Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Napkin Writer


"My God, that's me!"

I'm not sure if I said that out loud or not. In the poker game of life I try not to speak my thoughts. But I was so startled and scared by the sight of what I thought was my insides outside I reacted before I could think.

I was sitting in the downtown Dallas McDonalds by the bus station. The classical music keeps out the thug element but you still get your share of transients and vagabonds. I was there sitting in heavy black darkness, the light of my life gone; wishing I too was gone and how much longer I can even stay. I was too scared to return to my empty apartment, now not much more than a cold cave. Have you ever lived in a cave? It's where hearts go to die.

I hate McDonalds but what can I do? It's the only cheapo joint around the increasingly upscale downtown area. It's depressing standing in line like Jews herded off to the camps. You can easily tell the people who are just passing through on their way to someplace real and the rest - like me - for whom this is our final destination. Oh, the indignity.

I don't want anyone to know why I'm really here, that I have no place else left to go, that my "home" is a cold damp hell; that I ran away from life. I see I'm not alone in having troubles but I sit uneasily knowing no one could have as much self-made trouble as I. Like Lawrence guiding the Arabs as only he in all the world could have done, I know only I could be placed in so unique of a position. My only cover is that it's so beyond the pale of human normality no one has the thought to even suspect it's possible.

Doing what no other white man in the world could do

I'm disguised in garb above my emotional well being (they always come for me when it time comes to round up the usual frauds). Feeling as low as I was I was desperate not to be exposed - though that's what I need most. I know I need to come clean. I know I keep pretending I'm better off than I really am but it's hard just to let my appearance go. That's when I spied the scruffy soul.

It was almost like spotting a hot babe, I couldn't take my eyes off him. There was something I had to know but I didn't know what. In the heat of the moment I don't let myself process what I am feeling - one of my worst traits. He was unkempt and unconcerned - I envied that freedom. No shave, shower, eyebrow plucking, and ear hair trimming for him before leaving the house. His jacket's better days were not in this decade; all his clothes were shabby. But he owned them as opposed to them owning him (unlike Mr. Acura cocksucker standing in line up front looking all impatient).

He was in his own little world, not constantly evaluating his surroundings as I always do. He didn't need to fit in and I admired him for that. I don't think, however, he realized any of these good traits about himself. Then I saw him quickly writing on his napkin as if he'd just solved E=mc2. When I noticed lost scraps of paper in his pockets that's when I had my involuntary outburst.

I got real nervous, wondering if anyone would notice the man was exposing the true me. He was leading a more pure life than mine. I could tell he had no use for the internet or TV or the latest news. Whatever had gone wrong for him in his life wouldn't allow for such irrelevant matters. He was the kind who could walk through a crowd of holiday shoppers or police brutality protesters in equal obliviousness. He had words to write. Words lost to the world.

I was dying to see those words but I couldn't approach him. I felt he'd be naturally defensive and disinterested. He'd also spot a phony a mile away and I always come off as a phony when I'm not lying. And to be honest I had one greater fear stopping me: that I could not match his words were I to read them. Like I said, he was leading a far braver and more honest life than I and that's the name of the game in art.

Still, those words would be like gold to me. I could measure my own efforts against his. He knew his writing would never see the light of day, scribbling on napkins and odd receipts. I recalled in John Lennon's early days he too scribbled on napkins, as yet unsure if he could share them with the world. But this soul I studied had no hopes of being on the writing edition of American Idol awaiting discovery and fame. He wrote only as the forlorn trapped creature of creativity's cruelty.

Barring a miracle, I knew I saw him as he would die; his efforts fluttering out of his pockets blown down littered streets and into irretrievable sewers. Or like in this case, wadded up and left on the table. After he wrote, he looked up. I averted my eyes but he only stared straight ahead, chewing on something visible only to him, perhaps even composing. His look was frowning; unhappy. Was it because he was not happy with the words coming to him or because he knew his efforts would never reach the light of day?

I tried to speculate on what had made him take a left turn in life leading him to this point. My own pain was palpable and pressing my brain, these being the worst of times. Maybe he feels that pressure too. I wondered what he would think of my online blog. Would he see it as a waste of time, an extension of my posturing life? I'd be terrified to show him. Most people hide their honest reaction to my writing (which makes it all the more apparent!) but I knew he would not. I have to believe there are only a handful of critics in the world who could match what he'd have to say.

He gets up to leave and the illusion shatters. In his gait I can see he's a broken man who does not ever share his opinions. As a fellow cockroach, he too scurries from the light. All the lonely people... As he exits I half expect everyone in the room to scramble for his napkin to see what nugget he might have left. I was wildly self-conscious slipping over to nonchalantly retrieve it on my way out. I made sure I was well alone before I read it, my heart racing. His lost words: "fast food fiction".

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