A dunkin' donuts hidden among the industry and swamps of the meadowlands. Friday morning. Rain. Stone-faced workmen form a line in the fluorescent, familiar place. Truckers... bricklayers... plumbers... no weekend awaits them. A creamy cup of joe and a rubbery bagel swiped with cream cheese provide the fuel for the morning. Taste lost its relevance long ago.
Outside, a flock of herring gulls circle overhead, evaluating the dumpster. The bravest bird swoops low to see if last night's discarded french cruller is today's breakfast. Uses its beak to tear into the donut for whatever nutritional value it has. His friends take note and call out as the battle for scraps commences. The roar of an eighteen wheeler pulling out of the lot overpowers their cries.
At a backwoods diner, where the coffee is weak and bottomless, and the nearest city isn't a city at all, three old friends sit in a booth.
"Is it better to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big ocean?" asked the first man.
"Small fish. Small pond. It's all I've ever known." said the second man.
They sipped their coffee in silence. Finally, the third man chimed in. "I'd rather be out of the water altogether."
The afternoon's drizzle left behind the scent of a fresh, immature rain. An aimless man caught a whiff that an air freshener could only hope to imitate. It was the smell of early spring, and the first sign of its existence yet this year. Maybe winter really was a memory. A thick, frothy fog had formed over the Hudson. From the river's edge, the big apple was no longer visible. It was easy to forget that the town had ever been there at all. No burning buildings. No happy hours. No missed deadlines. No first kisses. The aimless man shrugged and stared into the imagined abyss.