A conversation I had this morning reminded me of this fragment. I’ve tried a couple of times to put the image of the morning changing of the guard into a story, into something that follows “Moonlight Sonata”, but it hasn’t worked yet. This fragment is just another of those abortive attempts, but I like it OK.
“Hey, Doc! Some guy was looking for you.”
“Do I want him to find me?”
Sparky scratched his head. “Not sure. Didn’t look like a bill collector or anything. He was wearing a suit, though.”
I couldn’t think of anything I’d want from a man in a suit, which meant if he never found me that would be all right. I sipped my coffee as Sparky slipped into the seat across from me, starting on his breakfast beer. He made a satisfied smacking sound with his lips.
“He had a black eye,” Sparky said. “You hit anyone lately?”
“I’m a lover, not a fighter, man.” I yawned. The sun would be rising soon. The little café was in transition; the last of the night people were desperately clinging to wakefulness, trying with forced gaiety to hold onto something they had never had. They were giving way to the morning people, coming in for a smoke and a jolt of caffeine before moving on to the grind of the day. At one table a girl was asleep, head on outstretched arm, party dress rumpled, while her friends chatted on and ordered shots of Becherovka. Next to them three men in coveralls were smoking and having a morning beer before going to work, idly trying to flirt with the party girls, but the girls were too far gone to notice.
“Fuck, Doc, what are we doing here?” Sparky asked, looking at the ceiling.
“Livin’ the dream, Sparks, Livin’ the dream.”
He rubbed his eyes. “Yeah, but whose dream? I’ve been sitting in this chair or one just like, morning after morning, for years now. It never changes. Even the tourists are the same.”
“Maybe you should take a break.”
“That’s what I’ve been doing, for about five years now.”
Five years was a long time to last on the underside of the city. The life there wears you down, making you less and less distinct until you finally just disappear. Everyone is just passing through; friendships are fleeting and conversations often start, ‘Whatever happened to…?’ But before long you don’t remember the names, and the faces blur and fade.
Talking about time meant Sparky had one foot out the door already. Once you accept that there is such a thing as progress you start to notice that you aren’t making any. I was going to miss him. He had seemed more solid than most of the night folk. I had almost come to know him.