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A Middle-Aged Man

Samuel Teoh

He was a man with many aspirations of self-reliance and had lived up to none of them, leaving the impression not of a man but the shell of one. He sat at his desk with his head hanging between slim shoulders, hunched over a computer that was too old to be new, but too new to be thrown away. Perhaps, the man thought, I’ll buy a new computer tomorrow. He’d said that yesterday.

The man’s gaunt and gray hands moved automatically across the keyboard, letter after letter, word after word, paragraph after paragraph. His eyes wandered over the words he’d written, absorbing the letters and not the meaning. There was no meaning, anyway, he thought, I am in the middle of the paper, with no direction and no purpose. No meaning… The middle-aged man had to remind himself what had no meaning—the paper, of course, of course.

The man adjusted his glasses perched on his beaked nose, rubbed the hair on his balding head, and read the same line for the fourth time. Was it the fourth time? Or the hundredth? The man had lost count—he wasn’t counting in the first place anyway.

It was midnight.

“I want a divorce,” his wife said.

He did not register her words yet, marveling at how he used to have to look down at his wife—now it felt like she was staring down at him from a very, very high place. Maybe it was something in her eyes, the man thought.

“What?” he said.

“I want a divorce,” his wife said again. The four words inked themselves into the man’s brain like the four words he’d asked her eighteen years ago when he was young.

It was a quarter past midnight. He sat there, hunched and empty, on a bed that was no longer theirs but his. She’d tried to close the front door behind her quietly but the click had echoed through the empty house—empty because he was no longer a man but a shell. Maybe he never was a man.

Was it last week? The day he’d walked out of his office and saw his wife with a man who kissed her like how a husband would kiss his wife. The woman kissed him back. Young, the middle-aged man thought. The young man and woman walked up the steps to a young and beautiful house and closed the door behind them. Click.

The click reverberated through his bones. It resounded in his head. The man stepped into their—no—his closet and closed the door behind him. Click. He pulled open his drawer and took out a gun he’d bought to kill intruders. But maybe the only person who didn’t belong was himself.

The tip of the gun pressed against the side of his head. He cocked the gun. The click of the hammer on the revolver clicked like the click when the woman closed the door on the empty house. He cocked the gun again, just to hear the click. He thought for a second about the paper he’d left unfinished, the one he was still in the middle of—but it was meaningless anyway. What was meaningless? No, not his paper—his life.

It was half past midnight.

This is the end, he said. Laughed.

The middle-aged man was still crying when

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