There is a man right now standing in line at a place where he is waiting to get a quick meal, perhaps. Or maybe a small coffee. Just something to help him through the day. He is not having a particularly bad or good day—it’s a regular, run-of-the-mill, mundane Wednesday.
Later that day, he might go to the gym across town instead of the one closest to him because the crosstown gym has consistently fluffier towels. On the way home from the gym, he might stop at Whole Foods and get a salad with feta and smoked salmon and maybe some of their shockingly good chicken wings from the buffet. And then, that night, he might watch the Celtics and the Hornets on the NBA League Pass if he has enough time.
But right now, he just wants to stand in line and wait for his food. And while standing in line, he just wants to stand. And perhaps think about combs or Wi-Fi passwords or impromptu twerk contests or Ann Curry or whatever happens to race through his mind at that moment. Maybe he’ll even check his phone to track the delivery status of the sneakers he ordered Monday night.
He does not, however, want to have a conversation about the length and speed and girth of the line with the woman standing behind him, with whom he happened to make eye contact 45 seconds ago when he turned his head back toward the door to check if there were any parking attendants out ticketing (he didn’t pay the meter when rushing into the lunch store).
When the eye contact was met, he nodded his head and gave a slight closed-mouth smile—and she did the same—and he assumed that would be the last time he’d ever have to talk to that woman about anything ever again in life. Unless, of course, that woman had sincerely interesting things to talk about. Maybe she also watched Vice Principals and wanted to talk about the absurdity of the tiger subplot in the series finale. Or perhaps she wanted to settle a debate about which tiger would win in a hot-dog-eating contest—the Vice Principals’ tiger or Shiva, the tiger from The Walking Dead (Shiva, of course).
But no. She wants to talk about that fucking line. With him. Right now. While they’re standing in that fucking line. She just, for whatever reason, cannot stand to be still and silent for 45 fucking seconds of the day. She is not interested enough in her own thoughts, her own plans for the day and her own space to allow herself to be occupied by them, so she chooses to invade his. An invasion he did not ask for.
Everything about his body (his back is facing her) and his body language when he made eye contact is clearly articulating, “Hello, random fellow citizen of the world. I acknowledge your presence behind me because that is the polite thing to do, but this acknowledgment is where our communication ends! Unless, of course, you have something extremely interesting and/or pressing to say. If so, please talk! If not—if you just can’t stand the silence and the stillness and your own nervous energy, and you want to say something to me about the line or the weather or the color of the ceiling tiles—please allow that glancing acknowledgment of each other’s presence to be the last time we interact.”
His body language did not, however, ask her to ask him, “Can this line be any longer?” One, because he’s not interested in a conversation about the line length. And also because it’s a dumbass question. OF COURSE the line could be longer. If one more person steps in line, the line would be longer, dumbass.
The line could conceivably stretch out of the door, across the street, down the block and all the way to fucking Ghana. If the universe is still expanding—and it is, according to quantum physics (although there’s a rift between quantum mechanics and general relativity about exactly how)—there’s literally no limit to how much longer this fucking line can be, asshole.
Still polite, the man—who just wants to stand and then get his food and then leave—acknowledges the woman’s attempt at stupid fucking conversation and ever so slightly turns his head to the right and does the closed-mouth laugh thing that’s not even a laugh, really, but more like a grimace while you blow air through your nose. The woman, apparently not satiated yet with the man’s repeated acknowledgments of her existence, says, “They should have chairs or something for us to sit in.”
The man thinks, “THERE ARE CHAIRS HERE! RIGHT NEXT TO ALL OF THE TABLES! IF YOU WANT TO SIT IN A CHAIR, SIT IN A DAMN CHAIR. BUT YOU’RE IN LINE. AND THERE’S NO CHAIRS IN LINE. BECAUSE OF THE EXPECTATION THAT ADULT HUMANS CAN STAND FOR 45 SECONDS WITHOUT NEEDING A CHAIR OR A FUCKING CONVERSATION ABOUT BITCH-ASS CHAIRS!”
Finally, it’s the man’s turn in line. He asks the sales clerk for a BLT. The clerk says, “That will be $8.49.” The man hands the clerk his debit card. She swipes it and hands it back to him. After this exchange, they just stand there, silent, for 40 seconds while his BLT is being prepared.
The BLT is done. She hands it to him. He says, “Thank you.” She says nothing but nods her head. He turns to walk out the door and becomes so moved by her lack of small talk that he starts to cry.
The woman behind him in line sees those tears and says, “Bundle up. I heard it’s getting chilly later.”
The man’s eyes begin to bleed and his head explodes. Now he’s dead.