The chair was hard and uncomfortable, so Randy shifted awkwardly. First, he would cross his right leg over his left, placing his right foot on his left thigh. Then after several minutes his right foot would go numb and he’d have to switch, placing his left leg over his right.

He stared at the instep of his worn sneakers, wondering why he hadn’t bought new ones yet. It wasn’t like they were so expensive that he couldn’t afford them. Maybe, he thought, when he was done, he would go buy himself a nice pair of new shoes. He nodded, thinking that sounded like a good idea and then caught himself, realizing anyone could be watching him. He’d look like an idiot moving his head up and down like that.

Against his better judgement, Randy scanned the room out of the corner of his eyes at the masses of people sitting in chairs identical to the one in which he sat. He let his attention drift, until it settled where it chose.

There was a twenty-something year old girl smacking on gum and absentmindedly scrolling through some social media site on her smartphone. He sneered and shifted his gaze away from her quickly before his mind had time to cement his contempt for everything about her and her worthless generation. Randy didn’t have a cell phone, and he didn’t want one. If anyone wants to call me, he thought, they can call me at home. He certainly didn’t want to post any pictures of himself online for others to gawk at, and while he might enjoy staring at pictures of other people, he knew it was better that he wasn’t able to. He might get himself into trouble.

His eyes next settled on a businessman reading a paper, and immediately Randy wondered why the man wasn’t at work. It was the middle of the day on a Tuesday, after all. Perhaps, he thought, he wasn’t a businessman at all. Or maybe he was unemployed, recently let go for having an inter-office affair. Those types of things were taboo, and Randy knew it. He thought it would be difficult to give up the routine of rising every morning and putting on a suit if that’s what you were used to. But then, maybe he was a businessman who had just skipped out of the office for an hour or so. Randy wondered if anyone looking at him was wondering what he was doing there in the middle of the day on a weekday. Then he realized that there was no other time anyone could be there. He knew he had stared for too long at the man, and decided it was best to move on before he was caught in the act and ended up in trouble.

A middle-aged woman caught his attention next. She had slightly darker skin, but Randy couldn’t quite place her ethnicity. Maybe she was Italian, or Latino. Maybe she just went to a tanning salon. He was frustrated that he couldn’t figure it out, but he knew asking was out of the question. She was attractive for her age and had clearly had some work done: at least her breasts and probably some of her face. Randy knew at the very least there was no way those breasts were real. Placing his hands at the edges of his chair, he tried to shift in it enough to see if she was wearing a wedding ring, but he stopped abruptly when she looked his way. He turned his head quickly, embarrassed that he’d been caught leering.

When he looked back slowly, she was still eyeing him, and she gave the slightest hint of a smile when his eyes met hers. Of course, Randy thought. Why wouldn’t she enjoy being looked at? He was sure she liked the attention. The length of her skirt suggested that she had taken deliberate steps to attract every wayward male eye. He was simultaneously disgusted and intrigued by the thought of her.

Maybe, he thought, when he was done he would go up and introduce himself. Maybe she’d like to have lunch, and then, who knows. Idiot, he thought, and he kicked himself internally for allowing himself the mental weakness in the moment. That’s how people get in trouble, he thought.

After that, he fidgeted nervously trying not to look at the attractive, dark-skinned, middle-aged woman with the large, fake breasts. He turned his head the other way and found himself face to face with a thirty-something year old male with blonde hair, blue eyes, and very trendy clothes. The man was only two seats away and smiled at Randy, which made him uncomfortable. He forced a smile in return, but then decided it was best if he just looked back down at his shoes.

He shifted his legs, put the right back over the left, placed his foot on his thigh and held it with his left hand. He flicked at the dangling laces with his fingers, let out a deep breath and swallowing hard. Through his peripheral vision, he saw the thirty-something rise and slide over the two empty seats and sit next to him. Randy said a silent prayer to be saved, but it was too late.

“Hey,” the thirty-something said. “Pretty dull sitting in here, huh?”

“Yup,” Randy said, refusing to look up from his laces.

“I’m Peter,” the thirty-something said, holding out his hand for Randy to shake.

“Randy.” He took Peter’s hand and shook it, and just as he feared, it was soft and warm to the touch. Every fiber of his being screamed that he should just get up and leave. He could try again tomorrow, after all. He had nothing else to do.

“I really hate coming here,” the thirty-something said, “but I guess we really don’t have a choice, huh?”

Randy hated small talk. It took everything he had not to bash the thirty-something’s head in with one of the chairs. It would be quick, he thought. No one could stop him before he’d done enough damage to calm his rage. No, he thought, that was just another way people get in trouble.

