He begins to wonder something about himself.
|He walked into the small building.
It was like the inside of a bank, but smaller.
A counter spanned the width of the building. A large, thick pane of glass hangs above it, separating the tellers from the rest of the room.
It buzzed with activity.
It was the first of the month. Rent was due. Of course the place would be busy. He should have figured, but the thought didn't occur to him until he stepped inside.
It teemed of desperation. Rough people lined the building, folded and misshapen as the loan applications they held tightly in their grasp.
People wrenched their hands at the counters and recited their weekly pay. Wrinkled documents that proved the amounts they get paid, and when, were traded between them and the tellers. They waited, anxiously, for an approval that was never guaranteed.
He tried not to judge the people in the building too harshly. He was, after all, in the same place they were.
He took his place in line after filling out his application.
As he stepped in line there was a shift in the room. Each of the tellers, each one female, each one of a various age, all pretty in their ways, swung their heads more or less subtly to get a better look at him.
He pretended not to notice.
They exchanged sideward glances with eachother, and the pace of conversations between tellers and applicants quickened or lessened to varying degrees. The people in front of him were each called towards different tellers until finally he was the next in line.
He was called up to the prettiest of the bunch, the youngest one, the one about his age. He smiled inwardly, as did she.
She was sunkissed, like the beaches of Mexico. Her lips were red, a bit too red. Her face, too uniform in color, and her eyelashes were caked a bit too thickly with black pigment. He noticed all of this, and then forgot about it. It didn't bother him. In fact it merely reminded him that he already knew this girl. Because her cheap makeup was the best she could afford, he knew her story just as well as if it was his own - the small life, the perceived lack of options, the limp pride at graduating highschool and the realization that college was more a dream than a reality. Her entry into the workforce was swift, partly out of a sense of duty, partly because, really, what else was there for an honest person to do?
Her shifts were boring but she counted herself lucky. Her cousins and friends had to work retail, or at restaurants, or in warehouses. They were on their feet all day, and always sore or aching. She instead got to sit, with air conditioning, at a computer monitor, usually for only 8 hours. She still lived at home but so did everyone she knew. She went out with friends when she could but the thrill of her life was beginning to wane. The possibility of her life had begun to narrow into the probability of her life, and things dulled.
Occasionally though, it would shine forth and glitter. Like it was doing now, in the glint of his green eyes as he took his place before her.
"Hey" he smiled.
"Hello, how can I help you today?" She smiled back at him.
"A loan" he said, sliding his slightly wrinkled application underneath the thick pane of glass between them.
They exchanged the necessary words as his application was processed. She had played her part a million times. He knew the roles and followed his to a T. But instead of merely conversing, they did something that seldom happened in that place.
Genuine smiles, genuine laughs. He says something, she looks at her work and smiles. She says something, he shoots back with knowing nod. She blushes.
For a brief moment, the glass between them didn't exist.
The exchange was lovely, and out of place. Others stared. The interaction glittered with life. Real life, joyous life, not the harrowed half-life of the anxious and desperate, far more common to the place they both were at.
Some looked with envy, angry and upset that the spark that eluded their lives dared to shine with such proximity. It was so close they could feel it's warmth. So close to them, and yet so far away.
Others, mostly tellers, looked on with pleasure, perhaps reminded of similar moments in their own lives, or otherwise taking comfort in the fact that even in a place like this, the best of life might shine through in some way.
The dancers pretended not to notice. They knew what was happening was out of place, and both yearned for the spark to carry them someplace else.
Soon, far too soon, the script ran out. Their defined roles lost their shape as the dance came to a close, and as it did his thoughts began to scramble.
Let me break through this damn glass, he thought.
I wish I could reach over and take you. That's what you're here for, and it's why I came here. You know it. I know it. Everyone else knows it. Why am I restricted to this script. Coffee, he wanted to say. You're very beautiful. What's your name? Let's get coffee, or else find some other place where the glass is gone and the interaction matters, where we can make up the script and play our own parts. Let's start something. I want my life to shine again. I want it to shine forth and sweetheart you're making my life brighter just by being here when I needed something so fuck it, let me break through this glass and take what I want the way you want and
"Thank you," he said, cash in hand. He catches her eye and
sees the same look he had seen so many times before - such light, such spark, so close to flame. All it needs is a little appreciation, a little motivation, a little affirmation. Her eyes screamed at him to say that yes, this was real, yes we just danced and yes, I don't want it to stop and I know you don't want it to stop. Her eyes were almost begging, pleading, don't take this away from me, the possibility is real and endless, let me believe that, let me see that life can be exciting again and
he catches her eyes and says "have a good day."
He turns away.
As he walks away she watches him.
The spark was gone. The room was cold again. Nobody looked at them.
She savors their exchange for a brief moment, then sighs. She cleans her desk and prepares for another recital of her script.
He steps outside into the parking lot, and each of the tellers pretend not to notice.
It was the glass, he blames. It was that fucking glass. It was too thick. We could barely get through to eachother. She wouldn't have heard me anyways.
But he knew that was wrong. It was so wrong it hurt. It was so wrong that he began to wonder...
He looked down at the cash in his hand. He had everything he needed.
He looked up and through the front of the building, a wall of glass, and saw her smiling at her next customer.
Everything he needed, and nothing he wanted.
He got in his car and drove away.
And the pane of glass followed.