When I was a kid we lived next door to an older couple we knew simply as the Walkers. I have no idea what Mr. or Mrs. Walker’s first names were in part because I didn’t know much about them in spite of living next to them for almost two decades of my life. In my mind they were ancient, but I’m guessing when I was a young boy they probably were in their late 40’s or early 50’s. I know they had a granddaughter who would visit from time to time. Mr. Walker would sometimes sit out on his porch and get mad at us neighborhood kids for making too much noise while he was trying to listen to the Detroit Tigers game on his portable AM radio. Beyond that they could’ve been a husband/wife pair of serial killers for all I knew about them. What they did when they disappeared into the recesses of their home was a mystery. I always assumed they watched whatever shows old people watch and do whatever it was old people do.
We moved into a new apartment last May and many of our neighbors have kids several of which are of the same age I was back when I lived next door to the Walkers. I’ll say hello in passing, but generally I don’t interact with my new neighbors all that much. The kids always reply with that unsure-why-that-old-man-is-talking-to-me hello that kids use. Occasionally I’ll engage in some small talk with the parents, but overall I don’t detect a lot of interest in their getting to know me so I keep it to trivial pleasantries and move on.
The other night I was passed by the kids as they ran around playing and it brought back memories of my own youth. The commute home is not short so I usually make a stop in the bathroom and on washing my hands I saw my reflection in the mirror and was slightly startled to see how old I am. I’m 48, but I don’t always think of myself as 48. I still think of 50 as a long ways off unless I really force myself to realize it’s less than two years away. There’s a lot of grey in my beard and my face is showing more wrinkles every day.
As I stood there boggling at the face staring back from the mirror I realized that I had become Mr. Walker. The old fellow you occasionally see wandering from his car to his front door or vice versa. I wondered if the kids in the area looked at me the same way I used to look at Mr. Walker. What do I do in that apartment I rarely come out of except to go to work? I wondered if they’d be surprised to know I would be sitting down to play Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 for longer than I probably should that evening.
For all I know, Mr. Walker did some amazing things in his home. Maybe he was an inventor tinkering away in his basement trying to come up with the next big thing. Or perhaps he enjoyed carpentry as a hobby and made really nice furniture in his spare time. Or he might’ve been playing games on his Atari 2600.
Eh, he probably watched reruns of Matlock.