One Picture, One Story
Steve sat down across from his childhood friend, Dan, and took a sip of his coffee.
“So Dan, How are things?”
“Great!” He lied, but that was what you do when faced with that question. “How about yourself?”
“Can’t complain, Dan!” Steve hoped Dan couldn’t tell he was not being completely truthful.
They sat silent for a minute or two, sipping their coffee. The shop was pretty full, with only a couple free tables left and the low murmur of conversation filled the air while some quiet folk music played in the background.
“So what are you doing no-a-days Steve?”
“Well, right now I’m in Sales at a small warehouse supply firm. It’s not that exciting, but it pays the bills for now. How about you?” Steve was embarrassed of his vocation and hated talking about it.
“I write for various art and music publications. It’s great because I can work from home, or while on vacation. The money has been pretty good as well.”
Dan embellished a little to make him sound a little more of a big deal than he was. He wasn’t lying, he did write for these places, but they were usually just small, general articles and the money wasn’t extravagant, but it paid the bills. Steve immediately regretted telling Dan his job. His seemed far less important and interesting than Dan’s.
“Pretty nasty weather we’ve been having. All this snow is getting depressing.” Steve took a stab into the one thing that everyone could relate to; the weather. How predictable
“Ya! It seems like it will never end. I was just telling my editor that yesterday.” Dan liked to throw in “my editor” as much as possible, even if his “editor” was usually his wife.
“Last week I tweaked my back pretty good shoveling the walk. It’s only been a couple of days worth of no pain.” Steve stretched his back to help Dan picture his hardship.
“I can’t wait for it to disappear. The snow, that is. Then we have the mosquitoes to contend with. Can’t win, Steve. Why do we live here again?” Dan forced out a laugh as he finished his sentence.
“I ask myself the same question everyday!”
They sipped their coffee and stared out the window in silence. Both of them worried about the other thinking they were inferior and both not thinking that the other was inferior. Steve looked around the Cafe and saw dozens of other tables having seemingly far more in depth conversations than they were and he immediately felt self conscious. Dan slowly spun his cup halfway around and back again while he watched the cars drive by on the other side of the window. Steve finished his coffee and leaned back in his chair feeling incredibly awkward. He listened to the table behind him as they argued about politics. Before he could stop himself he blurted out. “Dan, I’m not ok. I hate my job, I am depressed and I don’t know what to do about it.”
Dan slowly turned his head to face Steve as he absorbed the heaviness of what had just been said.
“Sorry, Dan. I don’t know why I just said that. Forget it.”
“Steve, my slowness to reply was not because I thought you were out of line. Our conversation has been so awkward because neither of us has been fully honest. I’m not the big deal writer I had you believe. I write small, bit articles that don’t even get my name attached. I make enough to get by, but it’s not the rewarding, glamorous life I thought it would be. I find myself frustrated and depressed a lot of the time too.”
“I never saw myself as a salesman. It goes against everything I hold dear and the conflict within is unbearable at times. I have no experience in anything else and I can’t afford to quit. Stuck in mediocrity. People tell me to find a good hobby and it will be easier, but 8 hours a day, doing something I hate, working with people I can’t stand. It’s too much man.”
“Ya.” Dan stared into his coffee mug to avoid Steve’s fiery eyes.
“I don’t even know what I’m passionate about. Nothing is interesting to me anymore and I just lay in bed when I’m not at work. It feels like I am losing my mind, Dan.”
Dan looked up from his mug to see a tear running down Steve’s cheek. He didn’t know what to do, but he could see the desperation in his friend’s face and he knew he had to do something.
“Stop complaining! You have a job, you have a roof, what the Hell is so bad that you would cry over it? My job isn’t as rewarding as I’d hoped, but I still do it and don’t cry!”
Steven’s jaw dropped and it seemed the whole Cafe had stopped to see what was happening. Dan shook his head in disgust. “I thought we’d have a nice, fake conversation and be on our way, but you start blubbering about hating your life and expect me to somehow make everything better? Not happening. I have my own shit to deal with, I don’t need yours too.” Dan got up and left, leaving Steve vulnerable, like an injured animal surrounded by predators. He tried his best to compose himself and began sipping his coffee as if nothing had happened. He remembered that Dan was always the guy he could count on all those years ago, but they had both changed so much since those days. What was I thinking? Steve thought to himself as he averted the curious glances from the other patrons. He knew what he had to do and there was no time to waste. He quickly finished his coffee and ran to his car.
Steve dropped the empty rum bottle onto the cold concrete floor. It shattered as it hit, but he could care less as he put the pistol in his mouth. He felt relieved as he felt the cold barrel in his mouth. To him this was the right decision; it was the only decision. He smiled and pulled the trigger.