25 September 2011 – close to 10:00 PM
Rebecca was finishing her shift at the café where she had been working for the past 16 years. As she cleared away the plates and wiped down the tables she caught a glimpse of herself in the window where a street lamp burned out front. She was in her mid-40s and the lines around her eyes had become more pronounced over the past few years. She sat down for a moment at the table she had just cleared and gazed into the glass. For the hundredth time she felt the sadness settle on her heart and asked herself the same questions she had been asking for a long time.
Why am I alone?
Why didn’t I do more with my life?
Why don’t I have children?
Where is my family?
As the tears began to well, she was startled by a tapping at the door. Composing herself she peered out and, with relief, she unlocked the door seeing that it was Gary.
“Gary!” she said smiling brightly. “I was just closing. Why are you here so late”?
“Sorry, Bec, I just wanted to see you a minute”.
“Sure! You want a coffee or anything? I can heat some up”.
“No, no – just a glass of water would be great”.
As she went behind the counter to fill the glass, she gave him a sidelong glance. Gary was 26 years-old but looked her age. Weather-beaten and weary. He looked particularly rough on this evening – his head bowed and long, greasy hair hiding what would be a handsome face if he took some care of himself. He had been coming to the café every day for several years but this was the first time he had come so late.
“Here”, she said, placing the water in front of him.
“Thanks”, he said, sighing heavily.
“Are you alright? You don’t look so good”.
“I’m fine”, he said, smiling weakly. “I just wanted to say thank you”.
“For what?” she asked. “A glass of water isn’t a big hassle for me”.
“I wanted to… to thank you for… for being my friend for so long”, he said, struggling with the words. “You’ve always been so nice to me”.
“Gary” she said, touching his hand, “what’s the matter”?
“I… I… heard the voices again…”
“Oh no, why did you stop taking them”?
“I hate them. I don’t know who I am when I take them. I hate them”.
“Gary, I want you to go home and I want you to take them”.
“I threw them out”.
“Fuck. You’re staying with me tonight”.
“Yes, you can. And you will”.
“I can’t Bec. I have to go. I’m just here to say goodbye”.
“Gary, you’re scaring me. Stop it”.
“I finally listened to them. I couldn’t help it”.
“Don’t listen to them” she said, taking him by the shoulders. “Just don’t”!
“I couldn’t help it”, he said, hanging his head again and looking darkly into the swirling ice cubes.
“I’m getting my things and you’re coming with me. You’re coming home with me. I’ll be right back”.
She went into the kitchen and collected her coat and purse. When she came back out to the front he was gone. On the napkin beside his glass of water on the counter was a scrawled note saying, simply:
26 September 2011 – close to 10:00 AM
The café was bustling and Rebecca was running frantic. With a full pot of coffee in her hand, she heard Sam Miller call out to her.
“Hey, Sam. How are you”?
“Did you hear about Gary”?
“No”, she said, suddenly feeling cold.
“He committed suicide yesterday afternoon. Threw himself off the bridge down the turnpike just around the corner”.
“That’s impossible”, she whispered. “He was here last night. With me”.
“See for yourself”, said Sam pointing to a small piece on the last page of the daily newspaper.
“Oh, my God”, she said, reading quickly, as the coffee pot slipped through her fingers and shattered on the floor.