By: Gavriel Guttman  | 

Alone Among the Masses

It was a cold night. The wind was audible as it gushed against the large, dusty window panes on the sixth floor of Heisenman Tower. The building’s rusty joints creaked, and one could almost feel its frame sway at the beckon of nature. Sam Jacobson sat hunched over the small wooden desk, sitting on the university standard-issue small wooden chair, eyes squinting in the dim light emitting from his laptop screen. He leaned backward, pressing his upper back into the chair frame and feeling his joints crack from the pressure. A yawn and a quick glance at the clock. 3:00 am. Sam stared blankly at the screen and tried to find a practice question he didn’t already know the answer to. No success. Now I can’t sleep and I’m bored. Another yawn and glance at the clock. 3:01 am. So time hasn’t stopped after all.


Sam rose from the chair, letting out a groan in harmony with the old and rotted wood. He looked around the room. Empty. The only sounds came from the building itself and the wind outside. Sam stared wistfully out the window, hoping to see somebody -- anybody. Just the mere sight of another human being would be enough to put his mind at ease. A smile wouldn’t be too bad either. It didn’t have to be a full, cheek to cheek grin; a simple upward twitch of a human lip would really warm Sam up inside. But there was nobody out. The streets were empty, and the old oaks that lined the sidewalk swayed menacingly in the wind. Where is Zach? Sam turned toward his roommate’s empty bed, acknowledging its peculiar vacancy. The party had surely ended by now. You should’ve gone with him, idiot.


Without putting much thought into it, Sam dragged his feet over to Zach’s bed, slid off his slippers and laid down on the lumpy university mattress. He stared up at the moldy foam-tile ceiling, recognizing the distinct scent of Zach’s deodorant on the linens. Sleep, goddammit, Sleep. Nothing. Sam’s eyes were bloodshot, and he didn’t even have to look in the mirror to know. Sleep, goddammit, sleep. The words repeated over and over in Sam’s head like a mantra. He closed his eyes and kicked his legs in the air every time he reached the word sleep, the bed shaking from his movement. Sleep, goddammit, sleep. Sam felt a tear wedge its way out from his closed right eyes and roll slowly down his cheek, eventually making its way into his mouth. He tasted the tear’s saltiness and then a downpour was released onto his face, each tear squeezing its way out from a squeezed-shut eyelid, on its own path down Sam’s rosy cheeks. Some rolled onto his pajama top, others onto Zach’s neatly folded linen, and the rest into Sam’s mouth, where the salty taste remained as he wept.


Finally, with a conclusory shudder and trembling lips, the tears stopped and Sam sat upright in the bed. The night had progressed, and the shadows were no longer as deep and dark as they had been before. Sam felt as if a giant weight had been taken off of his shoulders but, Now what? Easing his feet back into the cotton slippers, Sam lifted himself off of the bed and headed for the door. The old metal hinges let out a loud squeak upon their use, the sound echoing down the hallway and bouncing off the poorly painted cinderblock walls. Sam glanced in each direction, his room was smack in the middle of the long hall, and saw no one. A large cockroach creeped slowly along the hall’s width to Sam’s left and a florescent bulb flickered its dying bursts in the direction of the elevator. Sam leaned back against the wall and allowed his body to be dragged down by gravity, finally resting his rear end on the cold linoleum floor. Another sigh. Sam could see the sun beginning to peek over the horizon from the fire escape window down the hall. I might as well lie in bed. It’s better than sitting out here. Sam stood up, walked down the hallway and stamped down hard on the cockroach, feeling its body submit to the pressure of his slippers, and then headed back to the room to sleep.


Sam woke to his alarm blaring and blinking the time, 7:00 AM, in red analog numbers. Zach had returned and was sitting up in bed, looking, for once, as if he too had gotten little sleep.


“How was the party?”


“Dude, it was insane. You should’ve been there.” Zach rubbed his eyes.


Sam stared down at his lap and nodded, not really sure what to say. “I’ve gotta get ready for class.”


Sam got dressed hurriedly, eager to finally leave the dark and depressing confines of his room. If I’m going to be miserable, at least let me do so in the sunlight. He sat on a bench outside the library and began to prepare himself for another day. Another day of acing tests and complete loneliness. But maybe today will be different. Maybe today somebody will smile at me in the hallway and I’ll know that everything is going to get better. That’s all I need. Just a small sign. Just a little indication of my existence. Then maybe I’ll be able to sleep. Sam got off the bench and headed to class.