“Yeah,” was all Randy managed to say in reply.

“You from around here?”

Jesus, Randy thought, where else would I be from? Why couldn’t this guy see that he had no interest in talking? Approaching the attractive middle-aged woman was looking better and better all the time.

“Not too far,” Randy said.

“Yeah? I live up on Wedgewood. You know where that is? You just go south on 6 until you get…” The thirty-something kept talking but Randy’s mind blocked him out. He wished he had a smartphone to disappear into like the twenty-something girl. Then maybe this guy would never have thought to talk to him. Maybe if he had worn a suit everyone would’ve assumed he was important, and in a hurry, and he would’ve been left alone. Dammit, why hadn’t he bought new sneakers months ago? Randy looked in desperation to where the middle-aged woman had been, but she was gone. Her turn had already come.

Randy realized the thirty-something had stopped talking. What was his name again? Paul? No, Peter. He looked over at Peter and realized that the man wanted a response to something.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” Randy said, hoping it would be enough to satisfy whatever was expected. Peter resumed talking, so it must have been.

A mother walked by holding the hand of a young boy, probably around five years old. Randy couldn’t imagine having kids. How awful, he thought, to bring a child into this miserable world. What a heartless bitch she must be. She had probably been attractive once. She must have been, he realized, for some guy to get her pregnant. The poor shmuck was probably still married to her. God, what a miserable existence that must be, he thought.

Randy was entranced by the boy, who kept tugging at his mother’s arm and begging for something. He didn’t care to listen to the boy’s words, but the effect of the action was mesmerizing. It was as though the boy didn’t even exist in the mother’s world. He would tug and tug and she just continued to be oblivious to it. Randy looked around the room. Everyone else seemed to notice the boy, and he was annoying many of them. Sidelong glances in the mother and son’s direction were in plentiful supply. Randy smiled realizing the mom had a gift, one that he also had. Suddenly, he wanted her more than anything he’d ever wanted in his life.

Visions flashed in his mind of laying her down on a sandy beach and having his way with her. She wasn’t all that attractive, but he didn’t care. He knew when it was over that he wouldn’t have to talk to her. He wouldn’t have to look at her. They could just ignore each other and be content. He bit his lower lip, and then shook his head. He had to stop, or he was sure to get in trouble.

The thirty-something, Patrick, or was it Parker? It didn’t matter. The thirty-something saw Randy shaking his head and thought it was in response to whatever he was saying.

“No, really, trust me,” the thirty-something said, and then he continued to ramble on about nothing.

Randy wondered how long he had been sitting there. His butt was getting numb, so he shifted and switched his legs, putting the left one on top of the right again. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could take sitting there. Maybe, he thought, if I get enough of a running head start, I could slam my head into the wall hard enough to knock myself out cold. Maybe I could just sneak off to the bathroom and pull the fire alarm, then I could leave and try again tomorrow. No, he thought, that’s surely how people get in trouble.

Against his better judgement, Randy allowed himself to look back at the mother with the son. The boy was kneeling on a chair and rocking from side to side, clearly making some sort of noises with his mouth. Randy wondered if the boy was mentally handicapped, or if all five-year-old kids were that obnoxious in public. He admonished himself silently for thinking such things.

The mom was sitting quietly, reading a magazine, still oblivious to how her son was disrupting the room. Randy thought he might be in love with her. Maybe she was divorced and was looking for someone new to ignore. Maybe she hated her husband and wouldn’t be against having an affair. He knew it was dangerous to even think about. This was definitely how people get in trouble, but he had to try. How could he live with himself if he let this chance for perfection pass by? He was about to rise to his feet when there was a ding and a voice called over the speaker, “Number one eighteen…one eighteen.”

Randy pulled a small slip of paper from his pocket and looked to confirm that it in fact read, “118.” He sighed, both from regret and in relief. He took his left leg down from his right and stood up.

“Where are you going?” the thirty-something asked.

“That’s my number,” Randy said.

“Oh, nice to have talked with you, Randy.”

“You too, Phillip.”

“It’s Peter,” the thirty-something said.

“I know.”

Randy was only at the counter for a few minutes, and his business was complete. As he turned to leave, he made a point to walk past the mother and son. The boy was making motorboat sounds with his mouth. The mother didn’t so much as glance in Randy’s direction. He took a deep breath as he walked past her, but he restrained himself from ruining the perfection of the moment. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the thirty-something raise his palm in a gesture of goodbye. Randy quickened his pace just a little on his way to the door. He just didn’t want to do anything to get himself in trouble.

The End