April 19, 2013
By TheMasterWagner SILVER, Greenville, South Carolina
TheMasterWagner SILVER, Greenville, South Carolina
8 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you give a man a match, he'll be warm for a minute. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life."

It was dark outside. The sun had already sunk below the jagged city horizon, engulfing it in darkness. A few stars dotted the sky. In a small, inner-city apartment, sat a young man in his late twenties. His hair was thick and curly, like sheep’s wool, but it was the color of the dark soil or wet wood. His eyes were a blue-grey and his face was soft, still boyish. He looked out the window of his high-up apartment and stared out over the city. Lit buildings jumped out from the dark horizon, and cars far below weaved through the crooked, twisted streets like salmon in a creek. It was a comforting, enchanting view of the city, but the young man only saw darkness and chaos, and he turned away from the wide window.

A small, handwritten note on his coffee table caught his eye as he turned away from the window. It was a casual invitation to a party. One of his friends was renting out a dance floor and a bar and having a party to celebrate his first anniversary with his wife. The young man almost disregarded the note, which had been resting there, bothering him all week. He thought about the party, and it made him feel lonely. He’d once loved to dance and have parties, but those days were gone—dead—along with something else that had died. The man, stopped, shook his head, and sighed. The room seemed to shrink in on him as felt the shadows of the evening creep up the walls. He listened to the silence, and the lonely feeling grew inside of him. It pressed at his throat and made him uncomfortable.

The note on the coffee table seemed to grow little eyes that bore into the side of his head. Its existence weighed heavily in his mind, beckoning him to pick it up and read it. “Party next Wednesday at 10 at Shakers Alley. Come casual.”

The young man swallowed down the lonely feeling in his throat and swept the note up into his hand. He glanced at his watch for the time as he shuffled into the bedroom, found a dark trench coat in the closet, and shrugged it on over his shirt. He checked himself once in the mirror, put a brush through his hair, and made his way out the door. A warm feeling built up in his chest. Maybe it was anticipation for the uncertain evening ahead, or maybe it was the quick adrenaline rush he’d gotten from getting ready. It had been a long time since the man had had anywhere fancy to be.

The party was at a swanky little clubhouse in the heart of the city. It was the nice kind of party where the DJ played eighties music, everyone was sensibly dressed, and no one was getting too drunk. There was a small bar along one wall and a wide, open dance floor filling most of the room. The young man didn’t know many of the people there, but he knew enough to feel comfortable. He spotted his friend—the one who had invited him and whose anniversary it was tonight.

“Hey, didn’t think you’d come,” the friend said, sauntering over to the young man when they caught each other’s gaze. His eyes were wide and face was slightly reddened from alcohol.

“Sorry I’m late,” the young man replied sheepishly. “I almost didn’t come.”

The friend patted him on the shoulder. “But you did, and that’s what matters. Thanks for coming out. I know it’s been hard for you….” He paused, frowned slightly, then put on another smile. “Try to have some fun, alright?” The young man nodded, and his friend glided back off into the crowd of people.

He watched his friend leave, and decided to stay where he was by the bar. He rested his back against the wall and let his gaze wander through the thick, heaving mass of people. Most of the people were either huddled close together, talking, or spread out a bit on the dance floor. A few singles drifted around the room, looking awkward. He relaxed a bit and focused on a few of the couples on the dance floor. Their awkward, silly dancing made him smile. He sighed contentedly and touched his hand to his cheek to feel the warmth of his skin, the curve of his smile. He dropped his hand slowly, realizing how long it had been since he’d really smiled like this.

He shook his head, trying to let his mind wander again. His eyes scanned the dance floor again, this time landing on a vibrant couple. The man was tall, sandy haired, gentle looking. The woman was slender, soft eyed, and ginger. Her bouncing orange locks caught the young man’s attention—he found himself unable to look away from them. As he stared, his mind drifted back a few years…

The man and woman on the dance floor twirled around and the man dipped the woman down before pulling her back up to a standing position. Then, suddenly, the young man was in his living room, dancing with a beautiful young woman. Her hair was short, wavy, and bright orange. She had a soft, gentle smile and intense eyes. He danced with her. Dipped her down until her arm brushed the carpet. He lifted her back up and she nuzzled him.

The man and the woman on the dance floor slowed down a bit as the music changed. The woman rested her head on the man’s shoulder. The young man was now in the woman’s house. They were slow dancing to Roberta Flack. The orange-haired woman sighed contentedly and put the dip of her neck on the young man’s shoulder. Her breathing was slow, her face was warm. Her body was strong against his. Then, a thousand memories—all in once second—flashed through his mind. Singing with the orange-haired woman. Lying in bed with her, one arm around her slight frame. Kissing her again and again. Seeing her intense, intelligent eyes every day for three years. Hearing her voice call his name, talk to him. She loved him, and she told him every day. She held his hand every night when they went to sleep.

The young man blinked. He was still standing in the corner by the bar. His hand was closed around an invisible hand that no longer existed. His hand tightened into a fist and then released. Nothing, only air. An old emptiness in the man’s chest opened up, like a gaping maw.

He hesitated for a moment before deciding to go home. He didn’t even remember to say goodbye to his friend. His hands trembled to open the door to his apartment. He felt so very alone. More alone than he had in a long time. On his way into his room, he passed a picture that hung from the wall. In the picture, he was sitting beside the woman under a tree. She was reading and he was looking over her shoulder, nuzzling her on the cheek. The young man paused briefly to look closer at the picture. The woman was as beautiful as he remembered. Her hair was wavy and gingery and her kind face was dotted with warm freckles. Her green eyes were shifted up to look at the young man in the picture. The young man stared at the photo and swallowed hard. In the picture, he looked so peaceful. A smile played at the corner of his mouth. His eyes sparkled. He knew he didn’t look like that anymore. He felt old, worn, faded. He’d faded with her.

The man went on his way. He felt tired, so he crawled into bed, miserable and agitated. His mind wandered back to the young woman with orange hair. He rolled over and over, and fidgeted until he finally sunk into a half-peaceful state. In his unconscious state, the memories played over and over again, lulling like waves in his mind. The woman dancing with him. The woman standing beside him at the altar. The woman laughing. The two of them dancing again. His mind kept coming back to them dancing, and when he woke up the next morning, all he could feel the warmth of his lost love. The feel of her head resting on his shoulder.

The author's comments:
I remember seeing a lonely man at one of my parent's friend's parties, and even though I was only 9 or 10 at the time, I never forgot his sad, empty eyes. Perhaps this is the story of how he got to be so sad...

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