I made a set of constraints before writing this piece.
Sometimes limitation breeds inspiration.
- Every sentence must begin with a form of the word “you,” telling the story in the 2nd person.
- Every paragraph must be exactly 5 sentences long.
- Every paragraph must be exactly 50 words.
- 1,500 word minimum (1,650 actual)
The Diner –
You walk into a diner one night, feeling lonely, desperate and broke. You’re searching for the connection that will make the night just a little more worth it. You sit down at a table for two expecting no one to sit. You wait. You know she will be here tonight.
You think maybe she’ll be too busy to see you. You think maybe she won’t. You realize that maybe this was the worst idea you’ve ever had. You think maybe not. You pretend that for a moment that this might actually work. You get up and walk out the door.
You make it half way through the parking lot before stopping. You turn your head back towards the diner and reconsider. You know she’s in there so what are you waiting for? You pause for a moment longer before turning around and continuing to walk away. You’re not ready yet.
Your stomach is growling at you. You need to listen to it. You think of how many days you’ve spent walking the town with nothing in your belly. You’re only a few days away from getting it together. You tell yourself it can’t be that much longer until you die.
You are the epitome of revolting. You have hair that mats to your face because you haven’t washed in a week. You smell like the old garbage you ate last Tuesday. You’re a fool for ever thinking that she would help you. You can barely help yourself. You’re a waste.
You realize now that there is no God. You don’t know who you’re going to pray to every night from now on. You used to blame yourself for choices you made. You used to ask for help because you thought you could be helped. You now know you can’t be.
You’ve spent most your time walking the street corners and wondering where the fix is. You’ve spent the rest looking through a diner window trying to find salvation. You’ve burned holes in the clothes that you wear. You’ve burned bridges with everyone you knew. Your hope has burned with it.
You are scared. You’re scared that you might die and there won’t be anyone waiting for you at the end of the tunnel. You’re scared that there won’t be a tunnel. You’re afraid of being alone at your own funeral. You know that there probably won’t even be a funeral.
You reach the bridge where you have decided to sleep. You lay among the cardboard and the trash to keep warm in the winter night. You click your heels together. You say there’s no place like home if there was only one to go to. You’re fighting a fruitless war.
You awake the next day to a grinding trench of a tightening stomach. You lay still and wincing until you have relief. You’re caught between the tightening rope and the wobbling chair. You wish it would just fall and be done. You wish that someone, anyone, would cut or kick.
Your pain is the resin in the pipe of your existence. You’ve been used up and left behind for strangers to scrape and use again. You can’t shake the notion that some lives aren’t worth living. You’re begging for strength amidst dire circumstance. You are so fucking tired of begging.
You stand against the cold wind and wrap yourself with tattered rags. Your gloves are torn from fingernails cutting and piercing cheap woolen stitches. Your hands are the portraits of fires extinguished too late. You are the dark that is the darkest before the dawn. You are a fucking cliché.
You begin to walk with the wind at your back. You have nowhere to go. It’s best not to be cold while getting there. You glance back at your life and decide its best left where it is, in the past. You can’t go back no matter hard you try.
You head towards the diner not sure of what to do. You know that when you get there, you’ll only stare in wishing to stare out. You long to be inside. You know that nothing is stopping you, nothing but your shame. You still have your dignity, but not enough.
You pass the regulars, the routiners, you call them. You see them getting gas at the station across the street. You see them drive away in cars that you’ll never own. You see them pour their pity on you from behind their safe rolled up windows. You don’t want it.
You wouldn’t know what to do if someone were to rescue you. You can only be rescued for so long before you have to stand up again. You’ve had a long time to think about it. You don’t really want another life. You only want to look into the diner.
You see her serving a table of men. You could be them. Your regret is swallowing the hunger that keeps driving at you until you can’t feel it anymore. Your hands rest on the window sill of your salvation. You feel the cold hard brick that blocks you from it.
You ask a man entering for a cigarette. You hate yourself for it. You take the cancer with dirty portrait hands as he hurries himself inside. You know that you would be scared of you too. You’d think of all the things that you could have that you wouldn’t want.
Your sickness is one that cannot be healed. You knew that before you became the self that you are now. You are the immaculate conception of disease and misfortune. You are the ninth wonder of a world that’s forgotten humility. You’re already dead in all the ways that still count.
You see your reflection in the window of the diner, but you don’t see yourself. You see the ghost who haunts ditches of the living. You see the bodies of the dead that you have stolen from. You see the carcasses of others like you. You will soon become them.
You look down and see bare feet on bare pavement. You know you should feel it, but your feet grew numb long ago. You look back to the diner to see the men being served staring out of your window. You stare back. You imagine them dead at your feet.
You’ve felt this before. You see the blood filling your eyes in your reflection. You feel your hands gripping into fists, digging into the red brick window sill. You know that soon those men will get up and come out into the lot. You know that you can’t control it.
You wait at the window until dark. You see the men still sitting at the table. You see the fear in their eyes as they watch you watch them. You see one slipping bills to the waitress the longer they sit. You know that soon, the bills will run out.
You have something that they don’t. You have nothing. You have no place to go or reason for doing so, and so you wait. You see them getting nervous as the diner begins to close. You see the scales holding your life and theirs tipping slowly into an equal measure.
Your self-loathing gives way to their loathing as you heave a sigh and walk away. You feign defeat and tip your invisible hat toward the victors of this petty game. You know the best part is their insecurity. You smile your first smile in weeks. Your anticipation is almost overwhelming.
You feel them get up. You feel them walk out. You feel the men looking around and over their shoulders for the danger that could be you. You’re glad they are the only ones still in the diner. You’re in the back of the big red pickup they drove in.
You imagine their surprise. You jumping in from the back window and ripping their tonsils through their necks. You, taking their wallets with their credit cards and petty ones and fives. You, finding their homes with their licenses and taking the rest. You in their showers stealing their very foundations.
You open your eyes to starry skies as you rush along in the truck bed. You’re waiting for your opportunity. You turn onto your stomach and feel the cool metal through holes in your shirt. You’d feel bad for them if you still had the capacity. You, however, do not.
You poise for the moment you strike. You feel the weight of the truck urging you forward as it lunges toward destiny. You can feel the blood pulsing through your eyes and your veins. Your adrenaline is racing through your brain. You’re going to lose it if you don’t hurry.
You’re so close to providence you can hear the angels whispering in your ear. You can almost feel the warmth of pickled skin and blood on your hands. You’re drunk on the endorphins flooding your head. You reach for the glass and find the latch. You are almost there now.
You wake up in the diner sitting at a table for two. You’re not sure if anyone will sit. You’re wearing a black suit with your hair cut short. You recognize the room, but can’t remember where from. You look at your hands and see blood under neatly cut fingernails.
You look for the waitress that you don’t know why you know. You find her counting tips by the register. You wave her over and ask her how long you have been here. You tell her you must have fallen asleep. You’ve said it a lot over the past year.
You hear her tell you that you’ve only been here five minutes. You look outside and see a big red pickup parked by the window. You stare at your reflection. You recognize the man you see all too well. You get up to walk out and leave the diner behind.