Forty-seven years certainly sounded like a long time to be eight years old, but who was I to doubt the old man? Then again, he didn’t look very old, with his pimples and full head of hair, but I don’t like to doubt anybody if I can help it. I usually don’t even like to listen to them.
That afternoon, I was mostly trying to finish my lunch. It was already minute fifty-seven of my twenty-four minute lunch break, and I hadn’t even touched my pizza yet. Usually I have time to get to my favorite restaurant and then get back to work by minute forty-two, and start working by minute forty-seven. But at minute thirteen, this mysteriously young mysterious old man sat down at my table and started giving me a complicated math equation for his age.
“I can tell by the way you’re doing math on your fingers that you don’t believe me,” he said, grinning and showing off his braces. “But take a look at this.”
He took his license out of his wallet and handed it to me.
I had actually forgotten all about his age and was trying to figure out how much time I had left for my lunch, but I never turn down the chance to hold some stranger’s license.
“So this is where you live?” I asked.
“Oh… uh, yeah, but I was mostly showing you my birthday,” he replied.
His birthday was four months ago. I wasn’t planning on getting him a present, since I had never met him before this conversation, but it felt like he was hinting at it, so I started ordering him another diet root beer.
“Not the month,” he said. “The year.”
This impromptu conversation involved a lot more reading than I had anticipated.
“I can tell from the counting you’re doing on your fingers that this is going to take a long time,” he finally said.
Before I could take out my abacus, the strange, old young man decided to just explain it to me.
“My birthdate on that license is over ninety years ago,” he said.
That was one hell of a fake I.D.
“It’s not fake!” he yelled, his voice cracking.
“Sorry,” he continued, helping me up from the floor where I had fallen over. “But it’s no fake. I was born almost a century ago.”
He helped me up again.
“Do you want to know my secret?”
He had a secret? I hoped it was something juicy, like celebrity gossip I didn’t know or maybe something about his family history.
“I have drunk from the Fountain of Youth.”
Now it made sense. If he was drunk, that would certainly explain a lot of things. Like why he needed a fake I.D.
“No, it’s just water,” he continued. “But it’s youth-giving water. From the Fountain of Youth.”
I fell for a third time, but mostly just to be polite this time.
After helping me up again, the strange old young man sighed the way people sigh when they regret telling me something.
“Listen,” he grumbled. “Maybe I should get going.”
“The Fountain of Youth?” I asked. “Isn’t that just a myth? Like Bigfoot or my student loans?”
“That’s what I thought at first,” he said. “Until I drank this.”
From his backpack, he removed a tiny glass vial of water.
“As soon as this touched my lips, I knew the legends were true.”
The vial slipped from his hand and shattered on the floor.
He swore like a ninety-year old man.
I didn’t think it was that big of a deal, but mostly because I wasn’t very thirsty.
I looked down at the wooden floor, and noticed that the spot where the water spilled had turned into a tree.
The young old man seemed pretty upset, but I had to go back to work, and I didn’t think there was any use crying over spilled water. It’s not like it was something valuable, like spilled milk. I never saw the old man again, mostly because whenever I returned to the restaurant and thought I heard him talking, I pretended to be busy staring at my phone or my keys or whatever else I carry in my pockets.
And then one day, he wasn’t there, and in his usual seat was a weird, grumpy baby who seemed annoyed that no one would believe his fake I.D. or way out story about something called “The Fountain of Youth.” But I guess that’s babies for you.