The Man Who Sits Alone Typing
Updated: Apr 16
I think I once felt happiness.
A state of bliss.
A candy kiss.
But I had missed.
It was not this.
It was loneliness.
I’d merely learned to enjoy the solitude.
The man sits alone, beneath the dull light of a ceiling fan. It is very early in the morning. In fact, it is so very early in the morning that some would instead say, it is very late at night.
Everyone else is asleep. Everyone except the man. Even the cat, sitting next to him on the couch, is dozing off between purrs. She is named Sheila. Sheila has a brother named Doug who is asleep beneath a bench in the front room. Their nemeses— the dogs— Enid and Wendell—are asleep in the big bed upstairs beside the man’s wife. They are her loyal companions. They never leave her side.
Every night the man sleeps next to his wife in the big bed upstairs. But as soon as he awakens—very early in the morning— the dogs take his place. The man does not sleep much. The dogs spend far more time in the big bed upstairs than does the man. It is more theirs than his. It is possible she is more theirs than his.
The early morning hours at which the man awakens are among his favorite hours of the day. They give him a sense of comfort and safety. When asked why he finds these early morning hours to have such appeal, he invariably replies that nothing bad ever happens to someone sitting on their couch at 4:30 in the morning.
Which has a sizable nugget of truth to it.
When one is sitting alone on a couch at 4:30 in the morning, and all the people he loves and cares for are soundly sleeping in their beds, the likelihood of any sort of disturbance becomes virtually nonexistent.
While it is entirely possible and not unprecedented that someone could suddenly awaken with a terrible toothache, a sharp pain in their side or a distressing intestinal issue— they rarely do. And if they did, the man would be prepared to help.
For the most part, however, at 4:30 in the morning there is only stillness. And it is stillness that the man craves more than anything.
During the daytime, when all are awake and going about their business, things can get so hectic for the man that all he wishes for in the entire world is a bit of stillness with which to gather his thoughts.
But the wish is never granted. Nothing ever stops. Nothing ever slows down. Not until 4:30 in the morning. That’s when the man can sit alone and enjoy the stillness.
The man insists that it is only when the stillness finally arrives that the typing can be properly done. Of course, it is necessary to the man’s profession that the typing be done at other hours too. Hours when there is no stillness. But whenever possible, whatever the man has written during the hustle and bustle of the day is rewritten at 4:30 in the morning— amidst the stillness.
There have only been two men to sit in this house alone at such an early hour.
Bill was the first.
Bill built the house in 1952 and lived in it until the day he died. After an appropriate period of mourning passed, the house was sold to the man and his wife.
Bill was 17 when WWII started. He joined the army on his 18th birthday and headed off to bootcamp with a bit of leftover cake still sitting on the counter.
When Bill came back from the war, he got an engineering degree through the G.I. Bill, married his high-school sweetheart—Bertha—and built the house that the man who sits alone typing, now sits alone typing in.
Bill got himself a job at Ford after the war. Or, as a certain generation in these parts would say, “Bill got himself a job at Ford’s after the war.” We have no idea why that generation bestows the Ford Motor Company with its possessive tense. But it is a fact that they do.
Every day, Bill would kiss Bertha on the cheek as she handed him his briefcase and thermos filled with coffee before heading out the door for work.
As Bill toiled away in the engineering department at Ford’s, Bertha maintained the home, made sure Bill’s shirts were cleaned and ironed, did the shopping and had dinner waiting for Bill when he got home.
After a few years, Bill and Bertha had a child. It was a difficult birth. There were complications.
Bill was not prepared to be the father of a child with special needs. In fact, the term child with special needs wasn’t even around when Bill and Bertha became parents of a child with special needs. But none-the-less, he was a father now. Whether there were special needs or not were of no consequence to Bill. He was a man with responsibilities. He had obligations to fulfill.
So, every morning, Bill went on as before. He kissed Bertha on the cheek as she handed him his briefcase and thermos and then off he went to his job at Ford’s.
Bertha, as before, remained at home. She cooked and cleaned. Made sure Bill’s shirts were ironed. And cared for their special needs child. When Bill came home the child was taken upstairs so that Bill could eat his dinner in peace. After dinner he would spend the rest of the night in his workshop in the basement where he would tinker with a clogged carburetor, a malfunctioning toaster or anything else that needed his attention.
Bertha got breast cancer and died way too young. Bill was probably only about 40 and suddenly he was on his own with a special needs child and probably didn’t even know how to turn on the oven.
Bill and Bertha were of the generation that not only referred to the Ford Motor Company as Ford’s but they had a certain way of doing things. Roles were defined very rigidly for that generation. The men worked and the wives took care of everything else.
When Bill came home from a day on the job, Bertha was there to greet him with a stiff drink and a kiss on the cheek. Everything was taken care of. The clothes were all clean, the house was spic and span, the special needs child was upstairs and out of sight. Bertha even mowed the lawn.
Bill wasn’t prepared to be a widower at 40. Without Bertha, he was completely lost. He did the best he could. He hired someone to care for the special needs child. But when he came home there was no kiss on the cheek, no dinner waiting and no one to cut the grass.
This was not the way Bill had expected things to go.
It made Bill angry.
It made him mean.
He lived for 50 more years that way.
Mean and angry and alone.
When Bill died the entire neighborhood rejoiced.
Heaven help the child whose football was accidentally overthrown into Bill’s yard. If a dog was left outside and barked too long there would soon be an angry pounding on the front door. Even the mailman was not immune to the lash of Bill’s tongue when a misplaced letter accidentally found its way into Bill’s mailbox.
The neighbors described him as wretched.
Others weren’t as kind.
People were happy when Bill died.
Bill was probably pretty happy too.
Things had not gone the way Bill had expected them to. Like the man who sits alone typing, Bill didn’t sleep much either. He spent a lot of time in the stillness. Festering.
And when he finally died, they cleaned out the house that he had lived in for close to 70 years.
But even after the house was cleaned out, there were still a few things left behind. There are always a few things left behind.
An old suitcase in the attic.
Bill’s workbench in the basement.
An old pink recliner.
That was most likely Bertha’s chair. It sure as shit wasn’t Bill’s.
Every once in a while, the man who sits alone typing will come across a lost bolt underneath the work bench, a tattered baseball buried in the overgrown flower bed or an old rusty coffee can filled with rags for shining shoes.
They are Bill’s. The man who sits alone typing treasures these finds. He cleans them up and puts them on a shelf in the paint closet.
The man sometimes talks to Bill as if he’s there. The man knows he isn’t, but he does it none the less. In some ways he feels sorry for Bill. The man knows all too well what it’s like when things don’t go the way you expected them to. The man who sits alone typing is intimately familiar with routine disappointment.
The man who sits alone typing did not expect to be the man who sits alone typing. This was not the life he saw for himself. This was not the way he expected things to go. He thought it would be quite different. The man who sits alone typing had no idea how hard and cruel life can be. It exceeded his expectations quite a bit in that regard.
Over and over and over again.
That’s why the man who sits alone typing enjoys being awake at 4:30 in the morning. That’s when things go the way you expect them to. There are no surprises. There is nothing scary at 4:30 in the morning. There is just the stillness. And the hope that the man who sits alone typing clings to that happier days are still ahead.
“Help me, Bill,” the man sometimes whispers.
Bill does not answer.
There is only the stillness.
And so the man who sits alone begins typing.
Thanks for reading. I'll see you again real soon.