Disclaimer: I don't own Rent. In fact, I barely rent Rent. Rent, actually, owns me.
A/N: Written for SpeedRent, and is/was inspired by Matt Caplan's version of One Song Glory. Feedback, is as always, appreciated. (P.S.- I met Matt Caplan the other night - total sweetheart. :0) )

Story of a Man

No, I'm sorry, those people were here first- we don't have tables for seven. - Tick Tick Boom

Pan left - stucco walls with faded record covers, Playbills, magazine cutouts peeling off. Right - dust everywhere, muting the once-bright colors of the restaurant to a hazy gray.

Across the floor, a mouse scuttles it's soft, innocent body across the dirty tile, making the hand that holds the camera shudder a bit.

The cameraman steps back and nearly topples over backwards on a uprooted chair. Dust flies and then settles as the man regains his balance, his free hand grasping a nearby table. He coughs as the dirt clogs his lungs and then removes his glasses with the same free hand, rubbing the lenses on the edge of his worn teeshirt.

If anyone asked him only a few hours ago if he'd find himself inside the boarded up remains of the Life Café, he would have scoffed and declared them insane.

"You know me," He would have said to whoever it was, shaking his head at them, "I don't go there anymore. It's bad enough I'm in this city. There's no way I'm going over to Avenue B."

But he's here, with dust filled lungs and burning eyes. The place haunts him, memories upon memories filling his tired, sleepless brain.

This is the story of a man who'd fled, who'd run away with the same dream he'd appeared in New York with.

This is the story of a man who was back, who was facing his past, realizing his future.

Upon entering, he notes the sign on the door reads 'Oops! We're Closed!', and it's tipped awkwardly. He briefly wonders what had gone wrong here.

Behind the dust and stale air, the place still smells like burned quesadillas and vegetarian food, and he can practically taste the gooey tofu in his mouth as a fork is pushed between his lips by a neighboring hand and a familiar laugh.

The host's podium is empty now, and he can hear the complaints from the man as he and his friends tumble inside from the bitter cold.

"Don't push the tables together," He'd warn, as they did just that.

Or, "We don't have tables for seven," When he knew they fucking did.

It smells of laughter and Maureen's strawberry shampoo and those good days and bad days and days where there were only one, or two, or three of them, if that. It smells of solemn tears as they fall into lukewarm tea, and cologne as he leans into his roommate to get the salt shaker. It smells of Benny's traitor tendencies and stale marijuana smoke on Collins' jacket as he leansover the table to kiss Angel on the cheek.

This was the story of a man, standing in the middle of an abandoned restaurant, who's walls, if they could talk, would tell the most wonderful, heartbreaking stories.

And behind the floating dust and the overturned tables and the peeling walls, he sees the ghosts of his past, dancing on tables and celebrating life (Life), because that's all they can do in this world.

If he were to go outside, this man knows there's a total of one hundred and four steps to the front door of the loft's building, and another thirty to make it to the front sliding door.

"Roger?" A voice pierces through his subconscious, and he twirls on his heel, eyes locking on the blue eyes peering through the crack of the door where he'd bent his body to get in earlier. Scuffling, and a small woman appears beside him, rubbing at the dust that covers her sleeved arms. Roger smiles wanly at his sister before tucking the video camera underneath his arm and pulling off his glasses, wiping them once again on the edge of his shirt.

"Your eyes hurting you?" She asks, curious, wondering, caring.

He is turning into bones, falling apart, bit by bit. First the eyesight goes, then the ability to walk. Soon enough he'd be gone, joining the rest of the memories that float in this space.

"Just the dust," He assures, although he knows his words are a lie. They stand in silence.

"This is it, huh?" She wonders, reaching over to tug a piece of lint out of his hair. He nods and pauses, takes it in, revels, and then turns on his heel to leave.

"Yeah, it was. I'm ready to go now." He hears her sigh but doesn't stop, only pausing when he's back outside in the brisk air and reaching through the crack to help her climb through.

"Where to?" She asks as they stand outside on the sidewalk, Roger's clouding eyes flittering across the permanently silenced 'Life Café' sign. He glances down Avenue B, taking in the loft's dark presence down the street before turning in the opposite direction.

"Nowhere," He says, standing still, frozen, quiet. His sister, bouncing her knees to keep herself warm, furrows her eyebrows in confusion.

"Nowhere? Roger, it's cold-" She begins, but his hand goes up to silence her.

"Just wait." He insists, voice edgy and harsh. She titters in annoyance, rolling back on the balls of her feet.


"Wait, Krysta." He says again.

And the silence stretches on, and the sighing and the bouncing continue, a sharp contrast to Roger's powerful, still stance.

Five, ten minutes go by… this is the story of a man that -

"Roger?" A voice, timid and quiet. Roger turns on himself and sees Mark, hands stuffed in pockets and eyes still a lakewater blue.

"I got your letter. I'm glad you wrote to tell me you'd be back in town. Pretty suspicious though," Mark jokes, pulling a sheet of paper from his pocket and reading from it, "'Meet me in front of the Life, Sunday, 10PM. Roger.'"

Roger could feel Krysta's shock, seeing the man she's heard so much about but never, never, ever thought she'd meet.

"Yeah, well." Roger smirks and shrugs and ignores the happiness pushing through the bittersweetness he'd just been feeling. Mark's eyes, they see the glasses on Roger's nose and the camera tucked under the arm. With a genuine smile and a touch to the face and arm, Mark giggles his little boy laugh.

"What's with the accessories? Trying to be me?"

And Mark? He feels like home in Roger's powerful hug and smells like only true happiness.

This is a story of a man who's never truly understood until now.