The man at Burger King sits alone. His once hot coffee has run out of warm. But I don’t think he’s noticed. Occasionally, he sips from the paper cup and exhales loudly after swallowing. Gray-brown teeth, stained with what I imagine to be a mixture of coffee and nicotine, show as he moves his mouth.
He sits alone.
And, yet, he talks. His eyes looking at a person across the table from him. A person I cannot see. But, I’m convinced, he sees the other clearly. He even breaks in his speech to listen to the person I cannot see. Thoughtful pauses. He nods his head. Smiles. Laughs. The person I cannot see must have a sense of humor that delights the man. He even tosses his head back and claps, pointing at the person I cannot see.
Does he really see someone sitting there? Does he love that person? Is it a person who he once knew, in real life? Someone who is now gone, except for in his mind?
As I walk past the man, he sips again from his paper cup. Giggles. Points to the person I cannot see and says, “That was a good one”.
And I wonder more.
Could that be me? Someday. Alone at Burger King, drinking tepid coffee, talking to someone very real to me. A person the world cannot see.
If I see you at Burger King alone, I’ll join you 🙂
That’s true friendship.
I thought as I read the beginning that you would discover that he had one of those ear-plug cell phones, which is something I encountered in an airport many years go: a man walking around, talking to no one, waving his arms around like a madman. Security did not touch him. Then he turned around and I could see the earbud phone emerging like some hideous bloated worm from his ear. And I thought: Can’t Security do something about this man purely based on his rudeness? Isn’t there some law against cell phone calls made so embarrassingly public? Isn’t this akin to dressing or un-dressing in public? Who wants to hear a private discourse (at least one side of it) out in public, unless one has purchased a ticket to the monologue? At the very least, give us the opportunity to demonstrate our approval with a thunderous round of applause for the excellence of his performance. Or, in the public interest, lock him away in a booth so that he can gyrate in privacy and thus protect us from infection from his vitriolic verbiage.
But you speak of one who is so obviously caught between worlds, between the visible and the invisible. Having recently rewatched “The Sixth Sense”, I would be tempted to imagine that he is talking to a ghost, an old, dear and departed friend, reminiscing about the goold old days when they shared the same plane of existence; perhaps it is his brother, who died too young. Or his father, with whom he was not reconciled until after death.
Were I that person – and, one day it might come to pass, but it would be at Krispy Kreme where the aroma of freshly-baked doughnuts lathered in sugary glaze is far more palatable – I would turn to my slack-jawed audience and, as the young boy says in the movie previously referenced when questioned as to the identity of his co-conversationalist, merely respond, “I’m practicing my lines.”
Society is far more tolerant of Thespians because they are delusional by nature, and must therefore be pitied. And who knows? If I leave a saucer out, might I also gain some tips with my performance?
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