At first, I interpreted his stare as being judgemental. Perhaps he didn’t like bald men or the way I wore my glasses off my nose. I immediately became disturbed by his rudeness, and I eyeballed him back.
My anger melted quickly when his stare changed into a smile. It felt good but strange.
I’d say the man was in his mid-fifties. His salt and pepper hair was longish and parted on the side. He wore a light blue preppy shirt and brown khaki pants that he could have bought at Brooks Brothers.
After several minutes of giving each other smiles, he walked over to my table.
“I thought I recognized you,” he said. “Are you playing tonight?”
“Playing?” I asked.
“Yes, you’re Milli Vanilli, aren’t you?” he said with a sly grin revealing a slight overbite.
“Oh, sure. My brother is in the hotel room getting ready,” I responded, playing along with his gag.
He picked up an unused paper napkin from my table and scribbled a cryptic note—You are as graceful as Dr. J and as clumsy as the Incredible Hulk.
“I hope you like it,” he said with a wink. And then he went to his seat and began to stare at other people who walked into the diner. Everyone else avoided eye contact.
I wrote this incident off to just a guy who was a lonely eccentric. He probably lived in a big expensive house on the hill with a swimming pool and a brand new Rolls Royce parked in the driveway. He most likely came downtown to have fun with us less-privileged folk.
Later that day when I was driving my car along State Steet, I spotted the man again. I had to do a double take to make sure it was him. I was shocked. He was pushing an oversized shopping cart with what seemed like all of his worldly possessions. He kept talking to himself and periodically stopped to ask people for money. I pulled over and reached into my pocket for a couple of dollars.