Old Man

This morning, I was standing in line at Starbucks, waiting to take my turn, when a man got in line in front of me. He held his white cup with liver-spotted hands. There are two registers and two cashiers in this Starbucks, so he could have been confused. Still, I wasn't happy. Should I say something? Should I let it go? I looked at him, but he didn't look at me.

I reached the register before he did and chatted with the barista. She was wearing a multicolored necklace that someone had given her a few years ago. I commented on it. She said she didn't like it when she got it, but its beauty had grown on her. She has a melodious voice, coupled with a soft, almost shy smile. In the face of all her sweetness, I forgot about the rude old man.

I sat at one of the tables and reached for my phone, screening out the world, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the line-jumper.

"I needed a refill, but I didn't have enough change," he said in a low voice, "so I went out to my car to get it. I had to go back to the same cash register. I wondered if you thought I was rude."

"No," I lied. "You're fine."

"Good." He searched my face. We were close enough so I could see milky softness swirling in his blue-gray eyes. Cataracts, maybe?

"It's all good," I said. I smiled and touched his elbow, where stretchy skin hung from the bone. "Really, you were fine."

"Okay," he said.

I felt guilty about lying. "Thank you for letting me know."

"You're welcome."

He walked back to his table. I got my coffee and left, humbled, wiser, hoping that someone will treat me with respect when my eyes dim.