The climax of "A Clean Well-Lighted Place" is as quiet and subtle as the story itself. Throughout the story, the young waiter wants to close the cafe early, while the older waiter wants to remain open, at least until their regular closing time. This is the only conflict inherent in the story. The presence of the old man drinking alone on the patio serves to emphasize the young waiter's impatience and lack of understanding in contrast to the older waiter's acquired wisdom in regard to the human condition. This conflict between them is resolved when the younger man finally closes the cafe, and we learn why the older waiter had protested:
I am one of those who like to stay late at the cafe . . . With all those who do not want to go to bed. With all those who need a light for the night . . . I am reluctant to close up because there may be some one who needs the cafe.
When the young waiter argues that there are many bodegas that remain open all night, the older waiter tries again to make the younger one understand:
This is a clean and pleasant cafe. It is well lighted. The light is very good and also, now, there are shadows of the leaves.
The young man's response is only "Good night."
The brief remainder of the story consists of falling action in which the older waiter continues their conversation in his mind, considering the nature of life--only emptiness ("nada"). He then goes to a bodega to drink alone at the bar, which he finds very unsatisfactory. He leaves. The story's resolution is found in the last few lines:
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.
The resolution of the story is ironic in that it resolves nothing in the old man's life. There is no reason to believe that each of his remaining days and nights will be any less empty than the one before it.