The rain wasn’t stopping. In fact, it only seemed to rain more and more. I hated being wet but I knew I couldn’t miss the bus so I ran outside across the street and took shelter underneath the concrete canopy of a now vacant building that used to be the bowling alley. I hadn’t noticed him at first, but there was an old man also standing in the shadows there. I minded my own business and let him be, but after a few minutes he walked up to me and started talking to me.
“Are you waiting for the bus too?” he asked in a barely audible voice.
“Yes,” I said softly, “when is the next one coming?”
“It should be less than seven minutes. One passes every twenty minutes or so.”
“I’m just a foreigner trying to find my way, all of this is new to me.”
“Don’t worry child, you’ll adapt. I promise.”
“I hope so.”
The old man looked like he was well into his eighties. He didn’t have much left on his head, but the few hairs that were still there were whiter than snow. He had dark green eyes behind those thick glasses and the pattern of a map seemed to have appeared in all the wrinkles covering his face. He didn’t seem to be bothered by the chilly weather either because he had nothing but a light jacket on while I had on multiple layers.
“You know young man, when I waited for the bus with Dima Mozdzierz it was a lot like this,” the elderly gentleman spoke after a brief moment of silence, “the two of us served in the war together, that’s where we met actually. We were friends for sixty one years afterwards.”
“What happened to him?” I asked since the old man spoke as if the friendship had ended.
“He died a month ago. We talked on the phone every single day in our old age. Our wives and are children are gone and when you’re almost ninety you have nothing better to do than to talk on the phone all day.”
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“It’s been pretty lonely without him. When you’ve known someone for so long it leaves quite a big hole.”
The bus arriving at stop put an abrupt end to the old man’s sentence. I ran across the parking lot and waved my arm at the bus for it to stop so it didn’t drive by since there was nobody waiting for it there. It stopped and I signaled the old man who walked with a cane that he could come. There were only a few people on the bus that early in the morning so I basically could have any seat I wanted. The old man and I sat together in the front section and continued our conversation.
“I knew something was very wrong when Dima stopped calling one day,” he continued “because he called every day. No matter where he was; at home, in a hospital bed, or traveling back to his home country, he always called me.”
“At school, when I still lived in Lithuania there was a kid in my class that stopped coming one day too,” I replied in a pensive tone of voice, “I never knew him, but I never forgot him either. I was eight years old. Back then I did not understand the value of life, nor how short it really is, but it’s really sinking in now.”
“At war I’ve seen so many people I cared about be blown up, and Dima is the only one who ever really stayed.”
The two of us continued our chat until I was about to arrive at my destination. I let the driver know my stop was coming up and the old man seemed to be sad that I was going to leave.
“No matter how good or bad your life gets young man, wake up each morning and be thankful that you still have one. And quit saying that you don’t have time, you have time for what you make time for in life.”
“Thank you for the wise words sir, may I have your name please?”
“Just call me Duke, and you?”
“My name is Dima.”
“Dima! Well is seems like God finally saw that I was alone and sent a replacement!”
I smiled and looked down for a brief moment as the bus came to a halt. I didn’t want to leave the old guy, but I couldn’t be late to a job interview if I actually wanted the job.
“If I get this job Duke, I’ll be riding this bus every day.”
“Well you better impress the head honcho there Dima! I’ll be waiting for you!”
“I’ll do my best.”
I nodded my head at Duke as I stepped off the bus into a clear blue and sunny sky. I hadn’t even noticed that the rain had stopped. I waved as the bus departed again but Duke didn’t see me. I almost had second thoughts of going into that corporate office simply because I wanted to hop back on the bus for one more minute, but I knew that if I wanted to chat with Duke again I needed to get a good job, so I walked in.
* * *
Every morning as I climbed onto the bus I paid for two fairs and waited for the old man to get on at his usual stop while I saved him the seat where we first sat until then. Even on weekends when I didn’t work I climbed onto the bus anyway and the old man Duke and I rode around the city simply admiring the architecture of the historical buildings and talking about anything from the weather to some adventures from our days back in our homelands.
But one day the old man stopped coming too.