For Baxter, it was always Fridays that stuck out as the most interesting, and he generally looked forward to them with a sort of prurient fascination. It was about the people you got on Fridays, a night when the city seemed to purr with a sudden release of tension, when every all-night business saw itself transformed into a haven for the unsleeping, each diner booth a microcosm of the lascivious urban character. You saw all kinds,on a Friday night; anything was possible.
So, on a Friday, at 9:56 p.m., his hands scrubbed pink as oysters and his nails freshly trimmed, Baxter walked into Ed’s Place with his usual quick step—setting the little bell over the door tinkling—and took a moment to stop and survey his little kingdom.
It was what devotees to the tradition it continued would call a hole in the wall. It occupied a corner that was neither busy nor deserted, and it was well-maintained, if beginning to show its age. The windows went all the way around its outside walls, adorned with cheerful-coloured reminders of daily specials painted in Baxter’s impeccable hand.
Inside, it was clean and well-lit. The walls were paneled in teak to about waist-height, and a warm, buttery yellow above that. They were hung with the usual bric-a-brac: black and white photographs of sights around the city or celebrity visitors shaking hands with the staff (even Baxter in one), or else tasteful prints of famous paintings, faded cigarette ads from decades past.
There were eight booths with dark green vinyl seats, seven mis-matched tables, seating enough for ten at the L-shaped speckled Formica bar, from behind which Baxter would looked out and feel like an emperor.
Ed’s Place was, perhaps, always slightly too warm, the air just a little closer than it would normally dare to be. Cozy, that’s what Baxter would say. It always smelled of some mix of coffee and butter and the bright green scent of fresh vegetables, the fatty red scent of bacon. It felt like home. An island of light and safety in a city striped with unkind streets.
Oh my god the semester is over.
At exactly 9:45 p.m., every night except Mondays and Thursdays, Baxter Beattie starts to get ready for work.
It will, unfailingly, take him ten minutes, no more, or less: he washes his face and his hands with milk-white bar soap, which he buys five-to-the-pack and keeps in a neat stack in the black medicine cabinet; he brushes his teeth for the frothy, dentist-sanctioned two minutes, followed by one minute of precise and efficient flossing; he dresses in his always-crisply-ironed white pants, white shirt, white apron; he combs his wheat-blonde hair, and with slow and deliberate delicacy places the little, pointed white hat of office on his head.
Under the harsh fluorescence of his bathroom’s lighting he is radiant. Always neat and freshly scrubbed, he shines like a bare and polished tooth. He takes a moment or two to examine himself, to picks stray threads away, to grin with satisfaction at his reflection.
At 9:55 he locks the front door of his apartment (number 22) and puts his keys into the right-hand pocket of his pants. He trots down the switchback flight of stairs and exits the metal door out onto the sidewalk. He hardly experiences the cold night air on his bare forearms, because he turns almost immediately on his heel, and at 9:56 he walks through the doors of Ed’s Place. This is the diner where he works, and above which he lives.
He has never been late. The routine is the same, every night. Baxter makes sure of that.
Word takes a while to circulate- it’s only the beginning.
What a scary and exciting thought.
"Every day, the walls get thinner. Little by little by little they are eroding. They slough their layers of coveted solitude and drift into amnesiac particles, sandcastle walls eaten by the waves. I feel the world coming closer. I feel the distances between us–me, everybody–compressing. Disintegrating.
"I can hear my neighbours learning the graceless art of being parents. They stumble over each other in constant pursuit of that little life that they made and that seems always to scamper just outside of their grip.
"Two apartments down, there’s a lonely man with road-map hands baking thirty blueberry pies for a church bake sale, ‘All Proceeds to the Victims of…’
"Beneath my feet is a woman who charms scores of young men who have never been husbands and may have no designs to be; she tells them she is a widow.
"Maybe they don’t know that their lives aren’t secret. Maybe they do, and they know my life the way I know theirs. Maybe none of us was ever really as alone as we thought.
"The difference between you and them gets harder to tell the longer you listen, and I listen. I can see, and maybe you can, too, that we toil and bleed in concert with each other. Every apartment, every house is like a cell in the hungry, pulsing organism of us. And maybe we are each an atom, then, a buzzing cloud blurring molecules with the others all around us. A great big fog of souls, all conceited enough to think that they stand alone, that they are small and still infinite.
"And we are small. And we are infinite. And we wall ourselves off from each other, because what a thing it would be to discover how close we can really get. How lost in each other. How confused.
"But I listen. And I see. And the walls around me flee."
Ultimately you are unbreakable, like everyone else.
And yet you fear your own fragility.
maeganramirez asked: Hi. I'm Maegan. You come across as an attractive person, though to say that I'm attracted to you is a huge stretch. Everyone is as attractive as they can be on the Internet. (That's not to say you're a storytelling catfish, or anything.) I enjoy seeing your posts on my dashboard. You got skills. Keep at it. No mystery, excitement, or need to dangle the possibility of who I might be in front of you. Good luck on finding out who the mystery crush is. The seeds of a story being sewn, perhaps?
Hi. I’m Chris. We totally haven’t ever exchanged words or anything before. (I see you changed your url.)
What do you mean you’re not desperately enamoured of me???? Also I genuinely appreciate the encouragement. I haven’t seen your words on my dash in a while and that makes me sad. You keep at it, too.
Anonymous asked: I think I'll stop now and just admire you privately, haha. I hope you have a good Thanksgiving tomorrow and if you don't celebrate it, I hope you just have a wonderful day. :) -B
Well I can respect that. And thanks! I’m Canadian so we had turkey day ages ago, but I’ll do my best. :)