Otis sat at his tattered corner booth, the pale pink and teal upholstery ripped and worn by all those who had rested there before him. His charcoal-grey hair was oily and unkept as if he hadn't known the pleasure of a shower or a comb since his early days in the war. His once green army jacket, faded to a light grey, covered the untucked, torn, and sweat-stained Goodwill T-shirt under it. He wore an old pair of denim blue jeans that were shredded in the knees and rested three inches above his boney ankles; exposing the charity he depended upon. His eyes, filled with loneliness and despair as if he had realized a lack of purpose in his life, were set in bags of black and purple rings two layers deep. His long, slender nose was set above a full crooked mouth with little lines at the corners giving his face the character of someone who used to smile often, but the firm set of his square jaw revealed a portrait of a man who knew only failure.
I glanced around the dimly lit dining room of our neighborhood Jack-In-The-Box at the collection of adolescent girls and boys gossiping about their absent friends, urban families enjoying their weekly treat of chicken fingers with exotic dipping sauces, and a teenage employee attempting to grasp a carpet sweeper with her fry-greased hands. As each of their gazes wandered the room curiously observing the quaint surroundings, their eyes conveniently skipped over the socially unacceptable figure in the corner, but I saw him clearly.
With both hands resting lightly on the table to each side of his white foam cup, Otis stared into its deep abyss of emptiness with his head bowed as if willing it to fill again, giving him a reason to enjoy the shelter that the indoors provided. I could almost touch the conflict going on inside of him, a battle of wills as if he was negotiating with an imaginary devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. I sensed a cramp of discomfort seizing his insides, compelling him to flee, then...
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