Automat (1927) by Edward Hopper
Why is she all alone? Behind her, the city has dissapeared and for once let see what it hides: emptiness. Only the reflection of the automat lights stand out in the dark.
Her eyes are down, straring at the coffee cup. Maybe we could think she’s sad, but if we look closer, her expression doesn’t say that. She seems to be very calm. Do her lips draw a grimace of displeasure? Or is it dissapointment? Perhaps tiredness? She may be lost in her thoughts.
We have the feelings it’s late at night. It’s easy to think that the rest of the local is empty. The only client is this woman. What is she doing having a coffee so late? Perhaps she was dreaming when her ghosts got her and took her away from her sleep. Abscence and desolation found a way to her heart in the silence of night and she couldn’t go back to sleep, so that she decided to go for a walk in the lonely streets to get those thoughts out of her mind. As it was cold, she entered the automat to have something warm and wait for the sleep to return…
But, why does it have to be late in the night? Maybe it’s just a winter evening, when sun sets early. In the automat there can be other clients and she may be waiting for someone. Probably, her serious mien will be soon lit up with a smile when her lover arrives. Or maybe her heart is broken and she’s looking back at her memories of him, imaging a date that never would be. Or maybe she’s just at this automat waiting for love to come into her life.
But, why does she have to be waiting for someone? Perhaps she’s just leave work and come to the automat to have a coffee before going home. Or maybe she works at night and wanted to have something before. She’s taken off just one of her gloves, so we can think she’s leaving soon or she’s just arrived. Or maybe she’s a clueless person and hasn’t realized it. It must be cold in the automat to wear that big coat. But there’s something on in that leads us to think it’s warm and comfortable, something that makes us want to take it away from her and wear it…
But, why does she have to be there for a reason in particular? Maybe she just felt like having a coffee. Perhaps she likes to be in her own. She’s one of the few people who has enough courage to look at loneliness into the eyes, who doesn’t fear to be completely alone. But nowadays, this is really strange. All people always need company, need someone to talk, maybe to hide the fact that they’re empty, maybe because they don’t stand theirselves. They fear to see what will happen if they look at what is inside of them. But not this woman.
What she can be thinking about? She may be entertaining with worries of everyday life. Or she may be remembering other times, when things were easier for her, when the sun shone and, outside, it wasn’t so dark. Perhaps she suffers for all the dreams she’s dreamed and never became true. She could be running away of that life to start from scratch in a new place where her mistakes will be forgotten and, in her way, she’s decided to make a stop to rest in the automat. Or maybe she’s just trying to find a meaning to her life.
We could imagine hundreds of stories. The woman’s face challenges us to find her story. The feelings that this picture express clearly get in our hearts, but we still can’t describe them. We can’t name them. Is it loneliness? Isolation? Even nostalgia? There’s no need of words, an image is better. And to describe all those difficult feelings, this picture is perfect. Should we recognize ourselves and our era in it?