The support group for lonely men meets every second Wednesday in the hotel lobby. At five minutes to five, suede shoes and pastel pants lift up their lonely soles, out from the rain and the damp Sherbrooke streets. Shaken and bright, they take their places in a motley row; leather seats creaking under pressed cheeks; shifting comfortably as the conversation starters make their round along the countertop.
The taps run nostalgic. They break the ice as they twirl the rocks in their cups; myrrh for the torporous congregation. Waxing memories like shining bronze, they make reflections out of everything and wash each other’s feet in bombinating discussions; bucolic distractions for the modern man.
One slaps the other’s back, tells him the story that they’ve all heard before. There’s a little house with all the kids in it; some time spent with the dog in the yard; Sunday morning walks with the wife when all you want was another hour of sleep and two Tylenols to take away the pain; the pounding headache, the guilty memory.
An empty glass clinks against the counter. One more round to get them through the night.
But the men are only human; bodies only ephemeral. One can only drink so many memories before the edges begin to blur and calm goes to confusion. One flicks his coaster against the wall; another picks at the peeling edge of the stool. A glass shatters, and the man in the black shirt tells them to knock it off.
In protest, they rise and stumble, drifting one by one into the mounting acedia of the moonlight. As the last of their members stumbles his way back through the lobby, past the plants, hand against the wall, the young man collects their tips and rinses their cups. He’s twenty-seven years old and finishing his final year in college. He’s half their age and knows half of them by name, which is almost as much as they know about themselves. In the closing hours of the night, he’s alone but hardly lonely. He sees his reflection in the mirror by the bar, smiling and tired.
He knows he’s nothing like them, but he wonders if he isn’t perhaps the same.