Seven-Eleven at Four-Thirty

I stroll, nearly somnolent, through the glass door. It is a bright room that glows golden beneath the near-dawn sky. Inside a bartender, nameless to me, nods and smiles. He is scratching a sore and talking to a police officer who has a tattoo of a Gaelic knot. Time has eroded the navy lines together.
“She didn’t feel any pain,” the officer says. “What was left of her just washed down the drain.” He shrugs, raising his coffee to his mouth and his sleeve up above the knot. Roman numerals mark some date, tallied on his arm like a prisoner counting sunless days.
A ruddy, pock-mocked old man hiccups so violently that his eyes roll like lost marbles. The cop puts his arm around him and laughs. But his smile is short-lived. “I, too, lost a son in Afghanistan, so I can understand their pain.”
I realize that some choose not to sleep at night. Under cover of darkness they do not see the things that they do not want to see: a lost son, an empty wallet, their own reflection.
“And then her family walked outside in the rain. She was up in the tree, just swaying back and forth, back and—“
“You have a nice night,” the tired cashier tells me.
“Thank you. You try to do the same,” I stammer.

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