His wife, who looks very much older, sits to his left and it appears she has melted into her seat. She is vertically compressed, as if she no longer has a spinal column. The man is trying to read his Chesterton. It’s one story in a collection of short stories housed in a grimy paperback he is carrying. It has no cover.
He is trying to read and his wife is talking to him constantly, without a pause or a break. He does not look up from his book, but does not make progress either. He is suffering the reader’s greatest hell, reading sentences over and again without finding meaning. Finally, he barks at her. “You’re 79-years-old,” he says almost unbelieving that he himself, a man of vim and vitality is with an almost eighty-year-old woman. “You’re 79-years-old,” he says, “Can’t you let me read?”
“Sixty-ninth Street,” she answers. “We have to get out there.”
“I know that,” he continues barking. “I know when 69th Street is coming.” He shakes his book, like red cape before a bull. “I’m trying to read.”
“Ok, but we’re on 74th and we have to get off in two stops.”
“Do you have to be such a nudge?” he asks loud enough to make the question rhetorical.
The bus stops at 69th and the bus driver calls out the stop. The old man rises first on his three-pointed walking stick. She pulls herself to the full-height of her 79-year-old frame, about four-and-a-half-feet. They shuffle out, slowly, together. Holding hands.