Tears He Never ShedbyShadowsandflames©
He sits upon the wobbly old picnic table, a cigarette jutting from between his lips. It seems that there is always a cigarette resting there anymore. He had managed to quit for six months before all of this had started, and had been rather proud of that. Now, all that work had been for nothing. He knows that he needs to quit again but he also knows that this is not the time.
So he sits there in the designated smoking section, off to one side of the parking lot, beside the dumpster. He hopes that he looks thoughtful and composed. He's not entirely sure why he should care what these people think of him, especially now, but it somehow seems important to him that they see him in a certain manner.
They appear in twos and threes. It's lunch time and they knew he would be here. Ostensibly, he is here to pick up his check, but in reality he is here for these people. This is puzzling because he doesn't really know them well or have any strong feelings for any of them. He also doesn't know why they seem to care for him so much either. He has a rather low opinion of himself and can't understand why anyone would be drawn to him, even though he can't deny that people have been drawn to him his entire life.
They have come to offer their condolences and ask him if there is anything they can do. Every time someone says this his first impulse is to reply, "Can you bring my father back?" That would be terribly rude of him, and he was not raised to say things like that, or so he likes to think. In reality, he was raised to say any mean and hurtful thing that popped into his mind. His teenage rebellion was to become a better person than his father was, and he is still sticking to it.
The first of them to reach him is a young woman that he finds mildly attractive in a vague, hard to pin down way. She says she is so sorry for his loss, which has never sounded right to him. Why is everyone so sorry? None of this is their fault, yet still they apologize. This seems all the more perplexing because so few people will apologize when they actually are at fault. His father never had.
After her confusing apology, she leans forward and hugs him. Her breasts press against his chest and he feels a vague stirring inside him. His libido has been rather neglected as of late, so he isn't that surprised. Still, he feels the sting of guilt over being aroused, if even slightly, by someone offering him their solace. Then again, does it really matter if he feels a little guilt now and then? It won't kill him, and anyway, given the type of girl she was, she would almost certainly be flattered.
That is the most memorable of the condolences. The rest seem to go by in a blur of hugs and words with no real meaning, cryptic utterances about better places and a caring lord. He remembers watching his father, the strongest man he had ever known, waste away into nothingness, and wants to scream every time they mention the Lord's mercy.
They slowly slip away from him, back to there lives and whatever silly little things they live for. He knows they must be silly things for he has come to realize one of life's greatest pranks; to care for anything is to be a fool. For who other than a fool would put his heart out when everything is so fleeting. Life, love, money, happiness. Dig deeper and it is impossible not to see that these things are just the rouge on the cheek of a dead whore.
Somewhere deeper inside him he thinks this, but on the surface he thinks very little at all. He has slipped into his auto pilot mode and forgets completely about the check that he had told himself he was there to get. Money is not what he needs right now, although what he needs seems to elude what little of his mind is still functioning. He slowly walks back to his car, almost joining his father in whatever afterlife there might or might not be when he steps out into the road in front of a van that looks somewhat like Scooby Doo's Mystery Machine, if it had been designed by the devil himself. He doesn't even hear the horn or the obscenities, quite a few of which are surprisingly original and creative although anatomically impossible to perform, that come from the mouth of the washed up stoner behind the wheel. Later he will wonder why Scooby and the gangs mode of transportation always makes him think of bizarre sex acts, but for now he registers nothing but a desire to be home as soon as possible, as if watching his mother slowly waste away to nothing now that she doesn't have his father to tell her what to do and when to do it is really an improvement in his situation.
He finally reaches his car and turns back toward the building. At this point he barely remembers arriving here or anything that was said to him. All that remains is a bit of shame over something he thought or did, although what that might be is a mystery to him, and the feeling that there was something here he was supposed to get but didn't. He suddenly remembers his check and decides he doesn't feel like walking back through the Mojave parking lot again. He can pick up the check some other time. Still, he feels like he is missing something, something he needed desperately but still cannot find.
Slowly, the auto pilot kicks back in. Had anyone been near enough to see him they probably would have worried that maybe he was having a stroke or some kind of episode, for his entire face went slack and expressionless in a moment and his eyes, which normally carried within them a peculiar light that drew people to him like moths to a flames, became dead glass marbles.
He swings the door of his car open, unknowingly nicking the car beside him, and slides down into the seat. His father had bought him this car and had worked many hours of overtime at the plant for the money to pay for it. Not that his father really worked for money. No, his father had worked to get away from the family that seemed to be a constant source of disappointment and shame for him, or at least that's how it seemed to his son. Now he would never know for sure, not that his father would have ever told him the truth about how unhappy he was anyway.
So he drives back home to watch his mother and sisters grieve, while all the while he will sit in his stupor, unable to comprehend how the man who had seemed to be as eternal as the mountains and the seas, more force of nature than mere mortal, could now suffer the fate of such lower beings and be gone forever. Gratefully embracing that automatic part of him that seems to feel nothing, he slips away from his pain, barely aware of anything around him as he makes his way down familiar roads. And when that instinctive part of him roles the windows down he never even suspects it is so the wind can dry the tears that he will never know he shed.