Random (but not really)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Frank and Jimmie

Sometimes I wish I carried a camera with me all the time.

I love to people watch–there are so many different things to see, from badly dressed college students, to elderly couples, to parents arguing with their kids. Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes it’s depressing, but most of the time it’s just fascinating. You’ll catch a small glimpse into someone’s life that may or may not be representative of who they are.

Sometimes just glancing in the rearview mirror shows me a curious vignette.

Saturday afternoon, when I glanced in the mirror I saw: a small man driving a small car. He was older (probably in his 70s or 80s) and had a giant cigar clenched in his teeth. He was mostly bald, and was wearing a polo collared type shirt, but he looked like he belonged in a suit, with the tie loosened and hanging crooked.

Beside him was a huge guy in his 40s who seemed to have been squished into his seat. He held his head sideways, as if he might knock his head on the ceiling. He was overflowing his seat, jammed against the door, yet encroaching into the middle of the car. He wore a t-shirt, and his dark, wavy hair was in serious need of a good cutting.

The way they held themselves, you’d have thought the old man with the cigar was a giant, while the younger man was little more than a child, hunched in his seat the way teenagers carry themselves when in the car with their parents.

I imagined that they were father and son, Frank and Jimmy.

I think that Frank spent his life working, providing for his family. He was in business, successful enough for a nice house but not so much that they were ever rich. Jimmy was always a weak child, sick all the time. Spoiled by his mother was what Frank thought, but in the end Doris always got her way. Now she’s been gone fifteen years, and Frank is saddled with this kid whose never done anything with his life and never will. 47 years old and still doesn’t have a driver’s license. “Christ,” thinks Frank, “what the hell’s the kid gonna do when I’m gone?”

Jimmy has a job. He works for Uncle Howard, in the back of the office. Uncle Howard says there’s no way he’s gonna let some fatso up front to deal with the customers–but it’s a job. Jimmy tracks the inventory and wonders what he’s gonna do when Uncle Howard finally retires, because cousin David doesn’t really like him very much. Cousin David constantly complains that Uncle Howard is going to run that store until he dies, that Uncle Howard doesn’t trust him not to run the place into the ground in a month. Jimmy thinks that Uncle Howard is probably right about that–and Uncle Howard doesn’t even know about Missy and the trips to Atlantic City. Cousin David tells Margie, his wife, that he’s going to New York for business, but Jimmy knows that Uncle Howard never sends cousin David anywhere. What David tells Uncle Howard is a mystery.

Saturday afternoons are for visiting Doris. Frank and Jimmy get into Frank’s car and drive to the cemetery. As much as Frank complains, Jimmy doesn’t mind too much, because he knows that his dad loved Doris more than anything, and treated her like a queen. And now she’s gone, and they’re both alone. With each other.

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