The Old Smoking Man

There are people in this world who catch your eye and you find yourself wondering about their story. Where have they been What have they seen? In this world everyone has a story to tell. Everyone’s life is a novel and we are surrounded by living romances, adventures, comedies, and tragedies.

In a small suburb of the greater San Diego county where busy shop filled streets borders lonely roads of the rural community is where I have called home for most of my life. The mixed population of humble country folk and nine to five clock punchers houses a library of stories. At a three way stop not far from my home lies a brush covered hill that runs along a group of condos and sweeps down along the adjacent street. A large fallen tree trunk lies just a few feet from the sidewalk and that is where I saw the old man. Dressed in a black suit with matching fedora and sun glasses he resembles the blues brothers’ grandfather. The tree trunk serves as his bench, and he smokes his one pre rolled cigarette while watching the afternoon’s traffic. He doesn’t say a world to a soul nor gestures at any passengers in the passing cars. He just watches. He might as well be looking over a scenic lake or contemplating over a Rembrandt the way he sits and looks over the cars stopping and going along their way. He takes his walk down to his tree trunk every afternoon for his smoke and his presence does not go unnoticed by the locals. Among them he earns the title “The Old Smoking Man” and his habits become amusing to the local populace. The neighborhood could not help but to wonder who the old smoking man was. The well dressed shriveled man was at the end of his life and there had to be more to his story than a smoking geriatric on a log.

Open his story and flip the pages of time to the middle of his life and a stout young man would emerge as the main character. A man surrounded by friends with his lover by his side navigating his way through his own adventure. How would the neighborhood view him as this young man? Most likely no different than any other twenty something of today. No simple label would be applied to summarize his life. A more complex individual would present himself and a more interesting story told if the neighborhood stopped viewing him as an extra in their story and started to see him as a main character in his own. If more people read into his story the old smoking man might have earned a much different title, one more reflective of the life he lived than his daily routine.

Everyone’s life is a book. People too often look at an interesting person, assign them with a creative and amusing title and continue on their way. Instead of titles a much more rewarding and insightful experience could be had by reading their lives. Every once in a while one might come across a good story.

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