There’s a man who sits on the sprinkler box in the front yard of an assisted living home. He’s out there every day if the weather is nice. He’s tall -I’d estimate 6’1″- and very thin. He’s an older black man who has white hair, and long white sideburns: Elvis style.
He crosses his legs as he sits on the sprinkler box, his hands folded gently in his lap. He’s dressed nicely in khakis and loafers, and a jacket if it’s breezy. His back is slumped over as if he spent the better years of his life bending over a car engine, or installing carpet.
He sits and watches people. The people who pass in cars, who walk their dogs, who push their baby strollers, who laugh and talk and pass him by, not noticing he exists.
The sprinkler box man never smiles. Sometimes I pretend I don’t see him, but sometimes I smile and wave as I drive past, wondering if I’m the only person who interacts with him throughout the day. A blank expression on his face, he might lift his hand to signal, “Hello”. Most of the time, though, he ignores me, as the corners of his mouth turn downward.
Only once have I seen anyone with him. It was a young boy, fat, about ten years old. He had on a striped red and blue shirt and a blue baseball hat. His arms were folded across his stomach and he stood next to where the sprinkler box man sat. The two did not exchange looks or words; they both just stared, and watched the world go by.