Looking Back (1)
Sitting in the stale air of the small café, I begin to miss how much softer it seemed when the room was heavy with smoke. The coffee and the cigarettes allowed me to feel content and almost appear as if I was not alone. Now we stand awkwardly outside; silent strangers huddled together, our lonely, half drunk coffee cups waiting for us at the table.
It’s been a long two years of playing the public enemy, but I spend my days in here and I hound the bars at night. They say that it is not much of a life: Scraping together the rent with odd jobs and a few articles published in bad magazines, but I don’t mind it. It gives me the time I need to observe, listen and retain the few remaining grains of my sanity. I have engaged with nothing but the paper and books for as long as I can remember, but I was never one for taking part. Being left alone is superb; the highest social standing you can find, however, they are things you miss and you miss them hard. ‘A rapist is a loner without an imagination.’
I throw my cigarette on to the pavement as the cars go by, driven by no one –not really. I imagine my smoking cigarette butt bouncing through a radiator grill and igniting the cars flammable life source. BANG!
I can only imagine it, because in this reality… Sorry, my reality, excitement is dead. I turn away from the street and lower my head to sway back in to the café, avoiding the eyes of all those too much like me to be likeable. I take my seat and sigh.
Yesterday is still playing on the head; another desperate phone call that finalises this distance… I should have learnt by now: If there is one human trait that is found unattractive by all, it is ‘desperate’… It’s hard… I stare in to the mirror and remember who I looked at two years ago: The ebullient face of content now replaced with empty eyes and wild hair. I leer where I used to gracefully observe. Yesterday was a reminder… There is no hope.
“Can I get you another coffee?” I looked up at the waitress; a young law student who moved here from Poland. I nod at her and she smiles nervously while she refills me. I become warm.
“Say, would you sit down here with me for a while?” I can’t believe I just asked her that; I’ll be flogged out of here. I’m forty six, unkempt and disfigured by alcohol and solitude. She is vibrant, slender and waiting anxiously for her early twenties. Those eyes… They are yet to be touched by sorrow; they still shine and open wide.
“Okay, but I can’t stay long.”
The words fleeted instantly as I realised this was the first woman I had spoken to in two years. Everything I had put to paper describing missed encounters… All of the passion I could fathom on to paper… It was not there in speech. So I stared. I studied her eyes, then her lips, then the soft white neck. She had me. Then, the tell tale signs: She scratched the back of her neck, began to shuffle, looking anywhere but at this grotesque pervert staring straight in to her.
“It’s quite strange.”
I sighed again, and took my time.
“It’s strange… I haven’t even tried to speak to anyone since… That doesn’t matter. I had this unstoppable flow of words coursing through me, which I could write down, but… It didn’t help. You’re the first in two years, and now all I want to share with you… is silence.” “Hell,” I laughed “listen to me: Mister tortured soul, wondering where it all went when it boils down to where I threw it… I’m sorry…” another sigh. “I need a cigarette… do you smoke?”
“Fine… okay… well… thank you, and enjoy your day.”
“Aren’t you staying for another coffee?”
I looked down at the empty cup and offered a wry smile.
“Okay, but I need to smoke first.”
I got up and walked outside, lowering my head I lit a cigarette and walked away. What I needed, was the bars.