The old man shuffled across the street and paused at the divider. He caught my eye as I waited across from him for the signal to turn green.
He was slight in build, maybe about 5’2″, a hint of a hunch as a result of age. He must have been about 70. He wore a red bush shirt, neatly buttoned down and tucked into his tailored pants. With the bend in his body, they came up his waist, making him look even smaller. He wore glasses, behind which I could see intelligent eyes. He held his mouth firmly closed, as if to guard against miscreant flies that might wrongly venture into it.
I watched him, unable to take my eyes off him. What was it that drew me so enigmatically to him?
On the face of it, he looked ordinary. Yet, he had an unmistakable air of dignity to him. This, despite the slight tremor in his face that was making his head shake uncontrollably. His hand shook a bit too. I felt the urge to run across and help him, my heart swelling in the way one feels when shepherding a lamb to safety. He did not need it. He looked intent in making his way across the road independently.
As I studied him, I perceived a man who had led his life his way, on his terms. He had an understated defiance to him, the air of someone who has stood up to the world for his principles and, ultimately, emerged victorious. Yes, he would have borne many bruises in the course of these struggles, but he also struck me as someone who would be too proud to acknowledge them. Like a lion scuffling with other lions to defend his birthright, this elderly gentleman carried the gashes, openly and without making too much a deal out of them.
Back erect, he stood patiently, waiting for a gap in the traffic to finish crossing the road. Here too, I could see that he would move only when it was his turn, expecting others to hold back as he made his way. This was not someone who would squeeze between screeching cars, apologetically stretching out his hand to beg for their indulgence to let him pass. No, this was someone who knew right from wrong and knew his rights as well.
I felt an admiration for him. As he walked past my car, I bowed my head slightly, in respect. You don’t see too many true characters anymore.