I overlooked him at first, but he had seen me right away. He was the man in the black suit, occupying the third booth from the back. I didn’t recognize him from college. In his facebook pictures, he smiled a wild smile at a bar with friends. In another photograph, he embraced an older man, perhaps his Father, in front of a twinkling Christmas tree. But, today, beneath the light fixtures in the cavernous restaurant, he was gaunt and sallow looking. His long nose slid down into thin lips that curled in weak defense.
The man in the suit was some big deal in advertising, and sounded ever so effeminate when he spoke. He seemed to love his job because whenever he mentioned it, his eyes lit back up. Every morning, he tossed ideas around a conference table with “the women” at his office.
He said, “Oh my god,” in a husky, but slightly feminine way, “I don’t know why the industry is so populated with women. But, 55% of college graduates will be women next year. They’re so much more emotionally mature.”
He answered his own questions when he talked.
He was quick to talk. Too quick. Like me. I think the silence that hung between words scared him. Whole worlds were constructed and torn down in his mind in a simple glance. His was a mind that was rapid to conjure an impression or sell a product, or an idea. It was fast, but tortured. It had suffered the lovelorn blows of fickle women.
The man in the suit told me about his wife that afternoon, and how he wasn’t mad about the fact that she no longer loved him. He wasn’t even mad that she was outwardly hostile toward him.
He sat like a scarecrow, lost momentarily in a head that seemed like a dusty attic, cast in shadows.
He said, “I still make her lunch every morning, and make lunch for the kids. There’s no malice there. She likes her apple diced with a side of pecans.”
I believed him because his eyes looked swollen, and puffy. I asked him if he was okay.
Clouds seemed to pass through his eyes, and I wanted to hug him because he never answered. I wanted to tell him it would be okay, and that Friday night wouldn’t always feel like a “cage.”
Right now, I expect he’s sitting with his father who is dying of Parkinson’s. He’ll stay with him until 3AM. Until his Father falls asleep. He does this every weekend. His father has had Parkinson’s for “two years now.”
And, when I feel sad, and alone. When Baltimore, with all of its people, buildings and whirring traffic, feels like too much, I’ll remember to take a breath, and to think about the men and women who sit alone, like me, tonight. I’ll think about the man in the black suit.