Conversations With Old Men

by Lia Lobello

The following are a sampling of the daily conversations I have with the group of 80-year-old men who smoke cigarettes and drink coffee every morning on the corner of my block. It took me two years and the acquisition of a dog to infiltrate their clique.

Ed: Why does your face look like that?
Me: What?
Ed: You look very tired.
Me: Well, I am tired I guess. I also don’t have on any makeup yet.
Ed: You should put some on before you go to work.
Me: Okay. (And I did.)

Tom: Do you have one of those phones that can take pictures?
Me: Yes!
Tom: Take our picture. (Gestures to himself and another Greek gentleman who only hangs out occasionally.)
Me: Okay! (I take the photo.)
Tom: Now, can you send that to my computer?
Me: Sure.
Tom: From your phone?
Me: Yes. Do you know your e-mail address?
Tom: I don’t know what it is but I will get it from my son.
(Two months pass. I finally run into Tom on the street.)
Me: Hi, Tom!
Tom: I have something for you! (He pulls a wrinkled eighth of a page of notebook paper from a fanny pack. On it is a email address written out in all block, capital letters.) This is for the picture! Do you still have it to send to my computer?
Me: I do!
(One more month passes. I finally see Tom again.)
Tom: You! (he gives me a giant hug.) I love my picture!
(I try not to sob from the cuteness.)

Ed: Why do you have on pants? It’s going to be hot today.
Me: Well, they’re not pants exactly. They’re stockings. I guess I can take them off if it gets too warm.
Lou: … will you need help with that?
Ed and Lou: (Wild cackles.)

Lou: I didn’t recognize you today!
Me: Really?
Lou: Well, you have glasses on.
Me: I do. I didn’t put in my contacts yet. But you didn’t recognize me by the dog?
Lou: I recognized the dog. I just thought someone other lady with glasses on was walking her.

Ed: Good mor-OH!
Me: What’s wrong?
Ed: Nothing’s wrong with me. Can’t say the same for you though. You don’t look good. You get enough sleep last night?

Ed: So … the doctor tells me I have two choices for my follow up. Go down to Brooklyn or go to Maspeth. I tell him, I says, I’m gonna go to Maspeth because no way I’m getting on that subway.
Me: You don’t like the subway?
Ed: You see what’s happening down there?
Me: Today?
Ed: No. Everyday!
Me: No, I don’t know.
Ed: Everyone’s pushing each other onto the tracks! Every day they’re pushing each other onto the tracks.
Me: That’s pretty true. A lot of people are pushing each other onto the tracks lately.
Ed: You taking the subway today?
Me: Yeah, I have to take it every day.
Ed: Well … that’s on you.

(After not seeing Ed for a week or so)
Me: Lou, where’s Ed?
Lou: He fell. He’s in the hospital.
Me: Oh my god!
Lou: He’s alright. He’s just upset because he can’t smoke.
Me: Well … that’s understandable. Does he need anything? I can take it to him.
Lou: No he’s okay. His wife is taking care of him. Plus, you can’t go there alone.
Me: Well, I’ll be safe, I’m sure.
Lou: No, I mean, you’re not going without me as your date.
Me: A date to the hospital?
Lou: At my age, that’s as good as it gets sometimes.

Lou: Where’s your umbrella?
Me: Ugh, I forgot it. I’m going to just take my chances today.
Lou: They’ve been talking about the rain all week. How could you forget?
Me: I don’t know. I know, it’s bad.
Lou: (Shaking his head very sadly). I just can’t believe it. (Turns to Ed) She forgot her umbrella today.
Ed: It was on the news all week. What, you don’t watch the news? (Shakes head sadly.)

Previously: Sympathy for Liz

Lia LoBello works in public relations and marketing by day, but spends her nights crafting, cooking, and watching real-crime television. She tweets at @lialobello. If you know of any good shows about murder, revenge, or psychic children, please let her know immediately.