Yet another sunset crawls by. It’s a striking sight, straight out of some mad 19th-century painter’s imagination while he attempts to render how the end of the world will look like, in an aquarelle of yellows, oranges, and reds. Looks like someone set off fireworks across the entire line of the horizon. The picture belongs in a museum, or at the least on someone’s social media feed. That’s where these things go now, don’t they? Into someone’s Saved images collection. Do people ever go back and flick through those, I wonder? Do they just swipe onto the next picture or stop to drink in the details? Like the person, me, sitting – no, slumped on the bench. Probably not. I’d crop myself out of the picture if I was the photographer. Like I cropped myself out of life.

Anyway. Not that I’m much of a sunset-hunter. I mean, I get it. They’re pretty to look at and there are worse things to collect. I can tell. I made a life out of collecting the wrong keepsakes – addictions, debt, and broken promises. Yet they tend to look all the same after a while, the sunsets, when all you do is sit on the same bench, day after day. The beauty, rendered ordinary, from my point of view. The same as the ugly. Normalized. Reduced to a shrug and utterly forgettable. It all seemed so improbable once. I’d be the one taking the photographs, insouciant of whether there is a morrow after the sunset I’d be snapping. Shrug.

I stare at the bottom of the paper cup, the last of my meager possessions, at the dregs of yesterday’s coffee offered to me by a kind stranger. As if there was more coffee that would magically appear the harder I stared into it. As if there was some meaning I could decipher from the dried stains at the bottom. No fortune to be gleaned from the cup. I glance at my palm, all grubby, and wonder – would someone want to read my fortune from it? Is there a way to reverse the course I’m on? I’m shit at palm-reading, I quickly conclude. I can’t even tell which is my life line as my palm is so grimy. Shit just like at so many other things in life.

Not true, that, I correct myself. I have some dignity left. When all else was stripped, at least I clung to it. Ironic, isn’t it, that I waited until I ran out of luck to remember I was an actual human being capable of decency and kindness? The realization came too late, of course. Dignity won’t conjure food on a plate in front of me from thin air, but I guess it does warm me up somewhat, on those lonely nights. On occasion, a kind passerby recognizes it and strikes up a conversation. Like the lady who handed me her coffee yesterday. I’m grateful for those small moments of humanity, even though they are few and far between. They remind me that I’m still a person. For a little while longer, before I become a footnote in the grand scheme.

And so, I sit unnoticed as another sunset crawls by, and I try to concentrate, committing it to memory. The last piece in my collection. I have time aplenty to observe the details. There ought to be a sunset tomorrow too, and the day after. Not too sure how many more will come and go, though, before someone notices there’s no more breath escaping through my lips.


Featured image courtesy of Matt Molloy via Google Images search.

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