“Happy new year!” the four gents chorused.
It was a significant year for these classmates. They were turning 60. They’d kept in touch through their lives – seen girlfriends become wives, had children and grandchildren.
They’d all led varied professional careers but that phase had also passed.
“A new start,” said Jing, adjusting his specs as he broke into a dentured smile. “time to travel with Sally and make up for lost time.”
The others laughed, nodding animatedly.
“I will have to find something to do,” Philip said, fingers drumming on the table. Having lived a life of heavy travelling as part of his work in the computer industry, the suddenness of retirement was not easy to accept.
“Hey, relax man,” Stan offered. “You can’t keep running all the time. At some point you’ll have to slow down. And if you don’t, your body will do it for you.” Always the practical one, Stan had been a general practitioner all his life. He found comfort in a reliable and relatively consistent environment.
“People will always have the flu,” he was fond of commenting.
Nathan was fast losing interest in what was going on. For the past year he found his mind wandering at the slightest opportunity. He found it difficult to focus.
The general chatter eventually intruded on his thoughts of living on a boathouse when he heard his name.
“…Nathan come on, tell us what you’re going to do.”
Blinking to get his bearings he smiled and sighed. “Whatever. Not as if I have too many options,” he finally said.
Jing, always the optimist, piped in cheerfully: “Hey, life is what you make of it!
“Next year we will meet here and see what an eventful year we had. okay?!”
There was general laughter all around and nods of approval.
A year later, Jing sat at the same table, nursing a drink as he looked at the empty chairs around him.
Nathan had collapsed and died on New Year’s Day. Philip keeled over on labour day. His wife said he died of boredom. Stan picked up a nasty bug which developed complications and he died in November.
“To my friends who have deserted me,” Jing said, raising his glass, and cracking a crooked smile.
The following year, a bunch of noisy teenagers were occupying the four chairs.