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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

men in the evening

I wonder if you see me. Surely you must.

That's me, sitting alone in front of my meal of rice and beans, things soft enough for me to eat, cheap enough to eat a lot of, cheap enough so I can afford a cigarette or a beer as well. Simple enough so that they will always have it, so that I don't have to go somewhere else to find it. It's not that tasty that I would like to eat it everyday. But that's the least of my considerations.

That's me, sitting in front of my rice and beans in the coffee shop, eyes darting around looking at the other customers, the other tables full of noise and conversation, the laughter. Not the other laughter, because I haven't got any laughter at my table, because there's no one to talk to or laugh with. My eyes dart up at every noise, every chair pulled back or every greeting. I'm hoping to see someone I know, I suppose. Someone from the past, distant or otherwise, who remembers me fondly, who'll grin and have a conversation with me. It doesn't even have to be a pleasant conversation. It can be awkward words. I am awkward with words, maybe I always have been, I can't remember. It's been a while since I would have done such a thing. It can be a bad conversation. They can remember me unfondly, angrily; maybe I was such a person. Any conversation. If only someone remembers me.

My eyes dart all over the people at the coffee shop as I sit alone; I have no book or newspaper or tv to hide behind, I am plainly looking at the others here. I am hoping to start a conversation with a stranger too, I suppose. You feel it when I look at you.

You know me, you know you see yourself looking at me, looking at you, wondering if we'll start a conversation and if i'll start rambling on disconnectedly because I can't remember how conversations go and am afraid to let a conversation stop and be let go - because who knows how long it will be till I can have another. Who knows how long it has been since I had one before.

But frankly, when rice or gravy sticks to my shirt, I don't pick it off or wipe it. If grains or beans get onto the corner of my mouth or nose I don't remove it. Why would I. Those are manners for people who talk to people, who meet people. I don't talk to anyone. Not that I don't want to. I just, don't get to. So these things don't matter.

I come here early in the evening before the sun sets, order the same dinner every time, and sit down. I drag it out, eating slowly, looking around, pausing often, hoping for someone to clap me on the back too heartily and say hi. But that never happens. Yet I still pause often, hoping something will happen. The minutes stretch too slowly then, as the strangers laugh, order, eat, joke, laugh and leave, and I pausing, look around, waiting for something, or the time to pass. I finish only after night has come on, and then go back upstairs to my room. It'll be the same as when I left it. There's no one to move anything but me. Coming back to the dim room after the lights and bustle of downstairs makes the room seem more terrible than when I left it. Still, I come down to pass the sundown time so that it seems like I've been away longer; it breaks up the day, like I've done something. Somehow it's worse to watch the twilight coming on in the room, to feel the certainty of having done nothing but let the time pass.

Sometimes you'll see me in there though, eating dinner in the chair under the bulb. That's when the coffee shop is too crowded to let me have a seat or when I attempt to break free from the addiction to downstairs. I can't cook, so I still go downstairs then bring it up. But every sound is amplified, every grain, every taste, every second of every fading light ray. I never do it more than once in a row. Even if you look at me strange, I'll be down there with my beans and rice the next day.

I suppose I come here to see people, even if I can't talk to them. It's better than being alone up there, but going back up there after the noise and crowd makes it seem even more alone.

I am the man in the evening, I wonder if you see me.

I guess it's alright if you don't say anything, as long as you notice, askance, that I am here. That I am still here. But how would I ever know.