It’s Monday morning and I’m lying in bed. Raindrops clatter on the second hand air conditioner sticking out my bedroom window. I open one eye. The light pushing though the curtains is heavy and gray. Outside I hear car tires sluice through wet asphalt. I glance at the nightstand clock. The luminescent dial reads 8:00am. I groan and pull the covers over my head. I only went to bed a few hours ago.
I toss and turn for several minutes. A train horn blows somberly in the distance. I imagine commuters cramped inside dirty rail cars, reading newspapers, cocooning with laptops and iPods, oblivious to the landscape rolling past their windows. I’ll bet there’s at least one person on that train who’s very happy. But I’ll bet someone else is having the worst day of their life.
I throw the covers off my body. It’s no use trying to sleep. I’m already thinking too much. I roll out of bed and pad into the kitchen. I put on a pot of coffee. As I listen to the coffee brew I eat a bowl of cereal standing up. When you’re a waiter you get used to eating standing up. I look out the window. A steady rain’s puddling the street in front of my house. Rain hurts business. I wonder if it’ll clear up by tonight.
The coffee maker beeps. I pour myself a cup and walk into the living room. I turn on the TV. A newscaster tells me a 25 year old fireman was killed fighting a fire in the Bronx. He only graduated from the Fire Academy a month ago. When I was little I wanted to be a fireman. I say a silent prayer for the man’s family and change the channel.
The next news program talks about a plane crash in Kentucky. A young couple married earlier that day perished with 47 other people. One minute you’re happy and the next minute you’re dead. Life can be cruel sometimes. I don’t want to think about this stuff first thing in the morning. I turn off the TV.
I sit down at the kitchen table and power up my laptop. I should be writing something. After half an hour I shut off the computer. I’ve got nothing to say. I change into a t-shirt and short and go to the gym. Since I can’t write I might as well do something constructive.
A few hours later, exercised and freshly showered, I’m walking towards the Bistro. I want this shift to be over before it begins. If I have to smile another fake smile I’m gonna start developing facial tics. I need a break. It’s a good thing I’m off the next two days.
I walk past a dress shop. The proprietor, a woman in her fifties, smiles and waves at me. I wave back. It’s been a while since I’ve seen her smile. A couple of months ago the police came to her store to tell her that her son had been found murdered in a distant city. The woman ran out of her store and collapsed on the sidewalk. I will never forget the look on her face as she screamed at the heavens. She reminded me of the Virgin Mary holding the body of her executed son. Deep down I knew I was witnessing a modern Pieta. As I walk away from the dress shop I think about that young fireman’s mother. I think about all the people who died on that plane. They all had mothers. Some of them were mothers.
There are too many Pietas in the world today.
I decide I’m not going to take tables tonight. When I’m tired and burnt out I get emotional over things. I need to relax. I’ll just hang out with the newspaper and baby-sit. Maybe I’ll get to close early tonight.
That, of course, doesn’t happen. Twenty minutes before closing several tables, all young couples, walk through the door. There’s nothing worse than a late night push when you think you’re about to go home. All the couples are madly in love. They linger over cappuccinos and after dinner drinks. Everyone’s deliriously happy.
I think about the families in New York and Kentucky devastated by grief. I think about the lady from the dress shop. I think about my own loneliness. Watching happy people like these couples can be painful. Sometimes their joy seems like an affront. But it isn’t. Cocooned inside our private dramas we often don’t realize life is rolling by us like it should. Sorrow tempers joy. Joy tempers sorrow.
The night finally ends. I get home, pop open a beer, and turn on the TV. No serious programming tonight. I just want brain candy. I watch a comedy show. It’s not very funny. I go to bed.
I toss and turn for hours. Tonight I need someone in the bed next to me. I’ve got a lot of great things going on in my life. But some things still haven’t changed. I’m beginning to understand a truth about life – something somewhere will always be going wrong.
Finally I feel sleep start to overtake me. I burrow under the covers and let it come. But just before I go under, out in the deep night, a train blows its horn.
I wonder where it’s going.