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White haired manRamrod tall, his skin almost as white as his hair, he busily worked on the morning crossword. His chair was always the one tucked away around the bend in the alcove of Starbucks. Stiffer than the other three; a desk type chair instead of the leather comfy chairs that were more in the open. The crossword puzzle always presented a challenge despite his diligence and discipline. As soon as someone approached, and they invariably did, he would query them on a clue or propose an answer.

And then the friends arrived. There were always friends, or at least acquaintances that routinely stopped to chat in his ubiquitous presence. It was as if he held court from his padded office chair, every Sunday morning without fail on the days I was there, and perhaps every day of the week. His bearing was military; dignified and in control. Apparently well-traveled, there would be talk of Hong Kong, Japan, places far from here. Navy, perhaps? Officer, most likely. Retired, with honors, my bet. His dress was casual, though casual in the sense of historical spit-and-polish. Pressed slacks, nicely tailored cashmere cardigan sweater, comfortably formal shoes. He was the center of attention.

And then he was gone.

It’s been a year now, maybe more. Has he moved on to another Starbucks? Or moved on to another world?

We never spoke, but somehow, inexplicably, I miss him.

Postscript: While not my original intention, as I wrote this I thought about a friend who passed away this week. Friend in the sense that while we never met, we had shared time on an online writing site, then when that site faded into oblivion, Facebook. A scientist by training and poet at heart, she was always there for others, encouraging their writing, sharing their poetry on her blog, and keeping calm while others vented at every perceived slight on the internet. Then suddenly, she was gone. Her long silent medical battle had come to an end. Thank you, Ann, for inspiring creativity and civility. You will be missed.

David J. Kent is a science traveler and the author of Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America, in Barnes and Noble stores now. His previous books include Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (2013) and Edison: The Inventor of the Modern World (2016) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate.

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