When Chester Barnaby reached Vine Street, he realized he was standing on an
axis. Not a real axis, but a virtual one… a mental one… one that told him
everything about his life was not quite wrong, but not quite right either — his
relationship hinged on a proposal he didn’t want to offer; there was a
promotion that could be his, but maybe wasn’t; he was fifteen pounds away from
his goal weight; he needed to quit smoking, but couldn’t; he needed to start
drinking, but didn’t have the time. Unread books collected dust on his nightstand.
Unwatched shows lingered on his DVR. A distinct feeling of incompleteness
nestled in his belly and now it was time to wait for the bus.
He normally didn’t take the bus, but he wanted to do something different
today, just because it was something. He lit a cigarette to pass the time. The
woman to his right grimaced and stepped away. The man to his left asked if he
could bum a smoke. Chester rarely gave out cigarettes, but he was standing on
an axis and this man was something, just as the bus was something. So he handed
The man was wearing two jackets, gray sweatpants, a pair of Adidas, and a
cap that said M.G. Pound on it. Chester had no idea who or what M.G. Pound was,
so he asked the man. He didn’t know either.
“HellifIknow,” he said.
“I got another question for you,” Chester said, because they were
now bonded over cigarettes and M.G. Pound. He took a drag. “Do you ever
feel like you’re standing on an axis?”
M.G. Pound looked at the ground. “Why? We standing on one?”
“No, no. Not literally. Figuratively.” Chester took a longer drag this time
and thought of another way to put it: “Do you ever feel like your life is just
about ready to begin, but you’ve been stuck in a waiting room? And all you need
is for that nurse to call your name, and all of it can start?”
M.G. Pound considered this. “I get what you mean. You mean, like a waiting
room for life.”
“Yeah. Exactly. A waiting room for life.”
M.G. Pound nodded enthusiastically as he blew smoke into air already heavy
with traffic exhaust. He shook his head. “I hate waiting rooms. Probably more
than anything else. Hate them.” He paused. “One time I was in a waiting room
and I’d been sitting there for two hours. Two hours. Can you believe? Like my
time doesn’t matter? Like I have two hours to just sit around and wait for
other people to get their shit together? It was this dark little room, full of
sick people. Felt like a goddamn cell. Just like a cell. I couldn’t stand being
in that dark little room, just waiting. So you know what I did? I stood up, after
two hours and thirty minutes, and I said, ‘It’s been two fucking hours and I
refuse to wait anymore! If you don’t let me in, I’m gonna fucking lose it, I
swear to God!’” His reenactment alarmed some of the people at the bus stop.
They took distance.
Chester’s eyes widened. “So what happened? Did they let you in?”
“Hell no. They kicked me out,” he said. He took a long drag. “But then I was
outside again, and I got to see the sun.”
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