I was sitting on the outside terrace, reading. At the table across from me, two men were arguing about politics. Chatter, chatter, chatter. Chatter, chatter, chatter. There was a pause in the conversation, and then one of the men spoke again.
“How old are you?” he asked the other one. My ears perked up. I peeked up covertly from my book. The question had been directed at the white-haired gentleman of the pair. His back was to me. He began to stand up, gathering his things.
“How old do you think I am?” he asked. Always an interesting question… The dark-haired man who had asked regarded him carefully. Momentarily, he said, “Sixty-five?”
“I’m seventy-one,” the white-haired man said with satisfaction, tossing his bag over his shoulder.
“Wow,” said the dark-haired man. “You look good!” He eyed the white-haired gentleman’s slim legs and broad shoulders. For seventy-one, he did look good. The other gentleman nodded in acknowledgment of the compliment, and began to walk away.
“How old do you think I am?” the dark-haired man called out to his retreating back. The white-haired man stopped and turned. He looked the other man over for a moment. My ears had perked up even further. This was bound to be interesting. Presently, he said, “Sixty-five?”
The dark-haired man glowered at him for a long moment, giving him a chance to change his answer. But there was to be no retracting the guess. There was only silence.
“A little high,” he finally said, lifting his espresso and taking a sip. His eyebrows were furrowed over his cup, and when he set it down it clattered noisily on the table. “I’m fifty.”
The other gentleman didn’t seem overly bothered. “Well, I guess you do have that dark hair,” he said.
“I color it,” the scowling man replied.
“And I have been traveling for a long time, all over the world, to India…” the older gentleman continued. “It keeps you in good shape.”
Their conversation ended and I pretended to be absorbed in my book again. The white-haired gentleman walked away, and the one who remained took several agitated sips at his espresso. Then he shot a glance at me.
“Hello,” he said across the tables. I looked up, pretending to notice him for the first time. “Hello,“ I replied. And for the next hour, he lectured me on the importance of travel, the absurdity of faith, and the merits and downfalls of the world’s greatest religions.