A Philosophical Short Story

She was sitting in her apartment, a fourth-floor walkup, alone with little more than her thoughts to keep her company. Chief among these, the thoughts that is, were her recollections of an event she had witnessed earlier that day. It was an odd day, but she could recall so few days that couldn’t be considered odd while living in the city. It was her upbringing which led her to the solitary life she now led. It was a quiet life, but she was content.

The day began sitting in a small independent coffee shop a block from her apartment. Years prior she had taken up a practice, which had by now become habit, where she sat and watched her fellow man. When she watched it wasn’t with the passing glance that so many had to give. She gave time and attention to her subjects. She took arduous mental notes of the peculiar creatures around her. What they wore, where they went, who they went with, what they did, and what they said. She was, if she was honest a witness to the world. Vagrants in the street, businessmen callously pushing past each other, and the hordes of gawking tourists who inevitably stopped to ask her where they could find some landmark. She despised the tourists most of all.

But it was a Thursday, her day in the café. And on this particular day she had taken a keen interest in a young couple at the table opposite her, a man and woman. At least she assumed it was a couple. They spoke softly and only intermittently, but with an intensity that quite piqued her interest. It was clearly an argument, but she couldn’t determine the nature. It was forty or fifty minutes into her observations of the couple that she quite clearly saw the young woman stand up next to her partner, reach across the table to her handbag, pick it up, take out a knife, and stab the man in the stomach. She then casually strolled out of the café. Nobody batted an eye. Nobody had been watching but her. The man was quite clearly dying, but she felt the overwhelming need to ask what the argument had been about. She had thought about calling for help but was far too interested in what could possibly have demanded this outcome and feared that the commotion that would be caused from her raising the alarm would make her task too difficult.

She rose from her chair, strode across the room, and sat in the chair that was previously occupied by the young woman. She looked at the man who had a tight grasp of his abdomen and who had been struck by a sense of overwhelming dread. She wondered silently why he hadn’t called for help.

“Got stabbed, huh?” she asked him. “That sucks.” He looked back at her. “It’s just that I’ve been sitting over there…” she turns and points to the table she had just come from, “and I couldn’t help but see what happened. I had been watching you both for a while and couldn’t quite figure out what you had been talking about.” He looked at her blankly. “Well? Aren’t you going to tell me?” she demanded. He didn’t respond. In fact, as the life drained from his face it was clear that he was going to be no help to her at all. “You know, you’re quite rude. It wouldn’t hurt to indulge my curiosity. It’s not like it would kill you.” And with this admonishment, she got up and returned to her table. As she walked away, the man died.

She was frustrated that the dead man hadn’t been more helpful to her. “What must it have been?” she wondered. Then she realized that there was someone who knew, and even better, someone alive. The young woman. She raced from the table and chased down the street after her. She remembered the bright red coat the young woman had been wearing. It was several long block before she finally caught up with the woman, who was chatting on the phone while walking “Yes, yes, I’ll be there in a few minutes” she said to the person on the phone. “No, Mark won’t be with me.”

“Excuse me ma’am, are you the woman who just stabbed that man in the café?” She asked, already knowing full well that she was. No response. “It’s just that I have this insatiable desire to know what it was that caused you to stab him. I don’t want to cause any trouble, but I really need to know.”

“Well, why do you care?”, the young woman asked.

“Well, you see, I can’t imagine what could have prompted that reaction. It must have been something really important.”

“Not really”, said the young woman. “You see, I wanted to go to this party, and Mark, the man I was with, didn’t want to go. I told him he would regret it if he didn’t, but he didn’t seem to care.”

“A party? You stabbed him over a party?! Well, that’s really weird! What is wrong with you?!”

“I love parties, but I hate to go alone. He knew that, and yet he wanted me to go alone anyway. If he loved me he would have come with me.”

“So you killed him?!”

“Well, you asked.” The young woman said with a finality that caused her to stop in her tracks. It’s not the answer she expected, but it’s the one she got, and she was content. She was glad that she was an upright citizen who would never put her own obsessions above the wellbeing of others.

Back in her apartment, she thought about the day’s events. Why hadn’t the man called for help she wondered, but knew that she would never really know. Perhaps, she thought, he was content too. She thought he must have been glad to have someone with him when he died. She was glad that she was there for him. This made her happy, and it made her solitary life seem a little less solitary.