Watching the World from a Cafe in Sheetz One Day

I’m plugged in. The ear buds moisten, clicking in my ears, Elton John reaching that exhaustive hiss of “the Bluesssss” just somewhere under falsetto… the Yellow Brick Road looking attainable. Tinnitus in my left ear holds onto the final note long after it’s gone. There is a murkiness outside as humidity claws at the still air.

I wander into the gas station/super mart/trucker stop and witness a world within the one that is jettisoned beyond the doors; and behind my soles. People scurry through cramped aisles with power bars, hydrogenated oils and condoms; Sports Illustrated racked between Guns & Ammo, gleaning breasts and hips and not the current soccer obsession– energy drinks pressing on coolers offering a more honest days work, at least more frenetic.

There is an art to ‘people watching’. Some involvement required, but obstinately it is just clusters– a people mash-up with no involvement and poor judgement: the short Asian woman with disproportionate sized breasts and her flightless toddler- tugging, tugging- tugging away at her spandex tights; a dwarf, commandeering a minuscule scooter, whipping through the complex maze to grab a soda. Workers in unison, in uniform, conforming to the task at hand. Each one smiling, except for the short haired teen, laden with an inordinate amount of homemade needle & ink tats that could easily pass him off as a cellmate. Old men litter the built in cafe and scratch arbitrarily at lottery tickets, shaking their heads– “the next one will be it, the next one…”

I need an energy drink.

There’s so much chatter here. The noise kaleidoscopes in my head, seeking refuge, or a blank tapestry to register something– anything. Noises from the CNN reporter girl with bubbly, over-hued blonde hair spewing in and out the nascent details of GOP and refugees, tornadoes and autopsies; the background to the forefront, backwash and the repetition of tires drone by. Noise trade, stifling the cell phone loyalists– they’re indifferent, and I just watch from a lonely seat in the cafe. Texting in cars, talking in aisles, pumping gas, wondering: ‘why did we have to fight about the mortgage this morning??’, sleepwalking… plagued with levity. No one even notices.

I ‘get’ why people ‘check out’. It’s hard to see until it’s right in front of you– when consciousness checks out and the banality just wrecks your thoughts– the sane ones, anyway. The distance between a useful existence and walking into a desert one day, tattered shoes and a final $222.43 alimony payment on the doorstep– dry land and sun in every direction and only dust and decay, the remnants of your life that was better left to the earth. Suicide is a dense word. It has a singular one-sided opinion, but it carries so much goddamn weight. I don’t understand what lifts someone into those last straggling moments where nothing exists, only breathe. It must be unbelievably terrifying. Staggering those final moments until there is ‘no turning back’. Most people wouldn’t understand. I can’t be indifferent (in my own thoughts) but empathy is a notion, not an actionable endeavor.

Save yourself, turn CNN to Curious George, turn the volume off and order another iced caramel salted pretzel latte with extra whipped cream, because cream is sweet and tastes nothing like death, or sadness. My own coffee; dwindling… room temperature and bitter– resembling the same indifference that haunts the masses, ignored by the few… and me.

The Sports Illustrated beauty eyeballs me from my seat and goads me back into evanescence. She looks too happy to be real.