Time waits for no one, and we’re running out of time.
— Friends of Distinction
My blood started boiling as I surveyed the scene, and I found myself amazed anew at the human race’s capacity for cruelty.
A pack of young men, four strong, walked away from where an older couple stood looking warily after them. The four were laughing uncontrolably, pointing at the couple and falling all over each other in their mirth.
The old couple looked wounded, but not in any physical way. It was more a look of embarrassed resignation, of stunned disbelief. I noticed tears on the woman’s cheeks.
Trying to size up the situation, I asked the couple if they were OK. The man waved off my concern.
“No big deal,” he said. “Just some young hoodlums showing off and letting off steam.”
The woman, though, said nothing. She silently walked away, the tears flowing freely. I watched her slip quietly into their nearby vehicle and asked the man again if they were really all right.
He stood looking at me for a moment before saying anything.
“You know how it is with young kids,” he said with a long sigh. “They’re out roaming around with all that energy and nothing to do, and they have to let it out somewhere. I figure we’ve all done that at some time in our lives.
“But that doesn’t stop their words from hurting.”
The man stopped talking abruptly, as if he’d said too much. I actually looked around to see if the kids were coming back, then let the silence linger for a moment before asking if he wanted to talk about the incident.
“Oh, it’s just kids being stupid kids,” he said. “They made some cracks about us being old and used some language that got my dander up. I said something to them — told them to have some respect — and that got them going.
“They ran at us like they meant to hurt us, then stopped and said some real mean things.”
The man stopped again, and this time a look of hurt enveloped his face. It’s a look that touched my heart.
“They called my wife things like ‘pig’ and ‘sow’ and screamed how ugly she was,” the man said quietly. “They called her some nasty things that I wouldn’t repeat. I wanted to go after them, but I was scared they’d hurt my wife.”
Tears welled in the man’s eyes.
“That woman is the sweetest, kindest woman God ever created,” he said. “She’s been through more than her share over the years, put up with just about every kind of hardship you can think of. She just doesn’t deserve to be treated so mean.”
I offered my condolences and asked the man if he wanted me to contact law enforcement.
“Nah,” he said, “ain’t no need for that. We’re just gonna head on home now. I’ll have to see if I can’t find a way to make my wife feel better.”
I offer what I know are insufficient words to try and bolster the man’s feelings, but he waves me off.
“Son,” he said, “I’m not really concerned about those young punks. It makes me mad that they hurt my wife’s feelings, but she’ll get over it in time. I probably would have fought all four of them in my younger days, but those days are long gone.
“That’s one thing about life: It marches on. I was like those boys in a lot of ways when I was their age, but look at me now. And my wife may not win any beauty contests, these days, but, son, back in her day she turned every man’s eye. Heck, she’s still that beautiful young woman to me.”
He smiled at the memory.
“I figure time will catch up with those boys like it does all of us,” he said. “I won’t be around to see them get theirs, but I can rest easy knowing that, sooner or later, it will happen.
“Time gets us all.”
As the man shuffled off to join his wife in their car, I watched him with mixed feelings of respect and sadness. I was thankful that I’d happened upon him — in spite of the circumstances — but I couldn’t help but think about that look of bewildered hurt on his wife’s face.
As the couple drove away, I found myself dwelling on the man’s parting words: Time gets us all.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at firstname.lastname@example.org.