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Michael Parke, Staff Writer

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In a hotel were two people in a room. The paint on the walls was chipped. Cigarette smoke floated around and they laughed at each other under alcohol and chased each other around the room. They spun and spun and spun until the bed seemed safe and fell silent.

 

The man woke up on his side of the bed with a slight headache that reminded him of the night. The ceiling was slightly yellow and speckled; it was stained from people’s tobacco smoke. The heavy curtains were closed, a table lay to his right with four loose cigarettes and a silver lighter; the large drawers and accompanying half-body mirror lay in front of the bed. Evidently this was a room not his own, for there was an open suitcase beside the drawer. Several bottles stood on the structure, and after a moment the man swung his bare legs down and checked them.

“Empty,” he said.

He slowly walked over to the bathroom and checked the standing shower and found empty bottles there too. Pushing them aside he carefully stepped in and turned the water on. The water was cold but he wanted it to be colder. A hollow sound came from the droplets striking the glass, and his eyes closed as he raised his head to the falling water. He felt sick on the inside, and the sensation of a film being put on in front of his unwilling eyes didn’t help. It seemed as though a foreign hand got the clothes for him and dressed him and drew open the curtains. A body not yet his own sat on the bed and suddenly he came to. The walls were a little brighter now. He looked down and prayed the only way he knew how but felt the same afterwards. Out of habit his right hand reached for the lighter and one loose cigarette. He lit it. The ashes fell onto the floor and he spent the time looking at the scene starting outside—morning runs and waves. It was rotten and he left the room.

 

Not a block away was a terribly kept cafe that offered only breakfast and lunch. The man shuffled to an open table in the corner where the sun stayed away and waited. He watched a thin woman approach him. Deep in the recesses of his mind he thought that perhaps she looked familiar. Or perhaps she didn’t. It didn’t matter if she did.

“Food, sir?”

“Croissant.”

“Drink?”

“Coffee.”

She wrote the items down with the soft leaded pencil that they used on a small notepad without lines and put the pad and pencil away in her black skirt. Then she began to walk away. He still watched her.

“Miss?”

The waitress kept walking forward. She returned and left the man in the corner with what he ordered. The breeze hit the umbrella tops and people on holiday began filing into the rectangular space the railing made. The railing separated the restaurant from the cobblestone road with which the man was familiar with. He knew the beach across the path and the cliffs that stood away from the white-faced hotel he stayed at too. He even noticed that shade covered the path and looked at tree that stood impressively against the sun. More people began filling the beach as the hour went. The man hardly ate the food he was given and watched the people instead. After a while he paid and left.

He crossed the path to the beach. No one approached him while he walked; most were busy with the sun anyway. He walked slowly, perhaps methodically, with his head down. A painter would’ve enjoyed the man’s dejection, but at this moment there was no one of the profession around. When he was close to the white cliffs he settled on the sand and stuck his feet in the ocean.The small waves lapped against his calves. It felt cold and he heard a dog run behind him to get a stick. A small boy ran up to him and said sorry because sand was in the man’s hair and shirt because of the dog. He said nothing and they quickly went away. He got up and felt the sand on his feet and walked up the not too gentle slope. The grass moved some of the annoying grit from between his toes and small bugs flew around the various wild things, but despite the scene the man felt heavier. The wind was stronger and birds flew above him and he could see all the ocean but he felt heavier. Suddenly he thought about the night before and the spinning walls and the damned woman who worked at the cafe.

“No, don’t think those thoughts. Never think those thoughts. It’ll never take you anywhere, do anything, anything.”

And thus thinking the man soon made it to the top. Up there to greet him was a small wooden cross with a woman’s name pyrographed onto the horizontal piece. Overcome by grief, he knelt in front of the structure.  

For all he had done he wept.

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