Harlin grew old as most tend to do. He moved into his senior years so gradually he barely noticed. A few gray hairs here and there. Eye glass prescriptions steadily grew in strength. He began saying goodbye friends more regularly. All of it happened so naturally and that when he finally realized he was old he regretted his rush through life.
He sat at his favorite diner and perused the menu. He knew what he was going to get, he always ordered the same thing, but the menu ritual had long been part of his routine. He held the folded cardstock paper closer and closer to his face every week it felt.
In the corner of his eye he saw the waitress appear, scrambling to find a pencil from her apron.
“Don’t rush on my account, dear,” he said, his eyes fixed on the menu still, “I’ve done plenty of that on own.”
She laughed, “Do you need another minute to decide?”
He looked away from his menu. “New here?” He asked.
“Started last week,” she said with a smile.
“How very fun. I was at my cabin last week, hence we have not yet met. Name’s Harlin. Fairly regular site around here.” He said. He gave his order and the waitress, Ami with an I, as she introduced herself, jotted down the order and began to run it to the kitchen.
“Ami with an I, before heading back to the kitchen, would you indulge and old man for a moment?”
He saw her hem and haw for a moment before deciding the request was harmless enough.
“What can I get for you, Harlin?” She asked.
“Well, I would love to tell you about my trip to the cabin, if you don’t mind. It was resplendent and I have no one else to share these tales with any more.”
Ami smiled and Harlin continued his tale.
“I listened to crickets this week,” he started, “it was a symphony in the trees. Every little chirp from scores of the little fellers sounded like a concerto. I suppose the noise they make is just a cricket’s way of letting others know they are, what do you kids with the internet abbreviations say? DTF? I think that’s right. I do not know the last time I just stopped to listen. Trips to the cabin usually mean lots of cooking, cleaning, very little relaxation. My wife used to help me out.”
Harlin paused to find his words.
“I remember when I said goodbye to her. I was picking a spot for her in that great big field of grass and the tallest oak trees I have ever seen. When you wander the grounds, the director guiding you along to available spots, you cannot help but look at the marble slabs on the ground. I kept seeing couples. All of the dates were so close together. It seemed like one of life’s great mercies that mates were never parted long. A mercy I was not afforded.”
Harlin could see that Ami had grown quite uncomfortable.
“But that is my own trouble, isn’t it? What I am trying to get at is some unrequested advice from an old soul. Listen to crickets. There’s always a pencil to rush for, or an order to serve, those will always be present. I spent a life rushing to work, to dinner, to church, even rushing through vacations. I tended to the chores, the things required of me, very well. I am a master at the broom. I so rarely took the time to listen to crickets. You have to stop moving to hear the crickets. I wish I had known that when I was your age.”
“Well, it sounds like that cabin trip did the spirit well, Harlin.” Ami said.
“I think it did, Ami with an I. Thanks for humoring me.”
Ami left Harlin to his thoughts and returned later with a plate of eggs and hashbrowns. He ate his meal and stared out the diner window watching cars zip by and pedestrians frantically tap their phones. All he had to do was drink his coffee before it cooled. That was enough rush for his day.
Thanks for reading!