Everything is quiet. Nothing is forlorn. The folks have gone off to Rhode Island. Families visit Father; he is crazy, certified, a jolly lunatic. On Monday and on Tuesday, municipal services are suspended. The trash bags will be toted out to their garaged plastic containers and heaped upon heaps of trash bags, one higher than the rest the day before that, until Wednesday when all are trolleyed out. Post offices will have been unlocked three days by then. Turkey will concede to Russia. And Russia will bomb Syria. Old shelved board games will be played by neighboring children around the block. Indian Summer watches children wheeling their bicycles, up and down, back and forth with foam-padded helmets on. In other parts politicians dodge this and that as is their custom—nothing especially unusually wrong in that, no more than a tall man holding a fresh pint of lager ducking near a tossed point floating freely walking too near a local game of darts at the pub. Christmas presents are hidden in growing attic piles as mid-December will soon near. Shiny cookie-cutter snowmen, wreaths, and stars will come out from their plastic zip-locked bags stored in the high closet above refrigerators in due time. Dusted menorahs following Kislev will be fitted with eight new candles and lit for the burning days of religious notice. Giant sea turtles elsewhere underwater will have been swimming for one hundred fifty years all the while.
He’d take a little bit of household garbage, the kind that can’t be recycled or the kind that can’t be composted, and crumple it up. Then he’d take that little bit and a little bit more than that and crumple it up, and when he had crumpled up many small bits of garbage and stuffed all the small bits of crumpled up garbage into a medium-sized, empty potato chip bag, he’d put the stuffed bag of garbage filling the potato chip bag by his front door. Later on, when he had to leave the house to drive to town, he’d push the garbage-filled potato chip bag into the public trash barrel that stood outside the grocery store where he went food shopping. That way, he could reduce by many times the trips he would have had to have made to the local dump to throw out a large, 39 gallon trash bag filled with garbage for 6 dollars a bag. Meanwhile, his ex-girlfriend would take out-of-state trips to Yoga Retreat Centers, big ones with recognizable names in the Northeast. She’d meet wonderful, upper-middle class people there like herself and do poses and stretches and eat high quality vegetarian food and make close new friends, and eligible middle-aged men whose cars were even nicer than hers was. Since she was sterilized, sex was never a problem with people from the get-go, even though it meant everything everybody had it got spread around like a very thin layer of peanut butter that nobody could taste or see but which everybody became infected by. Yes, for sure, no doubt, everybody in her social circles now they were bound to be rich, flexible in body, and totally gung-ho about living life. He, on the other hand, with his beautiful solitary mind, would never again waste a moment. His poverty made him aware of every action; his thinking made him, whenever he talked at all now, which was seldom anymore, aware of his few remaining spoken words.
There was a time when he had brought her coffee in bed. He had, while she slept, ground the beans, heated the water, mixed the grind in the glass jar, and, after it had sat for a few minutes, pushed the French plunger down gently. Then, he poured her her cup, and carried it upstairs where she was sleeping in. He did not wake her. And, later when she had come downstairs, she had said, “Thank you.” Eventually, he made coffee downstairs for himself and did not carry a cup for her upstairs where she was sleeping in, or weeping, or suffering. Over time, he could no longer bear that. The blandishments of suburban life became like window putty that never exactly dries but which seems to keep out some rain and moisture. Nothing seemed to really work anymore. He would make a second pot even, and await her descent, gauging by how much her mouth was turned down or how straight she held her lips, and by the downcast way her eyes themselves were turned, how bad she was. He became himself sarcastic and honest at the same time, speaking of himself in the third person and how, like finely pre-ground coffee beans in a bag from a grocery store shelf, he had himself become ground down, pulverized to next to nothing. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t want to be this way for you.” “I know,” he said once, and would sometimes touch her shoulder, even though he was a little afraid to.
For over an hour he sat in the shade, a stone circle enclave tucked within the Fair’s heat, hub-bub, and craft vendors. Seated beside and around him were others on benches, just as relaxed and immobile as he was. During that time, as he watched the passersby pass by, he noticed no one of any particular beauty, and he noticed no one of any particular ugliness. His mind drifted to a memory in his childhood of returning to Play-Doh he had played with some time earlier in the day, yellow and blue and red clumps he had not put back in their cardboard cans to keep the dough fresh and moist. The clods left out on his playroom table were still workable, moldable, if a bit crusty. And the people he had seen walking by the whole while were, to him, much like that. He tried, while he was sitting, to imagine that some of them were remarkable people. He put his mind to it. But it was impossible. Though he must not have looked so different at all himself from them, he bore silent witness in the summer shadows that he felt no sense of belonging to the collective people among whom he lived, at least half the time; and while he had no strong repulsion, he certainly had no selective affinity for any of them either.