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The Same, Only Different This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I stared down at the counter, the hard Formica a three-dimensional design of false depth.I sat, a little nervous. The noises of modern cooking screaming as the doorsswung back and forth muffled only by the passing of its slaves. I watched thewolves snacking on their eggs and toast. Hollering at the waitress. Waiting tobite. God, I hated diners. I pulled a cigarette from the breast pocket of mystale plaid shirt. Lit it and let it hang loosely from the corner of my mouth.The sweat ran down my face, formed oceans in my ancient tennis sneakers that werenow back in style. I peeled my hand from the counter. An attempt to get mymenu.

I jumped at the hard noise of the cup hitting the plate. My menuslipped from my grasp. I stared as it hit the ground and bounced. The world keptmoving by. The menu lying down under my feet, untouched and unread. I felt thesame - untouched and unread. I haven't felt emotional human touch since I was 60.The swelling pain growing in my chest. I watched a group of teenagers come in.Smoking their cigarettes, laughing. I could see them. Warmth. They had somethingI had lost.

They began to make faces at me and I realized I was staringblankly at them. Blatantly. Longing to be young. My eyes darted back to myfallen, lonely menu. I reached down and picked it up. It was still a littleslippery. I felt the cloth sides lining it. I saw her. My wife in her dress. Thered dress with the lace.

I put the champagne flute down on the white clothand looked deeply into her dark eyes. Gently kneading the tablecloth's sides tocalm my beating heart. I loved it when she curled her hair like that. I watchedher re-apply the red lipstick she had just lost to our love. Biting the napkin.Letting it fall, floating to the ground. She smiled at me. A big smile any manwould be proud to have. I smiled back and the colors of the music intertwined us.I saw them dancing. The big band jazz singing in my ear as my feet began to move.That sound burning in my chest. The horns. Taking her hand in mine. I felt thering on her delicate finger and knew she was mine. I lifted her hand in the air,and let my feet hit the dance floor with hard taps.

"Coffee,sir?"

I felt startled. My wife and the band slipping back into thecloth of the menu.

"Coffee, sir?"

I looked at my wrinkledhands and felt it. I wanted to say "No, thank you," but Freud let outwhat I did say.

"Yes, please," I answered with a smile. I feltdaring. And then it faded. I looked at my hands. The veins running through them.I saw the beast approaching. I felt it. I was old. Who was I kidding? I'm 87. I'mworthless.

I stared at my breast pocket, wanting to pull out anothercigarette. I did it. I was careless. I wanted it. I wanted it to end. I felt itwelling up behind my eyes. The beast staring me in the face. Its nostrilsflaring. Coming to take me. How long can one go on so alone? No one to talk to. Ifelt it in my heart. The pain. The coffee hit the back of my throat; it stillfelt dry. My one shoulder felt a bit warm, shooting pain down my left arm. Ishouldn't have been a laborer. If I had my head on straight. The pain grew moreand more intense. To the point where I was out of breath.

The bell wentoff. The dark, smoke-filled arena had no one in it. I stood in the corner, mygloves tied tight. I felt weak. In the dark. I could see its breath floating inthe other corner. The light hit the middle of the ring and I was let out of mycage. The beast came out and kicked me in the ribs. I told it I used to box andit better watch out. But it said I was old and gave me a good shot in the head. Ismiled and knew what I was going to do. It swung again; I ducked left and knockedone of the bastard's horns off. It tried to swing again and I gave it anothershot. I felt my strength coming back. Jumping up and down, ducking his punchesand landing most of mine. He came in with a final charge. And I landed one rightbetween his dark charcoal eyes, knocking him to the ground. He staggered to getup but was unable to do so. The referee raised my hand. I had won the fight. Thebeast lay defeated on the ground.

I raised my strong, youthful hand highand proud, meeting my wife's in the air as we continued dancing, uninterrupted.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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