His hair is gray; he is older. The way he speaks suggests that he is, in addition, wiser. His tone threatens to teach me a lesson. I transition from humoring him to reading my book, rereading the first page of the third story several times. I try to decide if I am young and impenetrable and stubborn. I think he is just overstepping his boundaries; he is the worst kind of cynical, unaware and feigning joy.
Eventually I outright ignore him, give him more fodder for hating my generation. He tells me that his bike was stolen, that he’s written a letter to the culprit to be published in the local paper. In the letter he dares the thief to come to his home. After he is certain I am aware of his bravery, he informs me of his quiet and observant side. His neighbor’s an interesting guy who has stolen one of his library books; he sighs and tells me he keeps his distance from transients. Too many people in and out of his life; he’s been hurt, he’s damaged, I assume this is how I’m supposed to interpret it.
I am patient, as I’ve been taught to be. I try again to engage him; discuss the stories I’ve just read with him. I watch him, waiting to speak, and give in. I pause, allow for his interruption. When he announces the death of letter writing, accuses the rest of the world for letting it die, I don’t have it in me to argue. I file him under things not to become, push my fingertip against my arm to see if I’m burning.