It’s Christmas Eve and I’m looking up at a pine covered hilltop draped in mist, “The Funeral” by Band of Horses is playing overhead and the hiss of milk being steamed bounces off the rustic wood and stone surfaces that surround me. Grey hairs out number blonds and brunettes in the coffee shop by three to one. The young hairs discuss their Christmas break plans then move on. The grey hairs sit one to a table staring at computer screens or out the window at the grey skies and falling rain. There’s no indication that they will be moving on anytime soon.
A man a few tables over starts a conversation with another by showing him a picture of a TV dinner on his computer.
“That’s what I’m having for Christmas supper”, he announces.
“That’s what I had for Thanksgiving”, his new friend replies. “Swanson’s the best. They’re a dollar most places but you can get ’em for eighty-eight cents at Safeway. “
Their conversation continues and includes where they grew up, where they’ve lived and where they nearly met decades ago.
“I grew up near Malibu. No one lived there then.”, the man with the computer says.
“Really? I lived in West Hollywood but we would go to the beach in Malibu to drop acid. We had to smoke marijuana afterwards to get enough energy to make it home”.
“We moved from Malibu to Hawaii.”, the man with the computer continues.
“Where in Hawaii?”, asks the other as he rubs the frost colored stubble on his chin.
“Maui! I lived there in the sixties at a hippy nudest colony on the beach. We were next to a colony of Christian hippies. Cops never bothered them but they were always hassling us.”
Sitting at one of the high tables is a woman with thick white hair that curls at her shoulders. The hair style was popular when I was a kid and referred to as the “flip”. She places an elbow on the counter and her hand on a massive timber that supports the rafters above. Her finger tips explore it’s rough surface as she stares out the window, deep in thought. The broad timber dwarfs her delicate hand but not the emptiness in her eyes.
The concept of old people being lonely was first introduced to me by a girlfriend many years ago.
“When you’re old, after your sweetheart dies, you don’t get hugs and kisses anymore.”, she said.
Then she looked at me with eyes that expected an intelligent response. I was twenty-something and all I could offer was the truth, “I never thought about that.”
I bet many of those sitting around me have not been hugged in a while and their most recent kiss may also be their last.
A bright eyed blond looks directly at me and smiles as she strides past the window. I wake enough from my day dreaming to smile back. The rain has slowed but the mist still hugs the mountain. I should take advantage of the break in the weather and walk back to my car, it’s getting late and Safeway may close early tonight.
That old girlfriend knew what she was talking about. Despite their maturity and all they have survived, old people do get lonely. That girlfriend is on the other coast now, thousands of miles away. I have no doubt she’s giving Christmas hugs and kisses to all those around her.
In my thirties I got a little smarter and finally married that girlfriend and in a few days she’ll be back home. But because of what she told me in my twenties I never take a hug or kiss for granted, I know one day they will stop.