Just Another Nameless Face
Bradly Matson
Today, just as every other day, I made my way down the busy city streets to my job. The taxi that I had hired came to a stop in the street in front of a towering skyscraper. I got out and looked up to see the company logo lit up at the
very top. It was the tallest building in the city, and rightly so: the company spanned the world, and the CEO was one of the wealthiest men alive.
I made my way inside through the grand lobby and into the elevator that carried me to the top of the building. I walked out, greeting my few coworkers and made my way to a large board room to attend a meeting. Sitting there, I waited with others. Finally a man entered, his suit perfectly tailored for his body, crisp and black. His face was clean shaven, and his hair was slicked back. Nothing seemed to be out of place. He carried himself with a powerful stride, and he kept a strong posture through the entire meeting as he discussed plans and policies for future expansion. He was always energized and seemed to be perfect. He was both admired and feared by everyone in the room. This was the CEO. This was just another day in my life.

After my typically long day at work, I was more than ready to head home. As I was leaving the building, something caught my eye. Standing near the corner of the building was a woman. From her promiscuous dress and her seductive looks at the men passing by, it wasn't too hard to figure out why she was there. I shook my head and began to turn around when another person caught my eye. This time it was a man who looked to be about my age and was dressed very shabbily. His jacket hung in tatters and the shirt underneath was stained. His jeans were ripped in many places, and even his shoes looked like they struggled to hold together. It looked as if he hadn't shaved for days, as rough stubble covered his face. His hair, too, looked unkempt. Yet somewhat to my amazement, he was walking straight up to the woman.
Needless to say, I was a bit interested to see how this would all play out. I pulled out my phone and leaned against a wall, attempting to look busy. I watched the man walk up to the woman and watched the woman's expression turn to one of disgust. That expression quickly changed, however, as the man reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. I couldn't believe it myself. Quickly realizing that I had been staring at the scene for entirely too long, I faked a stretch and a yawn, then turned and began to walk away. Glancing back one last time, I saw the man and woman also walking away, entirely too close to one another. I once again shook my head and made my way back home.

A few days later I was again making my way to work. Unlike most other days, however, I had managed to get out of the house early enough that I could walk instead of taking a cab. I enjoyed doing this. It was nice to get a bit of exercise before a full day of sitting at my desk. I enjoyed being able to take time and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, and I liked to give what I could to the homeless to try to brighten their days. So I went along, making my way to work, greeting others as I saw them, and dropping some cash into the jars of those who were in need.
I came upon a man who was sitting against a wall, blanket draped around his shoulders, a lone tin can sitting in front of him. I walked up and reached into the pocket where I kept some money for this purpose. I stopped short, though, as I recognized the man's face. The same unshaven face, the same messy and greasy hair, and I was sure he was wearing the same tattered clothing underneath the blanket. He looked up to me, a pitiful look in his eyes. Finally I gave in, deciding to give him the benefit of the doubt. He had probably come to regret his previous expenditure, and I hoped that he had learned his lesson. I dropped ten dollars into the tin and the man smiled up at me. I nodded back, but was unable to smile at him. I turned and made the rest of my commute, now heading straight to work.
That evening I walked out of the front door and onto the sidewalk, stretching and ready to get home after a long day. I looked over and there she was again, the same woman who was there just a few days ago, in very similar dress and giving very similar looks to those walking by. As I was about to turn away, I noticed that her expression changed. Her eyes brightened and a smile crossed her face. I followed her gaze and was appalled by what I saw; rather, at whom I saw. The same man, in the same dress, looking precisely as he had just that morning. He met the woman's gaze and smiled back as he approached her. Just as he had only days before, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bunch of cash. On top of the stack was a ten dollar bill that seemed to be smiling at me, mocking me. The woman reached out her hand and grasped the man's, holding the money in between them, and hand in hand they walked away. Annoyed, I turned and walked away as well.
And so it continued. The few days that I was able to walk to work I still saw the man sitting by a building, sometimes awake and alert, other times tired looking, and still other times sleeping against the wall. Most of these days I avoided him altogether, though there were a few days that I mistakenly made eye contact with the man and felt like I should give him something, to set a good example. Even these days, though, I never gave him more than a few spare coins.
I kept up my regular routine at work as well, seeing the CEO every few days. I would often see him taking time to talk with the employees personally, just as he had with me on a few occasions, though it was never for long. Still, it was nice to see that he was still friendly and very personable and overall a good boss.
A little over two months had passed since I had first noticed the woman. Another work day ended, and I was once again able to return home. I passed through the building's main entrance onto the sidewalk in front and once again saw her. Today though, the man was nowhere to be seen. I turned and walked home, not caring to see if the woman could pick up any other man.
Relaxing at home that night, I plopped down into my recliner and turned on the television. What I saw was unbelievable. I immediately got back up, threw on a coat, and made my way back to where I had come from only hours before.
The taxi driver let me out a few blocks south of my destination and I walked hurriedly the rest of the way. Upon arriving, I was stopped by bright yellow police tape and large amounts of debris. Up ahead was the lone area where the CEO's car usually sat. Only now, the car itself was twisted metal, the skeleton of its former self.
I approached slowly, awestruck by the scene. There were scorch marks on the ground around the vehicle and police officers and investigators scurried about. I walked up next to another man, one whom I recognized from the regular meetings headed by the CEO. He looked at me as I approached, but my eyes were still locked on the view ahead. "Car bomb," he said.
"Yes, I heard that much," I replied. "But why?"
The other man shrugged. "Insurance money, an attack on the company itself, someone trying to move up, who knows? The Man was worth billions, so it's hard to say for sure."
"Was anybody else hurt?" I asked.
"There were a few injuries. Some people walking by on the other side of the street were hit by debris, there were some burns, and some tramp was killed, but that was it."
"Some tramp?"
"Just some woman he must have picked up outside the building. He was known to do that on occasion. I guess they were just getting into the car when the bomb went off. Anyway, for the press release we will just say that she was nearby, but not with him. Less bad publicity for the company."
I glanced at the man, but my eyes were quickly drawn back to the scene. And they stayed there until late into the night.

