I had an experience today that I can’t shake.
I was walking to the post office at a “take no prisoners” pace, and I saw an old man on the sidewalk ahead of me, shuffling along. I hate passing slow walkers. It always seems rude somehow, so I usually say something friendly or at least smile as I walk around them.
This particular elderly man was Japanese, and he had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. And when I said good afternoon and smiled as I walked past, he turned his gaze to me, looking confused and maybe even a bit hostile. I’m not sure if it was a language barrier, hearing problem, cognition problem (he was quite old) or something else. Then he looked away.
I followed his gaze, and he was staring at an enormous American flag hung out for Memorial Day. I looked back at him. There was great emotion in his face.
Given his advanced age, and given my penchant for spinning stories out of nothing, I figured he’d been around during World War II. Many Japanese from this area were put in camps during the war. Had he been one of those, and did he still feel angry when the country celebrated the defeat of his homeland? Or was he feeling pride for his adopted country (I assume his adopted country, but he might have been born here).
Maybe he’d just hung the flag and had come out to see how it looked.
For several minutes afterward, as I headed for the post office, I spun stories for that man. Comes with the territory of being a fiction writer, I guess!