The Sign

Carlos clutched his phone in his hands waiting for a sign that he wasn’t all alone; as of late he seemed to be doing that quite frequently. He sat by the window in a coffee shop watching the humans of New York rush to their next destination. Everyone in this city, he thought, was always rushing to get somewhere as if their life depended on it and all of this commotion unsettled him a bit. His laissez-faire attitude towards life didn’t agree with what the city expected from its citizens; the career driven, goal seeking, two months schedule planned ahead of time people. It was almost as if every single one of the 8.5 million souls that criss-crossed the five boroughs daily had a clear purpose in their life and he was the only one who seemed to be lost in the madness of this city. He knew that was an overstatement, he knew that in every block that dotted this landscape there were people just like him: lost, unsure, merely going about their daily motions hoping for someone or something to wake them up from this awful dream.
Waiting in vain had never factored into Carlos’ plan months ago. He had a clear cut idea of what he wanted when he decided to move to the big city. In his mind, he saw everything opening up rather easily much like a flower surrendering itself to the morning sun. The reality of it, however, was much different. Instead of a flower, this whole ordeal was a slab of marble and Carlos lacked the necessary tools to make an angel out of the stone. His naiveness prevented him from making a plan B or a plan C, so he sat there phone in hand, nursing his coffee in the midst of plan A patiently waiting for a beam of hope.
That beam of hope seemed to get lost in space along with all other beams that failed to reach their target. And where do these other beams go? Carlos pondered the question. Science fiction fans have long thought that advanced civilizations have been trying to reach us for years, but due to our primitive technology we can’t see their messages. If only we had the right instruments to process such information. That’s probably what happens to the lost beams. They’re traveling in space for eons until they reach some far away galaxy hundreds of light years away. And that galaxy’s light must be blinding, powered by all the lost hope human beings emit. It stands there like a beacon, reminding anyone who happens to come across it the power and the beauty of what could’ve been, should’ve been. A harsh reality, Carlos thought, but one that we should face head on lest we live in world with pink elephants and flying nimbuses.

Night started to creep in and the street which Carlos watched absentmindedly was becoming less chaotic. People were starting to go home to their families, or maybe to go spend some time with their friends and then, of course, there were the few lucky ones that were going to see their significant others. How he envied those people. He always took for granted the importance of coming home to someone and it was only now that he had no one to come home to that he realized the magnitude of that simple act. But it did no good to dwell on matters that Carlos could not change. He started to look around the coffee shop and there were only two other people inside, the barista and very pretty brunette girl reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Carlos sympathized very much with Esther Greenwood and the feeling that this city wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. In a way he did feel as if there was a bell jar over his head, but he hadn’t let it affect him too much. Now that he came to think of it it wasn’t really a bell jar, more like a permanent dark cloud placed above his head. He was, however, lucky enough to possess a holy umbrella, but as of late it didn’t seem to be of any use. Maybe a visit to church was necessary to recharge his spirits and in custom with many people before him in the same hopeless predicament, he turned to God for help.
He left the coffee shop and started to walk uptown. Back at home, he occasionally dropped by the Basilica in Mission Hill. Never for mass or any of the services, but at odd hours of the day to pray quietly, when no one but the most devout would be inside its halls. He liked the church because it reminded him of famous cathedrals in Europe with its stained glass windows and Romanesque architecture. He always felt as if he were traveling to another time period everytime he stepped through its doors and he liked that very much. Carlos had never been to church in New York City and was at a loss of where he could find a church that fit his needs. He googled “church near me” on his phone and settled on St. Patrick’s Cathedral, it was only twenty blocks away. He still had no missed calls or messages.
The cool October air was starting to sink in and the summer weather of a week ago seemed like a distant memory. The streets were filled with people in their sweaters and beanies and the occasional tourist dressed as if it was the middle of January. The flannel Carlos sported kept him warm enough until the occasional gust of wind would pierce through him and then he felt jealous of the tourists and their uncanny foresight. At last he reached the cathedral, at the right time too, a crowd was starting to empty its doors after the 7 pm service. He made his way through the sea of bodies and into the cathedral, making the sign of the cross and sitting at one of the last pews.
He waited until almost everyone had cleared, bowed his head, and started praying, “Dear God please help me. please please please help me. I feel so alone all the time and I’m starting to lose sight of what I came here to do. I fear that if I continue on the path I am on I’m going to end up like Kurt or Virginia or Ernest. Please help me. I’m starting to doubt if you ever listen. I’ll do anything you ask of me. Please take this malaise off me, please help me find some purpose again. please god. Please.” He sat there quietly for a moment and slowly made his way out.
Once outside he lit a cigarette and sat on the steps plotting his next move. He whipped out his phone to see how long it would take to get home, but then it started vibrating. It was a call. The call he had been waiting all day for. It was Janine, the girl he left back home. He looked up to the heavens and said, “Thank you!” and pressed the answer button.
“Hi love,” Janine said.
Carlos smiled.

— R.R.S.

 

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