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John set down the year-old newspaper on the table. He sat alone in the kitchen, the window covered in squares of cardboard, blocking out most light, but allowing bits and pieces through. He always lived alone, or at least, as long as he could remember. His early life was a blur, no memories were reminisced. Occasionally, he slept and had intense dreams of the same moments in time over and over again. It was like being so exhausted that one can’t keep one’s head up or keep eyes focused, but everything passed by in a blur.

John had no real friends, not like he used to. He never learned what happened to them, he just knew that he had friends once. Their names had long been gone from his mind. His was a world separate from most. He always read newspapers from a year before the current date, he felt safer knowing what would happen next in the reports. He rarely went out, and even then, he wore a sweatshirt and sunglasses, as if to protect himself from everyone. Familiarity was something he often feared, the only clues as to why this was escaped him for the most part, but when clues came, they came in short bursts. These bursts were like an intense hallucination or vision. The visions were all about the same, a beautiful woman smiling, soon replaced by the sight of that same woman walking away. As with most people, John felt he “knew” more about the events in the dream than what the vision presented. He knew that the woman who was walking away was someone he loved, and who had once loved him. He also knew that once she left, she would never return.

His only companion in life was his old acoustic guitar. It was very aged, and held a character all its own. Its scratches and wear were signs of a long life of hardship, with plenty of scars and wisdom to show for it. John knew how to play the instrument with some decent ability, he assumed, he could never recall hearing anyone else play, so he had nothing to compare it to. Fact was, John was pretty great with music. He often played for the sunset, one of the few things he could count on. As night fell each evening, the songs became sad, the chords and notes of some forgotten love song fell upon the deaf walls. These songs were the only thing that revealed to John just how alone he was in the world.

After reading his paper, he drank his coffee and ate his cereal. The coffee was bitter, and the cereal much like cgravel, but he never noticed. He finished his breakfast, cleaned his dishes, and stared at his ceiling. Trying to sort his thoughts, John gave up; it was something he could never do. He looked at his stale apartment, piles of yellowing newspapers in loose stacks, old vinyl records and no record player, books in languages he didn’t understand, and his wood floor blanketed by dust. To the left of the couch he lounged on, there was an old coffee table. It was littered with hypodermic needles, unlabeled capsules, and bottles of alcohol. He never experimented with any of these; there were terrible emotions and fears attached to the items. Other than his guitar, the needles, pills, and bottles were the only things he had any strong feelings about.

His apartment was located four stories above a perpetually empty street; John was one of the few who lived on the avenue. He never looked out the windows more than once or twice a week; he didn’t lke removing the covers from the windows. A dusty street, rundown old buildings, dented garbage bins, and cardboard boxes, these were the only things he saw, the view was always the same. Today was going to be one of those days when he looked out, he decided this over breakfast. His thoughts scattered once again, he began wondering once again about the identity of the woman from his dreams. Was she real? Of course she was, but now she is gone. Then another thought. If she was real, what was her name? I don’t know. Precisely, then how do you know she was real? This conversation with himself continued for quite a while.

He rose from his place on the couch and slowly, hesitantly approached the window. Not now, but later perhaps.He stopped, and soon found himself reading the old newspapers again. The old newspapers didn’t makehim happy; they made him quite sad most of the time. He knew these stories, he hated them, but he relived them over and over again. He felt somehow secure about it. He looked over his paper at the window again. There is nothing for you out there. No people, no friends, no life out there. He looked back down at his paper again and tried to forget about the window.

He lifted his eyes to his guitar, perhaps he would play it. He dropped the paper and walked slowly toward the guitar, lifting it in a firm grip. He began to play his song, the one with words he no longer remembered, but had always known. He played on and on, then he heard a snap. The music stopped suddenly. The room fell silent. A string had broken on his guitar. He stared at it for a long moment. Then he felt confused. He had stopped playing, yet he could hear the faint melody in his ear. He turned toward the window again. The sound was coming from outside. He quickly and determinedly walked towards the window, removed the covering, and opened it wide. He stuck his head out and peered downward, wondering who or what was playing his song. He gazed, and saw a woman who seemed so familiar to him. It was her. The woman from his dreams was down on the stoop of his apartment building. She held a guitar in her hands and strummed whole-heartedly. She sang with all of her being, singing the words he had long forgotten, but always knew. He lunged at his door, swung it far open, and ran down the stairs to see this woman up close. He ran out the door, desperate to see her. But she was not there.

He was shocked. Where is she? He kept looking round, and didn’t see her anywhere. John walked outside into the sunlight, and was further surprised by what he saw. People. Everywhere. He then wondered if maybe he hadn’t been alone all along. Maybe he just never noticed those around him. He walked down the street, leaving the apartment he had been in for so long. John abandoned the apartment, the guitar, the newspapers, the shell of what he called a life there. John never returned to that place. He had found what he had been blind to for so long, other people. The woman in his dreams never returned. Not in the day, and not in his mind’s eye at night. John found he could now remember his old friends, they had never forgotten him.
Maybe losing aned remembering someone who we thought loved us makes us forget those who do.
And maybe, just maybe, we are never alone. We just forget the people surrounding us.

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