It’s 2 in the morning. I am sitting on a bench in the shadows of a dark street corner, staring up at the stars and feeling the wind.
It’s been a long day, but thanks to my life partner Insomnia, I’m still wide awake. So I came out here, to let the starlight and the rustling of leaves fill my eyes and ears. To smother my incessant mental background chatter with a blanket of organic calm.
Beats lying in bed staring at the ceiling.
Out of the darkness, a guy in his twenties stumbles up over the curb and makes for the bench opposite mine, shooting me a rueful grin. He’s holding two unopened cans of beer in one hand, which he uses to indicate the bench while forming a question with his eyebrows. I start to nod but end up shrugging awkwardly at the last second, exhibiting my usual tenuous grasp on normal human interaction, but it gets the point across. Beer Guy saunters the last few steps to the bench and flops down with a prolonged sigh.
Although I have said nothing, Beer Guy decides he owes me an explanation as he cracks the first can open. “Hope you don’t mind. Gotta finish these off before…” Except I will never know the reason for his compulsory beer consumption, because he simply trails off there, assuming I understand where he is going with the thought. I suppose this is flattering, as it indicates I’ve successfully passed as someone who knows how today’s after dark society works, but in reality I’m just left unfulfilled. Before what? Before you turn into a pumpkin at 3am? Before catching the bus? Before your 12 step program sponsor sees you? Before the impending zombie apocalypse? Don’t leave me hanging, man.
Beer Guy interrupts my Before what? musings by grunting something in my direction, and I look over to see him holding out an unopened Budweiser. “Want one?” he asks, as casually as if we were hanging out in someone’s living room watching football and not total strangers on a dark street corner. “No thanks,” I laugh, and realizing the absurdity of the question he chuckles sheepishly back and quickly looks away.
I return to my stargazing, but it’s immediately apparent that Beer Guy does not do well with sitting in silence. He scuffs his shoes against the paving stones and restlessly taps the side of his beer can. He begins looking around absentmindedly, peering down the sidewalks as if wishing someone else would show up. I start to wonder if he sat here hoping I was the talkative type, up for a late night chat. If so, he has chosen poorly.
The frequency of his tapping increases. He graduates to drumming the fingers of his free hand on the bench. He leans forward slightly and rocks a bit on the edge of the wooden seat. And then– we have liftoff! In one swift motion he is on his feet and disappearing down the road, tucking the unopened Budweiser under his arm as he throws his head back and chugs the remaining contents of the other.
I’ll never know if he turned into that zombie pumpkin.