I got out of the car and made my way through the cemetery to the place that the CEO was to be buried. It was a humble plot, which surprised me. However, it was not something I was going to question. His choices were his own.
It was a cold day and my long black coat hung around me, shielding me from the late autumn breeze. Grey clouds hung in the sky, warning of a possible storm later on. I stood with a large group of others, including numerous board members and coworkers that I recognized. The members of his family were oddly segregated, and a third group of people were there, which I certainly didn't recognize but whose purpose was obvious. Men and women stood around with cameras and microphones, providing coverage of the event. Their cameras were focused on the group I was with, as the family apparently wanted no part of the whole affair. While the cameras made me slightly uncomfortable, I accepted it, knowing that there was nothing that I could do.
A service was held and I remained silent throughout, as did all of us who had worked with him. When it finally ended, I hung around for a bit, having nowhere else to go for the day. I watched as the camera crews packed up and the other workers got into their vehicles and left. The family stayed, mourning at the gravesite.
Looking around I saw that another, much smaller service was just ending. A man was guiding two young girls to a car, leaving a lone man behind. I felt pity for the man and decided to go and see if I could comfort him in any way. I would not have wanted to mourn alone.
I approached from the side and could see the man casting his eyes at the face of the tombstone, standing by a mound of freshly turned earth. Looking at the scene, something struck me as odd, but I couldn't quite place what it was.
The man was standing there, his hair combed but blown about by the wind, his face cleanly shaven, his clothes nice but not overly formal. It was because of all of this that I didn't recognize him at first. When I finally did, my sympathy was replaced by anger. I was certain that I knew at whose grave he stood.
"It must have been nice," I began as I reached him, "throwing away money on a prostitute when you could have improved yourself with it." The man looked at me coldly but said nothing, then turned his gaze back to the grave.
"You are disgusting," I continued, unable to stop myself. "You pay for this prostitute all of the time and now you show up at her funeral? What kind of a man are you? You are like a child mourning the loss of a plaything."
The man looked up at me again, and this time he did have something to say. "This prostitute, as you call her, has more to her life than you could possibly imagine. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe you knew about her father, dying at the hand of some casino shark and leaving her mounds of debt when she was only eight. Maybe you knew that from that young age she was forced into this life and it became all she knew. Maybe you knew that she was selling herself nearly every night in order to support herself and two daughters. Maybe you knew, but maybe she was still disgusting to you." The man paused and looked back down at the tombstone. His shoulders shook and tears fell from his face to the cold ground below.
"I worked,” he said, his voice cracking. “I worked so hard, not for her services, not to take advantage of her, but to give her a night to relax, a night to be a person, not an object. Long nights of work to support me, long days of begging to support her. And now you call me disgusting? Look at yourself, mourning a man who you didn't even know, and all just for the publicity of it. Look at that, then see if you feel it fit to call me disgusting again."
"You're wrong," I retaliated. "I did know him. He was more than just a boss to me, to all of us."
"Oh, really?" the man asked, looking back up at me, his eyes still red from the tears. "Then tell me about him. Tell me about his family or about his hobbies. Tell me what foods he liked, where he liked to go when he had time off. Tell me anything about him, not about his job or business."
I opened my mouth to tell him these things, but then I froze. I was standing there, looking like an idiot in my three-piece suit with my mouth hanging wide open, unable to answer a single one of his questions. Slowly I closed it again and cast my eyes downward. The other man, whose eyes had been piercing me the whole time, once again turned his head to the tombstone.
The man said nothing more, and I couldn't bring myself to look at him again. Looking down, I finally realized what was amiss. "The tombstone," I said. "It doesn't have a name."
"You see her in death just as you saw her in life," he said, his eyes still locked on the stone. "I knew her. She was a person, someone with value, with thoughts and emotions. I see this stone, and I know that. I know exactly who she was. Her daughters too: they will look upon this and know who lies here. To you, on the other hand," he said, bending over to pluck a single blade of grass from the earth, "To you she was nothing. A face without a name. And that is what you see here as well." As he said this, he opened his hand and let the blade of grass fall. I watched it as is descended, until it was finally lost in the sea of grass below. And then I just stood there. I could say nothing more.

Many years have passed. To this day I do not know her name. I lean forward and drop a flower on the grave beside hers, another grave marked with a blank stone, another name that I know not. And I do not need to know.