Confessions of Less Enthused
Excerpt from CONFESSIONS: short stories
Sitting. On a bench. Not picnic. Not park. Not outside one of those community libraries where senior citizens sit and pretend they’re waiting for a bus, or a picnic, or are in a park. Although I do think on that. Do senior citizens sit at benches and think of other benches once sat upon? Do they compare and contrast bench profiles? Wood grain? Do they sit and wait and prove to the world they are infinitely patient?
Though I was not at a bus station, I was technically waiting for a bus. It didn’t appear to be a traditional bus stop in having a kiosk, sign or station in sight. Only a green bench. Waiting. And a new section of grass where the town’s grass ended. The bench may as well exist on the other side of the world.
No one else. I’m standing by the edge of the bench and no one else is around.
Moving parts. Comfortable shoulders. Imitations. We found reasonable ways to keep us occupied during the rainfall. The weather had turned from sunny and bright into overcast and paraplegic within the first hour we arrived. “We’re not going anywhere fast,” the tour guide said, tipping his Indiana Jones raincap to one side and leaning against the wall as though he were posing for Outdoor magazine.
I was waiting for a sign, but nothing arrived in the travel part of leaving one place – the place I was living – to the tourist destination. Though I was a tourist like any other I was on the fringe, as I was traveling alone.
Many hobbies were exploited. Piano lessons on Mondays. Softball with the office on Tuesdays. Wednesdays I joined a sand volleyball league, where I often arrived early to warm up, but I was always the oldest person attending. Thursdays, poker.
Fridays were half-days at work, so we’d all show up in casual dress (the most popular wardrobes were Hawaiian-based, but I wore Western shirts, often polyester. That way if I was close to someone lighting their cigarette I might get lucky and catch fire.)
I packed light. The only shoes I brought – low ankle hiking boots with thick soles – were on my feet.
We were staying close to a river, which was comforting, as the city had a big river, but everyone shared it. This river was more secluded, and didn’t seem to have a bridge with countless traffic drifting over it. Someone commented on how magical it felt to have the cabin so close to the river, then a soccer mom nervously replied, “But with all this rain I’m betting on mosquitos galore.”
It didn’t take long to imagine mosquitos galore inside her mouth, throat and belly.
Again. Sitting. Break time. He rested. Or sat. Again. Not a bench. Not a platform. A seat at a table in the Filipino restaurant seemed inviting enough. He didn’t have to hide. His eyes itched and reddened behind fussy contact lenses. The city’s heartbeat contemplated his course. A silvery moon lit the buildings across from him, reminding of a cheap set from high school theater, the irony living inside the cynicism, watching as an audience member, contemplating himself as an actor, onstage, projecting emotion to shadows. The waitress brought him a glass of ice water. He began drinking just as it set. Sound shattered. An acuteness followed the server’s presence. She stayed next to him, hands crossed over one another, as if praying, patiently waiting for him to lift his head, to breathe, to look in her direction, or directly at her sepia eyes, and say something, as though he had just been caught living.