Ant comes to the cafe every morning for his coffee. He’s a big man, yet it's easy to miss him. He sits in the corner by the dusty plant, watching the world with cloudy, dull eyes. He seems only half-awake, and if you knew the signs of a heavily medicated adult male, you would easily see it. He’s there but somehow not, and even the brightness in his face is only ever momentary, a fleeting reflection of artificial light. Though despite the heavy stupor of a numb mind and neglected body, he is not oblivious to beauty and is often in fact the first to notice it.
Today his attention is caught by the face of a young woman he has never seen before. Her face is dark and moody, and as she orders coffee and takes it to the far corner of the room, he wonders if she too is suffering her way through the world. He keeps his downcast eyes fixed slyly on the side of her face, and imagines bringing her to his tiny flat where his paintings and books are piled up all over the place. Would she recognize herself in him, a kindred sufferer of the soul? Would she see him for the suffering, beautiful artist he truly was, disguised but not destroyed beneath the folds of his dirty, rotting skin? Would she give herself to him on stained sheets and a sunken mattress? Would she see his pain, his torture, his madness? Would she love him at first sight?
Because she could have him, this one. She could do with him whatever her heart desired. Destroy him even, it made no difference to him. In fact, better that she did. What better way to die than for lust, he decided as he watched her small fist fly across the page of her notebook.
Look at me, he silently commanded. Look at me and I'm yours forever. Look at me and you will know all my secrets. Look at me and you will have all of my suffering as well as your own and your agony will be complete. And when she finally did, compelled as if by some invisible force, the floor of the cafe suddenly shook and and cracked open and he found himself falling into it, way down and deeper still until at last everything was black and he felt his breath leaving him.
Spread-eagled out on the floor of the cafe, Ant’s body lay still and unconscious as people dropped their croissants and half-finished lattes to rush to the floor. Who was this stinking bulk of a man? Everyone wanted to look like they were doing the right thing, like they actually cared for this human being, but no one would touch him even to check his pulse.
Then the quiet young woman they had never seen before came forward from her dark corner. Without looking at anyone, she dropped to her knees and reached her hand out to his dirty neck.
Dead, she announced to the crowd. Dead as a doornail, and if you think he stinks now you better not wait to get him out of here. And as she stood up to gather her things, they parted like waves in the ocean to let her pass and no one said a word. Eventually someone called an ambulance and the big man was neatly collected up and taken away.