On a Friday morning, Roger sat on a bench on the train platform waiting for the train home to Philadelphia from Maryland. He was an adjunct professor at the University and as usual, he had to work overnight to finish grading paper since the university would not provide him a grader.
He glanced at his watch, the train wouldn’t be there for another 20 minutes. Sighing, he snapped open his briefcase and pulled a book out to read. A few pages later, a white-haired old man sat down next to him. Roger sneaked a peek, curious since this wasn’t the only empty bench at the station.
Roger watched the old man placed his cane on his lap and his fedora on top of it. He turned to Roger and smiled. Roger returned a small smile and went back to his book though he could no longer concentrate. There was something about the old man, something odd.
Quickly, Roger slipped his book back to his suitcase, adjusted his coat, and crossed his arms. “Nice day, eh?” The old man asked casually and brought a white Styrofoam cup to his lips. Roger nodded stiffly. Out of the corner of his eyes, he glanced at the old man as he swirled the liquid in the Styrofoam cup. There’s something strange about the way he was swirling it, Roger thought but at the same time, he wondered if he was just tired. “I’m heading to New York, where are you headed?”
“Philly.” Roger answered quickly with a tiny smile.
The old man nodded and took another sip from his cup and then swished the liquid in his mouth. Then he patted his knee, “Well, it looks like my train is coming in a couple minutes.” He placed the cup on the bench and his fedora on top. “It was nice talking to ya.” He up-righted his cane, grunted, and stood up.
“Wait, you forgot your hat.” Roger shouted but the old man just kept walking away.
Roger grabbed the fedora and his briefcase and was about to run after him when he noticed a tiny glint of light coming from the cup. He took the cup and glanced inside. At the bottom of the cup was a gold antique pocket watch. Roger grew puzzled as he reached into the cup and reeled out the watch.
As he turned the watch in his hand, he felt something. Holding the watch to the light, he saw an inscription on the back. Never Look Back.
Roger looked up again to find the old man but he was nowhere to be found. His brows furrowed as he repeated the words in his mind, never look back. What does it mean? He wondered and shook his head. It could mean anything, he thought as he turned around to return to his seat, not knowing that it would be the last time he will ever sit on this bench and that the old man’s watch was a warning.