I’m Tired…

Posted: November 6, 2013 in Prose
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“You look good today, Kevin”, Claire chirped, handing him the usual.

“I’m tired”, he said with a sigh.

Kevin, his head low, eyes staring at the drink sitting in front of him, barely glanced at her as she appraised his disposition from across the bar.

“Long day at work?” she asked.

“No, Work was fine.”

“What’s wrong then?”

She looked him over again. His suit: sharp. His shirt: Ironed. His hair and beard: neatly trimmed and kept. Kevin wasn’t here for his daily gin and tonic. Normally he came in after the gym, in jeans and t-shirt. His corporate job required business dress, but he always changed before coming in for his drink. No, she thought, something else was up here.

“Nothing”. He pulled out his cellphone and gave the screen a few taps. Shaking his head, he put it back in the front pocket of his black jacket and reached for his drink.  “Nothing at all, just tired”.

It’s more than that, thought Claire, as she continued her deductions. The cellphone was a clear clue. He was expecting something. A message from someone. In a tidal wave, the image became clear.

“Girl problems? Still chasing that one chick?”

Kevin’s eyes shot up from the glass to lock angrily with hers. “She… Kate was a friend. I don’t chase girls, Claire. In any case, I don’t think she’s coming” he retorted.

“Was a friend? What happened?” she asked, a bit shocked.

Kevin looked back at his glass for a long moment. Slowly he raised his eyes to meet hers again. His light blue eyes darkened under his pensive brow, formulating his thesis. His lower lip quivered slightly as his words came out.

“I’m tired, Claire. So very tired. Every time, the same song and dance. Stood up. Again. Claire, I’ve been coming here for 3 years. How often do you see me with other people?”

“Almost never. A few times with Kate, once or twice with other girls. I think your college buddy came a couple times.”

“Almost never. I’m here every day, like clockwork, alone. But you see,” he continued, carefully drawing his phone once more from its hiding place in his pocket,”this device here has two hundred phone numbers. Most of them are local. How often do you think they respond to my messages?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know”

“Guess.” A cynical half-smile crept onto his face.

“Always?”

“Ha! if only. You had it right before. Almost never. Can you guess why the do respond, When they do?

“Boredom?”

“Claire, I thought you were a clever girl. I’ll give you another try.”

“They miss you?”

“They miss me,” he repeated, with a sigh and a laugh. “They miss me! Well, you are close. After all, that is how they usually start their reply. But no. No, that is not why they respond.” He paused a moment, his features hardening, his full lips pressing together to form a rather thin line under his pronounced nose.

He took a sip of his drink and began once again, ” No, they don’t miss me. Not really. Not in the way friends miss each other. Friends. Thats what I would call them. Each and every one of them.” Anger crept into his voice, “Leeches! Thats what they really are. You want to know why the bother recalling my name? my very existence? Because I am useful. I bear some utility to them which they cannot get elsewhere. You see, I know how to listen, how to advise, how to counsel. I know how to help, or at the very least try to help. And I do help, in every way I can. Unfortunately for me, I am a good person. I give everything I can of myself to those around me. And what is my reward? Eh? What is my reward?” He paused.

“I don’t know”, she replied quietly, taken aback by the emotional torrent she was witnessing.

His voice grew cynical, almost mocking as he continued, “Once or twice a year, I get the wonderful privilege of having an hour or two of their time in a social setting.” He took a deep breath.

“What about Kate? She seemed nice.”

“Kate? she is one of a dozen such girls. They ignore me entirely when everything is going well. But should they get into a fight with their boyfriend, or their parents, or have a bad day at work, they suddenly remember their good friend Kevin. He knows how to cheer up. He is so good at that. Usually he can do it right over the phone. No need to go anywhere or do anything. Once in a while he insists on doing it over coffee or beer. But where are they when Kevin needs something? These girls, and all the rest of these names in this bloody device. No, none of them are interested in helping Kevin. None of them are even interested in being friends with me, when I supply no direct help.”

“But Kate…”

“What about Kate? She came out with me before?”

“Well yes…”

“And stood me up just as often. Or more. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the whole ordeal. These fake dates just so they can keep me in their pocket when they have a need.” His voice turned pleading, “I don’t want much out of them. Just some social interaction. A conversation about anything at all.  Thats what I need, Claire. I need a person who will listen to me when I need it too. I’ll listen to them, just as I always have. And when we don’t need the support, we’d talk about other things. Do other things. Have fun. Live life. Not like this. Not like I am, sitting here ranting to a bartender in a crowded bar…” His voice trailed off.

He glanced around the establishment. The bar was indeed full. Plenty of customers on all sides ordering drinks and making demands, as the other bartenders raced back and forth to fill them. His face filled with confusion, then shock permeated his features and he arrived at the epiphany. He looked into Claire’s dark eyes. Her face was straining.

“I should have seen it before. I am so sorry,” he said softly, leaning into the bar, “How tired of me you must have become. Seeing me here every day. Ranting, raving, complaining. Yet you always listen.” He tilted his head curiously, “You have always been there when I needed you. And I haven’t even noticed. Claire, am I no better than all those people?”

“You are better, Kevin. You come back. Every day, you come back. I can rely on you being here. Just as you can rely on me being here. ” She squeaked, with evident difficulty.

“Lets forget them a moment. Claire, I am tired. And so are you. Your shift ended, lets be tired together, in that booth over there, and you can tell me about yourself.”

Clare looked at the clock, verified that her shift had indeed ended, and smiled. “You are still covering the tab.”

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