By Caleb Brown
I felt alone. I wanted to be in a crowd. I wanted to buy a drink from a trendy café and sit at a table on the street, sipping my beverage while watching the goings-on of passers-by.
"Why, Mrs. Adams! How lovely to see you!" a man I'd never seen before would greet a woman I'd never seen before. "Chester! Chester Johnson! How are you?" she would reply, and I would listen to their meaningless and self-centered little exchange of hows-do-you-do.
I wanted to be Chester: I wanted to be another anonymous face among the throngs of humanity on the street. I wanted to meet Mrs. Adams, tell her I was doing well but that my youngest daughter had recently come down with influenza. I wanted to ask her how she was, not caring much about the answer, and hear her relate stories she had read from postcards her son who was overseas fighting in the war had stolen from shops he looted with his buddies, postcards that had beautiful pictures of the cities he helped to destroy. But most of all, I just wanted to stop being me.
I was not really alone, not properly anyway, but I still felt it. The people around me had minds like an empty dresser-drawer, and worst of all, they were trying to empty out my drawers as well. As I watched, hordes of faceless humanity thronged to pull shirts out of one drawer, pants out of another, stockings out of yet another, and I was powerless to stop it. They were emptying out the armoir of my mind and running off with the contents, only to throw my precious thoughts and memories and ideas onto a bonfire of uselessness and incompetency and let them burn, burn, burn...
Some weeks later, I found myself in that very café. I sat outside at a table on the street, sipping my drink as I watched the goings-on of passers-by. I observed Chester leaving the café. Some few minutes later, Mrs. Adams passed by. They had missed each other, their meaningless and self-centered little exchange of hows-do-you-do never to take place, never knowing the difference - nor caring.
I finished my drink and strolled leisurely towards home. As I sauntered along, I noticed that I was naked. I entered my house and approached my dresser, but all of the drawers were missing. There was no trace of them nor the articles they had once housed. I was naked. They had stripped me bare, stripped both my body and my mind.
I felt alone.
No - I was alone.