If You Build It, They Will Come.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

A Picture is Worth 1,034 Words.
Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks"; 1942.

"Why am I here?"

It was 1:47 in the morning, and time was moving so slowly. He had left his house that night because he couldn't sleep. He'd really done nothing but sleep all day long. Hell, he'd really done nothing but sleep his whole life. The house was cold and empty, quiet and desolate, and it consumed him. He had no one, he had nothing. He was 43 years old and had absolutely nothing to show for it. At this point he was more afraid of life than he was of death.

The pure silence had kept him awake that night, it angered him, frustrated him, he wanted more than anything to roll over to someone. Tonight was one of those nights that he felt he needed to do something about it. He wanted to spend the night on the town, he wanted to have an adventure, meet a person, he wanted more than anything to reconnect, to feel alive again.

But he ended up here, at the diner on the corner, the same diner on the corner he always ended up at.

He wanted to pretend they knew him here, but he knows they don't. No one knows him. He has no friends, no family, he knows if he were to die tonight no one would notice, let alone miss him. He once believed that was freedom, now he knows he was lying to himself. He sits here again, waiting for his coffee with two creams, staring at his own hands folded in front of him. The diner smells the same as it always does this time of night, coffee and soap. The soap smell comes from the old man behind the counter, he keeps his shop spotless, along with his own hands. He's always washing, scratching, scrubbing. The smell disgusts him, it reminds him of all the other times he's come here late at night. He feels the smell attach to him, soak into his skin like it has sunken into the old man's. He sits here quietly, listening to the water run over the old man's hands dripping into his sink as he chatters mindlessly to the couple at the end of the counter. They've just come from somewhere, they're dressed like it. Somewhere he was not invited. The man at the end of the counter is trying to be poilte. He's trying to pretend he's interested. The woman is not.

The woman.

He remembered women. He remembered his younger days. He remembers thinking those days would go on forever. He remembers taking it all for granted. He hasn't had a date in years, and as he sits here, he catches himself staring at her, fascinated, wondering how some people can look so good in a red dress. His eyes cover her, they slide over her. She is holding her man's hand. Even though she is obviously bored, she still manages to connect with her man secretly, their small embrace is their way of hiding their smiles from the old man, who is now washing his hands again as he continues to jabber on.

He misses that kind of connection.

He remembers a woman who knew his every thought, and he, hers. And as this couple sits across from him talking back to the man in their own private inside joke, he suddenly realizes he hates them. He feels the jealousy bubble up from his chest. He realizes he's stopped staring at the woman and is now focused on the man, burning holes into the side of his head with his glare.

"You don't even know what you have, do you?"

His coffee finally comes. The old man dribbles a little on the counter, and like a vulture attacks it with his dishrag, that once touched, dirties his hands once again, and he turns the sink back on. He felt the water dripping off the old man's hands into his brain. The noise made his teeth clench. He wanted to scream. He wanted to knock the man down and take the woman in the red dress. He wanted the old man to fall over, he wanted to laugh at them all. He wanted them all to die.

He wanted the old man to talk to him. He wanted the woman to toss a smile in his direction.

Outside there was no movement. The stores and offices all closed, lights off. The light from the diner illuminated everything out it's giant windows. It was 2am, there was nothing to divert his attention to.

"Why am I here?" he thought. He's been through all of this before. Leaving the house to feel social, only to not say a word to anyone, spend 30 cents on a cup of coffee, and go back home feeling worse than before. He wanted to die, he rationalized his own suicide. He served no purpose to society, he was just more garbage stacked on other garbage. No one would miss him, no one would care, no one knew him. He was miserable. He knew he was a pull of a trigger away from stopping it all.

He also knew that he couldn't do it.

He knew how this night would end. Just like all the rest. He'd drink his coffee, go home, lay in bed watching television, and then fall asleep, not to wake up until three o' clock in the afternoon. He had nowhere to be, why not sleep in? He would get the mail, and it would be junk and bills. No one would call him. He chuckled to himself a desperate and sad chuckle, as he realized that he didn't care. He was almost completely numb, finally, to what his life had become. He would go home to his empty house, to his cold bed and try to forget the failure that was tonight ever happened.

It's 2:30 am. The old man is washing his hands again. The couple look on bored as ever. The darkness blankets the still outside as a quiet wind blows through the streets and alleyways. A man whom no one had noticed has come and gone, and apart from a nickel tip left on the shimmering counter, the world remains unaffected.


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