A Clean, Well-Lighted Place
How we cite our quotes:
Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It is the light of course but it is necessary that the place be clean and light. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not fear or dread. It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it was already nada y pues nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. (14)
The older waiter's dissatisfaction stems from this realization that the world is simply "nada" – it's meaningless. The best one can do is linger in a quiet, bright place and come to terms with this fact.
"The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished," the waiter said.
The barman looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for conversation. "You want another copita?" the barman asked.
"No, thank you," said the waiter and went out. He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it is probably only insomnia. Many must have it. (16-19)
In an attempt to make some sense of his profound discontentment, the waiter tries to reason with himself, saying that it's just insomnia. However, we get the feeling that it's definitely more than that – and that there are plenty of people out there with the same sense of dissatisfaction. While he could possibly have tried to sort things out more in the right place, the bar he stops at is unsatisfactory, and the older waiter has no choice but to go home to his own thoughts.