He looks like he’s carrying the fucking weight of the world on his back.
The figure passed before the gray-haired man, his walk like a slow paranoia. The gray-haired man’s eyes followed the form across the floor, the figure clutched at his stomach, then sat in his chair. The gray-haired man studied the figure for a moment, then wondered to himself how anyone so young can be so old. The figure gazed up from behind his glasses to see if anyone was watching him. His face winced with a pain he could never hope to express, his right eye twitched.
The gray-haired man had known the figure for a little over a year. Unknown to the gray-haired man, he knew the figure far better than anyone had before. The figure had shared things with the gray-haired man that he had never dared to share with anyone else. The figure liked the gray-haired man very much and considered him a friend. Lately, the gray-haired man had noticed something different about the figure, he could sense a deep troubling within the young man. But out of respect for the figure’s introverted personality, the gray-haired man had decided not to ask what was going on. The gray-haired man knew if the figure wanted to talk about it, then he would bring it up. That is one of the thing’s the figure liked so much about the gray-haired man, he didn’t try to pry into the figure’s personal life, but if the figure wanted to talk, the gray-haired man would always listen. This respect for privacy ran both ways.
The figure stood from his chair, the room moved and he brought a hand to his forehead. The dizziness passed and the figure picked up his cigarettes. He searched a moment for his lighter and then proceeded over to the gray-haired man.
The figure and the gray-haired man left through a door they both knew they were not supposed to. The humid summer air hit them hard, momentarily taking the figure’s breath away. They sat down next to each other on the top step, right beneath the no smoking sign. This was their favorite place to smoke. Due to the fact it was a non smoking area, they could actually have some privacy.
Both men were silent for some time. Finally, the figure rose and walked down the stairs. He stopped, let out a long sigh and turned toward the gray-haired man. The gray-haired man had finished his cigarette but decided to light another, for he knew something was coming.
“I just don’t know anymore.” The figure looked at the gray-haired man with dark . . . tired . . . lost eyes.
“About what?” The gray-haired man asked.
“I don’t know, I’m just freaking out. I’m feeling some shit I haven’t felt for a long time. I’m feeling just like I use to. I thought I was past all this but I guess I was wrong.”
“I don’t understand.”
The figure knelt down at the bottom of the stairs and looked up at the gray-haired man.
“I feel like it has been a big mistake. Like I really don’t belong here.”
“Here?” The gray-haired man gestured back toward the building.
“No, in this world. In this life. I feel like somewhere, somebody fucked up. I’m not really supposed to be here and one day the mistake will be discovered and they’ll realize what happened and they’ll take me away from all this shit. I don’t know who or what, all I know is that they screwed up. I don’t fit in anywhere. I can’t function in your world. It’s just not right. Something is not right.”
The gray-haired man remained silent. The figure lit another cigarette.
“I just can’t imagine myself growing old, I can’t imagine myself with a family, I can’t imagine doing this or anything else for the rest of my life. It just doesn’t seem possible, it doesn’t seem right.”
The gray-haired man took a heavy drag from his cigarette, then looked up.
“I had no idea you felt this way. How long has this been going on?”
“My whole fucking life man.”
The figure began frantically pacing back and forth . . .
“I have always felt this way. It had stopped for a while, with my girlfriend and this job, but it’s back now. It always comes back. I’ve felt this way ever since I was a little kid.”
“I had no idea you felt this way.” The gray-haired man flicked his cigarette.
“Like I said, I think I’m just freaking out. I get this way sometimes, I’ll get past it, I always do. No big deal.”
The gray-haired man looked up . . .
“Are you sure it’s no big deal? What if this is a feeling you will always have? What if you never get over this?“
The figure dropped his head.
“I don’t know. Maybe. But what do I do?”
“I think you might be searching too hard, asking too many questions. What do you think is going to change by feeling this way? You have a choice, you know. What if part of what you are looking for is right in front of you but you are so hung up on what you don’t have that you miss it? “
“But what if I’m not actually looking for or wanting anything? What if the answer is that I literally do not belong here? “
“Belong here? Maybe none of us belong here, but we are here and we need to make the best of it because there is nothing we can do about it except to deal with it.”
“I’ve been trying to deal with it, really, but I’m just not sure how much longer I can try.”
“I think you are underestimating yourself. You are capable of much more than you give yourself credit for. You just may surprise yourself someday. You’ve surprised me on more than one occasion.”
“Yup. I can see what you’ve got, you just need to let go of all that other nonsense so you can see it too.”
The gray-haired man rose, picked up his smokes, turned and walked back in the building.
The figure turned and faced the parking lot. The sound of a car horn startled the figure for a moment, then he too walked back in the building, hands buried deep in his pockets, his back slightly lighter than before.