The last person I met in Chicago was a man waiting to get on the same train I was. I just wanted to sit down in the terminal and eat my Pringles two or three at a time in peace, but after a little while, the man next to me started talking at me. You have to understand something: first of all, I don’t really want to talk to strangers when I’m sober outside of a setting that implies social interaction. And then if I’m trying to do some real snacking, the introversion becomes a little more serious. You know.
The thing is, though, that the man really looked more like a skeleton with clothes on than a person. Well, he had skin. But his goddamn eyes were sunken half an inch into his skull, and he was skinny as hell. When he started talking, he was barely audible. Well, he was barely audible at the end of his soliloquy/our conversation as well as throughout. What I mean to say is I could not understand the poor bastard.
He spoke of being old, spoke of traveling from Chicago to Canada, spoke of his family from Afghanistan, of his stronger days, and of how he never married because his family told him he wasn’t right in the head.
Between his hand gestures and the words I could hear, I was typically able to deduce two possible stories from each he attempted to tell. Either he had told me a joke, or he had told me that his entire family was dead. “I agree,” I answered. That seemed to go over well. Then, he either told me that his family sold his mother for money or that he just hadn’t seen her in a very long time. “That’s crazy,” I replied. Then, he very specifically told me that in order to live very long (like him?), I must drink very little alcohol and a lot of water. I tried to smile.
“You are definitely right,” I said. I don’t think I will follow his advice, because I don’t think I want to live as long as he has. I don’t want to talk at young people eating Pringles. They won’t get my jokes if they can’t understand me, and I plan to be a very sarcastic, bitter old woman. In any case, I go back and forth between being a staunch binge-drinker and fantasizing about joining AA, anyway. They are both only fun in theory, absolute value-wise.
Even though I was pretty sure the man was on my train, I didn’t think to tell him that they had pre-boarded all the elderly. Finally, when they called general boarding, I got up. “It’s our train?” He asked (I think).
“Yeah—the train to New York. We have to get on now,” I told him. I might have helped him over with his bags, but I didn’t. I guess I told myself that he didn’t have many bags, that he was fine on his own, since he’d been traveling that way until now. Instead, I turned around to become one of the many salmon in the upstream battle known as boarding the train. If you drink plenty of water, you can do this until the day you stop waking up.