Friday, November 11, 2011
Yale fiddled with the heavy pottery mug, swishing the remnants of the inky contents around at the bottom. He looked up as he felt the waitress hover at his elbow. He answered her disinterested gaze with a slight shake of his head and drew his mug closer to his chest. She thrust a small credit box in front of him and eyed the ceiling while he slid his card through the verification slot. It blinked momentarily before displaying the positive credit message. Yale hadn't realised he was holding his breath until the waitress slouched away. He rubbed the card, silently thanking the Gods he was not allowed to believe in. Bringing the mug towards his mouth he halted to stare into its oily surface.
Other patrons hunched in their booths, peering similarly into their own cups. Cigarette smoke hung lifelessly above their heads. Yale slurped the dregs in his mug, gritting his teeth to strain the coffee granules from the liquid. As he stood, he used the back of his hand to wipe his mouth; taking the moment to surreptitiously glance around the diner.
A downtrodden workforce, discouraged from social gatherings or frivolous conversations kept their eyes downturned; interested in only finishing their meal and returning to their places of toil. She hadn’t come.
In a split moment, Yale had breathed freely but was immediately struck with a stab of disappointment. Why hadn’t she met him as she’d promised?
His feet rooted to the spot as he fumbled in his top pocket for his work I.D card. After pressing his thumb against the translucent screen, a tiny green readout flickered above it. He wasn’t rostered on for another six hours. Not long enough to get home to sleep, but too long to continue to drink coffee and wait for a girl he shouldn’t be seen with in the first place.
A shuffling mass sloped up to his booth and grunted. Yale shuffled to the side and pulled his fingerless gloves from another pocket. Neither man met the others eyes as they pushed past one another. The smell of hot grease and chemical fumes soaked into the others jacket wound their way round Yale.
At any other time, this might not have worried Yale. The rank, unwashed masculine smell which permeated his nostrils wasn’t the aroma he’d been planning to drink in this evening. He shook his head as he strode over to the door, mentally reminding himself to slow his gait down. Excitable movements with purpose or energy always rose suspicion. Yale furtively glanced up and down the street, hoping to see her waiting in the shadows for him. He could still feel her soft hand, damp with expectation as it brushed against his at the end of every shift for the last month. Intoxicated by last nights’ brief exchange as they pushed past one another at the coffee booth, Yale had been counting the moments until he could see her again. She’d breathed only three words before disappearing. “Walk with me.”
Yale’s stomach had knotted at the thought of wandering away from the grid of society; even for a moment; even to spend time with this girl he didn’t know. But, he’d nodded immediately; she smiled slightly and left.
He pushed his way outside and stood in the street, closing his eyes and imagined her face. Perhaps she had to work an extra shift and was rushing even now to meet him. Yale turned on his heel and began to walk as slowly as his excitement would allow him. He hunched his shoulders against the biting wind and began to walk.
Hurried heavy steps behind him soon caught up with him before a gloved hand grasped his shoulder.
“Where are you going Friend?”
Yale lowered his eyes and inspected the shiny shoes of the two enforcers who has stopped him. “For a walk, Amigo.”
“You passed a tram station a moment ago. Our city has excellent public transport and yet you walked passed it? Where are you going?”
“Just for a walk. Nowhere really.”
Senior Amigo held his hand out. “Your I.D, Friend.”
Yale pulled his glove off and exposed his wrist. Buddy scanned it and frowned as a holographic image of Yale appeared above his device.
“A factory technician with Integrated Technologies. No prior history. Prolific supporter of our solitary cause.” His lined face creased as the frown deepened. “ A true Friend then are you Yale?”
“Of course Amigo. Solidarity through Solitude.”
Yale kept his tone even, respectful; tempering his fear with deep breaths.
“Walking alone is very irregular.”
“Too smart an answer for a technician. Dissenter, trouble maker ; more the like.”
“I meant no disrespect, Amigo. I was just walking.”
“But for no purpose. Going nowhere. Everyone has a place to go to. Everyone has their purpose in the day and in their lives. Our city can’t operate if people like yourself go for walks with no destination.”
Yale seethed but forced his eyes to remain lowered. Senior Amigo thrust his baton under Yale’s chin putting pressure on his adams apple. Yale’s head was compelled to raise and their eyes met. The shocking view of another’s face so close to his forced Yale’s breath out of his lungs. His heart hammered.
“Or perhaps, Friend, you were off to meet someone? She didn’t turn up tonight did she?”
Senior Amigo nodded at his college and stepped to the side.
Yale felt a jolt from behind as the smaller Amigo pushed him forward. He stumbled on the rough cobbled walkway, catching himself on a large dumpster. Grasping the edge, he pulled himself up, fleetingly touching a soft, cold spongy shape, jutting out of the top.
The lump in Yales throat bobbed as bile rose as he realised it was an hand. Her hand.
“Lucky for you we found her. Now the two of you can talk, ” Amigo hawked and spat nosily on the ground, “As much as you like.”
A blinding light exploded behind Yales eyes as he fell forward in a bloody heap.
This is a first draft.
PROMPT: Use this sentiment or theme for your story “A Culture of Solitude”