As I showered I heard an old man peppering someone with questions. I paid little heed as I’d spent the day at the pool. Now I needed to wash the afternoon off me. I shook myself dry then stepped to the open-air changing room. Its uneven floor felt cool to wet feet. Leaves swept through and I heard the shrill of an encircling flock of grackles. All before me men populated the place in various states of undress. Swim-toned bodies set against fat fucks with hairy guts. Shriveled dicks acted as overlap between the two. Among all these sense triggers one image punched through. The person asking questions. A naked old man in a wheelchair. Gray hairs sprouted from his obese and age-beaten body.
The subject of his soliloquy was some college kid. He stood far off, changing from swimwear to street clothes. I sensed discomfort in his body language. Short glances and even shorter responses. A one-sided exchange of inane queries and monosyllabic replies. No matter how curt the answer another question came: Where do you go to school, what classes do you take, what kinda job do ya got? Yakking to fulfill one’s need to never shut up. The conversational equivalent of pap. Something far worse than small talk. An invasion.
I felt bad for the kid as it’s always awkward when someone doesn’t know when to can it. I see it so often. The Lonely Old Man an ever-present archetype. A societal pest in every city. Always ready with an anecdote about wiping their ass in 1937. These days their wife dead and too much time in front of the TV. Free to roam as they know there’s no law stating their type should be ground into skunk food. A most grievous injustice.
I didn’t take Wheelchair Grandpa’s questions to be creepy. No sexual overtone or crippled dick at attention. Still, peppering young men when you’re naked isn’t the best road to wheel down. I watched him spew an unending stream of queries, fat gut unfolding to lap. He seemed almost cheery. I got the sense he did this often. A lifetime of ignoring social cues in favor of annoyance.
I was on my way to elsewhere so got to changing. Exchanged sweaty socks and ass-stink boxers for clean counterparts. I was short on time so once more paid little attention. The questions cooled to a din of background chatter. I put on pants with a ripped-apart crotch. Thought of how I needed to hit Goodwill as these were my sole pair. Then my ears perked up. At attention once more.
The old man’s register raised. His rhythm quickened. It was an outburst. New words churned from ear to ear. Changed from garble to stark and distinct. I computed the chatter: He’d started spouting JFK conspiracies.
“Lyndon Johnson had JFK assassinated. Of course after that he wanted to take everyone’s gun’s. See how that works? How is it any different today?” The old man rose as he spoke. Grew animated. Gut swinging over cock as he fired off his theory. It seemed he wasn’t crippled. The purpose of his chair now unknowable.
The kid clammed up. Slowed from short words to silence. Wheelchair Grandpa finally read the situation. Seemed apologetic. Backed off from the outburst. Sat his old ass in the chair once more.
“Oh you didn’t know that? Well I’m sorry.”
From this the room fell silent. It seemed I wasn’t the only one listening. He’d crossed the line from small talk to an inner obsession. Afternoons spent on conspiracy pages. Pet theories only deployed while naked. JFK murdered to vacuum up guns. A power grab so egregious it took fifty years to even whisper its name.
I thought of how five years prior I walked across the X marking where JFK’s head came apart. How this moment felt intangible to me. Something studied in eighth grade then swept from my brain. But for the old man part of him lived in the past. Glued to old grievances. Most animated when flashing back a half-century. It seemed odd. A glimpse at a future one wouldn’t want to embody. Naked and nearly screaming at college kids.
The kid wandered off in silence. With little pause Wheelchair Grandpa scanned then chose another target. Another young man undressed.
“Hey does this place rent towels? Me, I’m just trying to air dry.”
I looked over his skin. Through the dark tunnel of his fat thighs. His crippled dick was dry. Not a drop. He was just here for the chatter. To pester everyone in sight. A seventy year experiment of his own accord. If only we could be rid of him. Send his old ass to the skunk food factory. To Dealey Plaza. To a place we could replay history.