A sliver of silver hung in the darkening sky like a crescent scar. The orange of the sun and its energy slowly faded away below the street lights and shopping centers. As the sun dipped, a dark blue wave swallowed the world whole. Alfie stood beside Hank, inhaling and exhaling tobacco smoke, as he watched the phenomenon of a waning day. This was the fifteen minutes before the top of the first hour into the last part of the shift. Break time. Alfie liked to look at the sky during this time, especially when the sun started to do its evening time thing.
“There’s hardly any moon up there,” Alfie said.
Hank briefly looked up from the glowing screen on his phone. The moon was waxing crescent, the perfect time for a fisherman to lay back in its arch with a line cast. Alfie looked over at Hank, hoping for a response. There wouldn’t be one.
The silence stirred up raw emotions inside of Alfie. All day he had been playing catch up with the world. He woke up later than his alarm, didn’t have any food, or money for breakfast. Since his shift started, shoppers laid an endless siege to the checkout lines, sending out their pre-teen children as scouts to fetch the tub of German potato salad they forgot to grab. Alfie packed their bags with assortments of plastic cups and paper plates. Set the half-off hot dogs and 30 packs of beer. Place the red, white and blue napkins on top along with low-grade munitions perfect for introducing the children to pyrotechnics.
Alfie felt like an alien as he bagged the groceries. Because he had to serve the holiday revelers, Alfie felt disconnected from the surrounding human experience. He increasingly felt this way with each passing summer day.
“What’s the point of this?” Alfie finally asked. He hoped to start conversation, but Hank didn’t pick up on the cue. Hank continued to squat against the wall, smoking a cigarette as he looked down at his phone.
Alfie hated breaks like this. He always lost what little energy he had for the day when no one else was willing to talk during the break. Hank usually joined in on any conversation, but not today.
Alfie decided he wasn’t going to have a break like this. He wanted something different, and so he set out to speak his mind, regardless if anyone was listening. He just needed to get things out.
He asked, again, what in the hell the point in all of this was. He asked why he felt so lonely in such a crowded world. He asked why there was always pain in the world, and why he never felt happy as a result. He asked why he saw so many people carrying on as if the world was made for them and all was right in it. He asked if he was just selfish, if he just wanted a lot more attention to be paid to him than there already was. He asked, again, because it was increasingly on his mind, what the point of all of this was.
And Alfie received no answer. He could hear the taps of Hank’s fingers against his phone. The silence chilled Alfie and instead of taking deep breaths of air he inhaled his cigarette’s smoke as quick as he could. He felt cheated.
Hank put his phone away and stood up. Alfie looked at his watch. It was time. They flicked their cigarettes into the far ends of the parking lot, a considerable distance. The ember lights flew with beauty until they disappeared into the rocks. Hank turned towards Alfie, and saw a glisten in his eyes
“If I knew the answers to all of those questions for myself, I wouldn’t be here,” hank said.
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, let’s go inside.”