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Backup – Part 2: Sifting through the ashes

By September 15, 2014Backup Novel

A sudden lurch brought me back. I was staring at my feet feeling numb. I wish I could say i was lost in thought but I was only lost. I don’t even know how to digest everything that had been happening. My girlfriend was lost, my car was lost, my job was lost, and my mind seemed to have decided to hop aboard the bandwagon and go for a ride too.

It was too soon for me to even begin to contemplate what the hell i should be doing right now. And so instead of getting off of the train at my stop I opted to continue stairing at my feet, hunched over on the train. It was my first train ride. I wish it could have been more exciting for me.

At every stop a few people would get off and a few would get on, the train never really did seem to empty. Even though it was getting later in the evening and the normal rush had came and gone there were still quite a few people riding along with me.

With a heavy sigh I turned to look out of the window only to have my brief view of the city immediately flash away. We were now going through a tunnel. The lights of the train flickered and shut off. I would have been slightly frightened by this but no one around me really reacted to it. I simply assumed this was a typical occurance on a train.

I looked up across the isle noticing a blue lit sign hanging up above the head of a small fat man who seemed to be asleep. That was the sign. The one that changed my life. Had I even stopped for a moment to consider how my day had been going up until that point i would have merely scoffed and moved on with staring at my feet. But like i said i hadn’t really been thinking up until that point.

All i saw was a chance to start fresh. The sign advertised a new trial that would pay 10,000 dollars to the right candidates to have a special new medical procedure tested on them. Under that was a phone number. I immediately tried to call but we were still in the tunnel and my phone had no signal. The guy next to me chuckled, i assumed at me. I resolved to get off at the next stop and call. I couldn’t do much of anything about my life up to now but 10,000 dollars would certainly buy me some time to figure out a plan.

I wandered off the train and into an unfamiliar but confortable little coffee shop located just outside the underground station the train had paused in. There weren’t many people in there considering how many people were pouring in and out of the stairwell across the street to the train station.

It was dimly lit, almost like your typical dive bar except this place didn’t smell like stail beer and cheep cigarettes. The welcoming aroma of coffee and some soothing but unknown tune was playing softly over the sound system. The barista behind the counter – a young girl with tattoos and many, many piercings – looked up from the paper she was browsing through and gave me a warm smile.

“Hi! Welcome to the espresso express! How are you today?” She bubbled with what seemed like genuine enthusiasm. I assumed she was bored and happy to finally have someone to prepare a drink for.

“I’m pretty shitty today, you?” I said succinctly without any tracy of a smile on my face, she laughed lightly at that. For all the piercings she had a really pretty look to her. If hadn’t just had my heart ripped out I would have faked a smile for her.

“Oh you know, just bored!” She spoke in a strange way, throwing a little inflection at the end of random words. “What can I get you?”

“Uhm…” i hesitated looking up at the menu pretending to think even though i already knew exactly what i wanted. I always get the exact same thing anywhere I go. In this case it was, “a vanilla latte would be nice.”

“Coming right up!” She beamed at me. I couldn’t understand how a girl who fashioned herself in a way that from a distance implied depression or a stand-off’ish attitude could be so bright and bubbly. It was as if a preppy had been plucked from a fashion magazine and got the grunge makeover but was never taught about the attitude.

I left my payment on the counter and made my way to a dark corner booth. While i was waiting i pulled out my phone and called the number from the train poster. A recorded message played, requesting name, age, occupation, and other random bits of data I’m sure would be pretty typical of a medical study. I finished leaving my message right as the barista was bringing my drink over.

“Thank you!” I said as she was setting it down in front of me. She smiled and turned to walk back to the counter when i stopped her, “hey wait, is there any chance you guys are hiring?”

She turned and looked at me for a moment and then said, “Umm i’m not really sure, the owner comes in every so often but we never really know when he’s gonna hire someone new, you know?”

“Yea,” i nodded and looked down at my latte, there was a simple but awesome skull design in the foam, “how’d you do that?”

“Huh?” She looked where i was looking, “oh that? It’s just something i saw online once and started doing in here. Much cooler that those prissy flowers everyone seems to make…”

“Yea it is cool, i like it. Maybe you could show me how to make one sometime?”

She smiled again and said, “I’ll go get you an application okay?” I nodded and smiled back, for once on this shitty day it hadn’t been forced. I looked back at my latte, the skull was beginning to dissipate, it’s sharp edges had begun to blur and blend with the rest of the foam on top. It reminded me of how a carved pumpkin looks as it begins to sag.

My smile faded a little, the day was starting to seep back in to the forefront of my mind. The reality of it was hitting me in intermittent bursts that made my stomach feel knotted. Maybe the caterpillars had morphed into something more sinister? But before i could sink back into my depression the barista plopped down in the chair across from me with a pen and an application. As she slid them across the table she asked me, “So what’s this shitty day stuff you mentioned?”

An ironic smile played at my lips and my chest felt heavy again, I took a sip of my drink, which was quite soothing. I looked up at thw barista again who smiled reassuringly. She was a complete stranger, why did she care what I was going through? People don’t care about strangers like that, not unless they want something from them.

I figured why the hell not spill the beans and clear some of the air. I hadn’t even told my best friend about my day, but you don’t really complain to your guy friends about a crap day. Crap days are supposed to grow you as a man and seeking sympathy from other men is somewhat frowned upon.

With a heavy sigh I started talking. Talking about the day of the fight, the night after, the morning, my car, my job, my thoughts on my life and how fucked up the world felt to me up until this point. I kept on recapping just how much it was blatantly obvious to me that I was the sole responsible party for throwing away my entire life in a 24 hour period.

The door of the coffee shop seemed to blow open, some rain came through the doorway and a gust of wind wooshed some concert flyers off of the adjacent tabels. A man with an umbrella made his way awkwardly through the door as he unsuccessfully attempted to stay relatively dry while making his way sideways through the door frame.

The barista smiled at me and said she’d be back in a few minutes after she helped the poor soul who had come seeking warmth. I looked back down at my drink, the skull seemed to have been stretched out strangely from my timid sips on one side. My mind went back to my day and I was lost again. It was a few minutes later while I was recapping the morning in my mind that I realized something really important that I had forgotten about.

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