–– 003 ––
This, then, is what the world has become.
He sat alone in a corner room on the top floor of a building made for meetings, basking in the cheap glow of the nightly news. At some point he had taken to calling it the nightly nightmare, a habitual sardonic quip to which his fiancée no longer responded. The television muted, he moved back and forth between apps on his phone with half a purpose, searching in vain for anything fresh to perk his eye. His shift had ended an hour before but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. This seemed to be happening more often. He didn’t know why.
This, then, is what I wanted so dearly to avoid, he thought.
He didn’t mind the work or the commute or the apartment or the conversations with her over dinner or the calls home or the occasional weekend trips. He didn’t mind the stiff drink every now and then or meandering walks around the neighborhood or the constant chance, however slight, for small talk with a stranger. He didn’t mind modern life. He liked buying things.
This, then, is how it feels to be alone together, he thought.
As he continued sifting through his own carefully honed ether, he came across a travel article posted by a nearly-forgotten acquaintance –– a New York Times piece on Irish lighthouses. He sighed unknowingly, his spirit drifting upward as he visualized a new life there –– his very own new life –– in a lighthouse on the coast in County Donegal. He imagined rewriting his resume to read lightkeeper and then promptly stuffing it in a dark drawer for the rest of his days. He imagined the smell of sea and peat, the layered chill, the damply spattered steps, the dead stone walls, the low howl of night and, after deeply impenetrable bouts of sleep, the bright washes of morning light. He imagined sitting at his post on a warm autumn evening, much like this one, only with eyes wide toward a wholly different kind of glow along the edge of the settling world. A glow of water and sky, absent of artifice. A glow of time, unhurried. Instead of the finely filtered waste shining in his palm amidst this solitary perch in the city, he would look up and out along the horizon, keen to mark his single indispensable point in the universe. A beacon for a lost ship. Or, in the case of an inhumane beast encroaching swiftly from across the sea, a warning.
Jolted back by a turn in his stomach, he texted to say he would be home in thirty minutes or so. She replied to ask if he could pick up some spreadable butter and a six-pack of paper towels. Signed xoxo. The ever so slight ache in his heart was a happy one.
This, then, is what the end of the beginning of the first half of the new century feels like, he thought. This, then, is what they said might happen but never actually could.