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Everybody's Tired
by David Francis

A man comes in, sits at the bar. Apropos of nothing, he says: “I’m so tired.”

And he does look tired.

The bartender returns: “But how are you doing?”

“No complaints,” he says. “I have no complaints,” he says with glee.

The bartender says, “I’m tired…it’s been busy today.”

And he looks tired: his jaw is set, some spark is missing, he is going through the motions. Gravity sits on him like a fat woman squeezing him around the neck with her legs.

This is contagious, the man at the table feels. He almost sees currents of eviscerated air flag from behind the counter. Psychedelic ribbons wave like streamers.

“I hate doing this. I hate doing this every day.”

“What are you doing?” says the relief bartender.

“Squeezing lemons, making lemonade and limeade for the kitchen.”

I wondered what he was doing, thinks the man at the table. What, he thinks with annoyance, are they staring at?

A couple at a table are staring directly—there is no doubt about it—over his head. This is too absurd. To acknowledge it is out of the question. They’re way off the flight path of the three perched TV’s. One side-glance, as cold as a lizard’s eye. It’s a ceramic cow, stood up on the ice cream counter. A hideous thing, painted like a Dalmatian with a garish pink and blue udder. The couple are transfixed by and commenting on that udder. It’s a curiosity, a novelty.

Holidays. You look forward to them, you die to reach these holidays—and everybody’s dead and bored. This is a law of far more authority than anything Marx or Hegel dreamed up. It feels as if one’s living inside a deflating life raft with a single undetectable hole that no one cares to remember, the search is so ancient. Everyone is crestfallen. A too-passionate word for blah. Everyone except for some kids who haven’t learned about the hole yet.

The manager is on his cell telling his wife about obstacles encountered on the way to work. “Train crossing” is heard and then, emphatically, “another train”; trains crossing freeways seems oddly bad luck to the man at the table.

“You’re off?” the bartender asks.

“Tomorrow’s Good Friday,” says the man on the barstool.

“It is?”

“Aren’t you Catholic?”

“I don’t care.”

From the barstool to the manager standing at the salad smorgasbord: “I’ve got to go to church all day tomorrow.”

“You better come back with calluses on your knees.”

“Oh, I can do that.”

The man at the table notices a pigeon walking on the wrought-iron fence to the patio. Suddenly it takes a dive, in the same gravity-bound mood as us, he thinks, and reappears alighting from one cafe chair to another before it again flops.

The bartender slings his shoulder bag, dressed in his white uniform, trim and petite, and without glancing back walks out the door.

He didn’t even say goodbye, the man at the table says to himself.