Saturday, November 12, 2011

He Sat Alone

He sat alone in a restaurant filled with friends and family honoring our veterans. Last night, he ate his free dinner slowly, measuring every bite. He drank nothing but coffee. He spoke with no one.

I watched him, wondering what his story was. He was neatly dressed in clean jeans, a shirt and zippered jacket. His hat rested on the bench seat beside him. Head and face shaved. I asked the restaurant manager if he knew anything about the man. "No, he's a veteran. He didn't want to sit with other vets, so I seated him alone."

Alone. Not on Veterans Day. But it was his wish. He could have been a Vietnam vet, but I didn't think so. He didn't look old enough. I passed by his table once, but he didn't glance up. Head down, he ate with complete concentration, lost in his thoughts. He paid for his coffee, asked for a go cup, and carefully dressed it with two creams and two sugars. He stirred, capped the cup, put on his hat and worked his way off the bench seat.

He passed our table. I asked him if I could shake his hand. He held it out. My husband and I thanked him for his service and asked which branch of the Armed Forces he'd called home. Air Force. Just like my Cold Warrior. Which base? Dover. And with that he nodded and walked slowly out of the restaurant, a black veteran alone in his own mind, his cup of hot coffee clutched in his hand.

I wonder what his story is.


Franz X Beisser said...

No fanfare, please.

Chuck Lumpkin said...

Betsy, send this to Stars and Stripes. It deserves exposure.

Betsy Ashton said...

Thanks, Chuck. I'm turning this into a short story. I can't get that man out of my mind.