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His eyes are permanently weak from having been forced open through too many parties, a little bloodshot even when he’s been sleeping well all week.  His hair never stays combed:  the smallest thing blows it off course.  His wrinkles have come in neatly, so that he seems a much younger man who happens to labor under a disproportionate number of cares – and perhaps he is.  He smiles gently, more with his lips than his teeth, and sits in a coffee shop by the beach, just out of reach of the blazing sun, and drinks slowly, deliberately, the way the Italians do.  Occasionally someone buys him a pastry.

He is a regular, and if the chair opposite him is free someone will invariably take it.  He will offer them his gentle smile as they talk, and he will drink to fill the pauses.  His mouth will otherwise remain closed.  He has given his last advice in this lifetime.  None of it, he has good reason to believe, was ever taken.  The world is exactly the same as it was, only faster, and with a new façade that makes a new generation of promises it cannot keep.

Yes, he nods, yes, what a terrible thing, to the long haired woman in the sun dress who says that she’s given up on dating.  To the reporter who is nervous about his next story.  To the recovering alcoholic who says she doesn’t know how to be around people anymore.  His coffee tastes strongly of cinnamon, and was (the sign says) picked by indigenous farmers in the mountains of Bolivia, who have been harvesting beans since long before the world discovered itself.


Benjamin Wachs has written for Village Voice Media,, and NPR among other venues.  He archives his work at

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