walk home and the encounter with the many sentinels to remind him of what he no longer was not. The emptiness of the comfort of reaching home called out to him. He asked for and paid the check leaving a few dollars less than he might have in a more financially energetic age. It didn’t matter he thought, the waiter hadn’t done that much. So he thought, hadn’t he.