the man still perched over the railings of the cafeteria entrance when i waved from the exit goodnight, though then his head did not hang as low over his clean, blue collared dress shirt, the designated color of a higher ranked faculty worker in his field, as it had when i entered this evening.
hey, you okay? no.
what’s up? work, my brother.
our frowns matched.
without peek or pry, i imagined what stress fell upon his shoulders that weighed him as heavily as i witnessed before pausing my reach for the door. i stopped and turned to have a clear viddy of his hallowed eyes shadowed with two enormous bags. twelve hour work days, an amount even more than your very humble soldier’s. though the home where his heart may or may not be was certainly countless times less than the distance to my own, i could tell it surely was not with him then and there. and even if it were, how does he enjoy it? he only has one day off each month, but how well is he able to cherish it as much as he wishes when every other average day requires as little as a few hours for rest and up to a few hours to travel and prepare for the next day in order to fund his life (not to mention the lives of other possible dependents)?
my eyes sulked in his painful silence. all i knew to say with confidence was that we all are in the same sinking ship, we’ll get through this. there was a pause. then in the great words of one of the most musically and morally influential men that i admire so deeply, i said to him: when you wake up, everything is going to be fine. this is when he forced a challenging smile. may it be of gratitude or hope, i will never ever know. but i hope that he remembers my and tomas kalnoky’s words and takes them to heart.
after my half-companied-half-solitude dinner, i headed back towards my night-time abode, the one i pray is much smaller than the man’s of whom i just bumped in acquaintance, if you may call it that.
the smoke shack behind my home away from home, i found another fellow man, this time of more relation. he is in a different platoon, waiting to begin his shift, and i noticed his truck’s spare tire was released from its rear mount. there appeared to be a critical flat in one of the original operating. but this man was not in the least bit eager to any rush, nor was he at all complaintive*, so we made such casual conversation.
his significant other was the first topic he introduced without hesitation. she lived with his family, to my surprise, and helps his mother with various tasks on the daily. to keep other minor details curt and simple, all was well for this man, and my insides warmed to know that four out of the five years for his promised time frame before considering marriage with his woman had already flown away. there was not exactly envy, but joy that overcame me from this.
but by now both my insides and outsides were sore from all the occurrences of this day. before a firm handshake, i propose to my friend, no, friends, a drag, no! — i took two long drags in respects to these valiant fighters-lovers-livers.
after my words of adieu, they echoed back up until my cave. on and on and on, keep the fire burning, my brothers.
and when you wake up,
everything is going to be fine.
i guarantee that you wake in a better place
in a better time.
naps in grass,
love’s great return,
movies with sentiment,
crashing on your friends’ floors,
carrying flasks of warm whiskey,
stumbling into unfamiliar bathrooms,
meeting mornings without meaning quotas.