I followed the old man all the way up the big hill. He wore a fedora and a trench coat that occasionally flapped open in the back to display slightly bowed legs. With every step the silhouette of each shoe lifted up, too large for his stature, supersized by rubbers.
It was a brilliant morning, cold and icy, the kind of morning that forces you to notice each breath and step, waiting for ache. The kind of morning that shakes you out of your winter blah. It hadn't started out brilliantly at all. When I left the house, the sky was dreary, the light dull and the sidewalk so icy my strides shrunk to elderly proportions. By the time I reached the covered bridge, though, a thick golden line stretched across the sky where the sun was starting to peek over the cloudy horizon.
On the main road the sidewalk was walkable and I fell behind the old man, far enough back not to intrude on his sense of privacy but close enough to study him. About halfway up the hill I noticed that I wasn't any closer to him, despite his relaxed, loping gait and my more hurried steps. I felt slightly shamed. As we crested the hill, the sun suddenly burst out and turned the world all black velvet silhouettes and gold lame ice. I wished I had my camera with me. The man in the fedora and trenchcoat was perfectly silhouetted above me, and the brilliance of the sun split by a black telephone pole on the right was balanced perfectly by the black retaining wall split by patches of brilliant gold on the left.
Eventually, I passed him and confirmed my suspicion of rubber shoe covers. I chanced a look back at the crosswalk and noticed that he wasn't nearly as old as I'd thought, 45 at most.
* * *
When I got to my desk, my inbox brought me to a video of a British cell phone salesman with bad teeth who wants to sing opera. He says he was born to sing opera. I expected the worst. I've never had much appreciation for opera. I just knew it was gonna be like Sex's audition on So You Think You Can Dance.
I wept. Opera has never made me weep. Later that morning I saw the friend who had sent it to me and he asked if I watched it. I tried to play it cool, but when he admitted that it moved him to tears, I admitted that it had me too. Then it wasn't quite so embarrassing.
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