Eddie Harper found himself in his mid fifties and alone. People said he was an alcoholic and maybe they were right. Looking back over things he could see how his drinking had cost him his wife and family and a good job many years ago.
He found himself working at Miller's Tool and Die, a small machine shop that was in the bad part of town. He had been hired as the night security guard to protect the business from vandals and graffiti artists. It was a huge drop from his accounting job that he had held some fifteen years before. He found that the booze had made him a loser in the eyes of women and so now he was alone.
He lived in a small boarding house in a little one room with a shared toilet. It wasn't exactly the way he had envisioned his life playing out. Now he was alone and lonely and only imagined striking up conversations with women that he would see at the diner where he ate his meals or the bar that he went to when he got off work.
The bar he went to opened at ten in the morning. Technically it was a bar and grill set up and stayed open until three in the morning. A few days ago after a morning of drinking at the bar then going home drunk, he had slept past the time he was to be at work. The boss had given him a warning that his job could be in danger if he was late many more times because of drinking. He had decided to go on the wagon once again and for what seemed to be the hundredth time, try to clean his act up.
He had stayed away from the bar for about a week having breakfast after work a the diner and avoiding the bar all together. Then last week he was at the diner and saw one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. In his mind he imagined striking up a conversation with her that ended with her going back to his room to spend the day. It was a wonderful fantasy that almost seemed too real. As the woman finished her meal and left he realized that he would spend the rest of his life alone. He no longer had the courage to even say hi to anyone like that. What the hell he decided. Not drinking was making things worse then better and so on this morning he found himself back at the bar and grill, depressed about his life and drinking gin at ten in the morning.
As he came into the barroom the waitress got him a glass of gin out of habit. She had noticed that Eddie hadn't been there for awhile and asked him where had been. Eddie ignored her questioning, too busy wallowing in his own self pity of the realization of being alone as a way of life for him until he would die. The waitress told him that if he didn't want to talk, that was fine with her, but she was there to listen if he felt like talking.
Eddie sat there quietly and the fantasy from the diner reentered his mind. The beautiful woman and how he had fantasized about taking her home. He took a drink and then decided to tell the waitress about the fantasy.
As he began to talk the waitress came over and leaned on the bar listening to his story. As she listened she could almost feel the pain in his voice. He told her about approaching the woman and talking to her and how she had asked him to take her home with him and spend some time with him. He talked with such passion that the waitress believed that he was relating a real part of his life, not realizing it was all a fantasy. As Eddie finished the story with the woman slipping out on him while he was gone to get her something to eat. In his fantasy she had left him a note and he knew he would never see this lovely woman again. As he finished, she refilled his glass with gin and he began sipping on it.
After he had taken a couple of drinks from the glass he looked up at the waitress and noticed that she had a tear in her eye. She began telling him that she knew how he felt. She was lonely too. She was not the kind of woman that men easily approached with conversation. She felt like it was because she was a little overweight and not that good looking. She expressed to him that people like them were not meant to be alone, it was something that life had just laid on them. The waitress sadly said that it was too bad that people like themselves were meant to be so alone that they probably wouldn't even find another like themselves. Another lonely soul that just wanted to be loved and have someone to spend time with. She sometimes wished that she would have someone who would meet her when she got off work and go home with her to take away the loneliness.
Eddie listened to her as she expressed her frustration with life and relationships. He began to formulate an idea. The more he thought about it the more it seemed like this was something that could happen and it brought a small smile to his face. He finished his drink and looked into her eyes. He took her hand and stare at her trying to get his courage up. Finally he asked her what time she would be off work. She told him that she worked until five that evening. He finally took a deep breath and looked down at the bar and in a soft shaky voice he told her, " I ain't got no place to go. If you want, I can pick you up after work tonight. Where I am at now, any place is a better place to be."
As the waitress watched Eddie leave the bar she smiled and her whole day changed. She understood exactly what he was saying. When you got no place to go, any place is indeed a better place to be.
A Better Place to be
by Harry Chapin
It was an early morning bar room,
And the place just opened up.
And the little man come in so fast and
Started at his cup.
And the broad who served the whisky
She was a big old friendly girl.
And she tried to fight her empty nights
By smilin' at the world.
And she said "Hey Bub, It's been awhile
Since you been around.
Where the hell you been hidin' ?
And why you look so down ?"
But the little man just sat there like he'd never heard a sound.
The waitress she gave out with a cough,
And acting not the least put off,
She spoke once again.
She said, "I don't want to bother you,
Consider it's understood.
I know I'm not no beauty queen,
But I sure can listen good."
And the little man took his drink in his hand
And he raised it to his lips.
He took a couple of sips.
And he told the waitress this story.
"I am the midnight watchman down at Miller's Tool and Die.
And I watch the metal rusting, and I watch the time go by.
A week ago at the diner I stopped to get a bite.
And this here lovely lady she sat two seats from my right.
And Lord, Lord, Lord she was alright.
"Oh she was so damned beautiful that she'd warm a winter's frost.
But she was long past lonely, and well nigh unto lost.
Now I'm not much of a mover, or a pick-em-up easy guy,
But I decided to glide on over, and give her one good try.
And Lord, Lord, Lord she was worth a try.
"Tongued-tied like a school boy, I stammered out some words.
But it did not really matter much, 'cause I don't think she heard.
She just looked clear on through me to a space back in my head.
And it shamed me into silence, as quietly she said,
'If you want me to come with you, then that's all right with me.
Cause I know I'm going nowhere, and anywhere's a better place to be.
Anywhere's a better place to be.'
"I drove her to my boarding house, and I took her up to my room.
And I went to turn on the only light to brighten up the gloom.
But she said, 'Please leave the light off, Oh I don't mind the dark.'
And as her clothes all tumbled 'round her, I could hear my heart.
The moonlight shown upon her as she lay back in my bed.
It was the kind of scene I only had imagined in my head.
I just could not believe it, to think that she was real.
And as I tried to tell her she said 'Shhh.. I know just how you feel.
And if you want to come here with me, then that's all right with me.
'Cause I've been oh so lonely, lovin' someone is a better way to be.
anywhere's a better way to be.'
"The morning come so swiftly but I held her in my arms.
But she slept like a baby, snug and safe from harm.
I did not want to share her with the world or break the mood,
So before she woke I went out and brought us both some food.
"I came back with my paper bag, to find out she was gone.
She'd left a six word letter saying 'It's time that I moved on.'"
The waitress took a bar rag, and she wiped it across her eyes.
And as she spoke her voice came out as something like a sigh.
She said "I wish that I was beautiful, or that you were halfway blind.
And I wish I weren't so dog-gone fat, I wish that you were mine.
And I wish that you'd come with me, when I leave for home.
For we both know all about loneliness, and livin' all alone."
And the little man,
Looked at the empty glass in his hand.
And he smiled a crooked grin,
He said, " I guess I'm out of gin.
And know we both have been so lonely.
And if you want me to come with you, then that's all right with me.
'Cause I know I'm goin' nowhere and anywhere's a better place to be."