He stepped outside on the cool, gray morning and felt the misty wet air attack his skin. The sound of the highway off in the distance was just a low hum, barely audible compared to the sounds of the animals in the yard. As he walked to the road to get the daily paper, the resident mourning dove called out from its perch on the tall tree beside the driveway. It was as if the song was tightly in tune with his soul, for with each note the bird sang a new set of goose bumps appeared on his skin. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply as he tried to shake the morning’s mourning, trying to stave off the overwhelming pain of his depression for just a minute more.

Just one minute longer. Just one lousy, stinking minute of relief from the burdens he carried all by himself every day. It was all he craved, all he wanted, all he needed. He wanted it more than his morning cup of coffee, more than his morning cigarette, which he had forgotten to smoke for the past week anyway (though consciously acknowledging that he had unofficially quit smoking would only make him miss it so he convinced himself that he had simply forgotten to smoke these past few days). Peace. Tranquility. In this world of mayhem and madness, he was seeking an oasis in which to rest his weary mind.

He thought he had found it. A wife, a couple of kids, a dog, a kitten – he had invested so heavily in them, given them everything he had, given them all of him. He had done this to his own detriment. His whole life became about them to such an extent that he lost himself, instead defining his life in terms of his family, his possessions. Then as is inevitable, they left him. The dog died long ago. The kids grew up and moved away to invest in their own families. The kitten became a cat and couldn’t be bothered with him and his need for companionship. The wife, well, she stayed, though there was no love or kinship or communication to be had at this point in their relationship. It was as if they didn’t even know each other anymore; perhaps they never had. These days, they were little more than roommates.  All they shared was the TV.  And the loneliness.

But the despair, that was all for him, all his own, all he had left from a life he thought had such promise. Well, the depression and the regrets – he had those, too. As he picked up the daily batch of bad news, it began to rain. He dropped his arms to his side and looked up at the sky. As he often did, alone in these cool, early mornings out by the road, he joined the mourning dove in its song of woe. He wept for all he had lost. He wept for all he never had. But mostly he wept, despite the fact that real men were not supposed to cry. No one would notice, for in order to notice someone would have to be there with him. Standing there, on his driveway, in his pajamas, in the rain, he felt the complete and utter truth of how alone he was.

He went back into the house with tears and rain and mist all mixed up on his face and clothes. His wife muttered something about not getting the floor wet and taking his shoes off and what the heck is wrong with your face – he muttered back to her about the rain and sloshed off to the kitchen to fill his coffee mug, to once again attempt to drown his sorrows in a cup of caffeinated gold, freshly brewed but ignored an hour earlier. Happily sitting down with his cup he took his first sip and sighed. Ice cold. He tried to tune her out, but from the other room he heard her voice, scraping against his bruised and bloodied psyche.

“Unplugged the coffee pot,” she said.

“Needed to plug in my Epilady,” she said.

“I’m sure you’ll drink it anyway,” she said, “though I don’t know how you drink that stuff at all.”

He opened the paper and took another long, cold drink of the swill he had counted on, completely filled with the emptiness of his life.

Mine, he thought. It’s all mine.