Story #4: Life on paper

Story #4: Life on paper

He didn’t understand people too well, numbers were his thing. When capturing them on paper, people often proved unreliable, but numbers always behaved, without ever being dull or lacking surprise. You just need to know how to look at them and they will give you clarity, knowledge, they will reveal or obscure truths.

He was driven to the article he was reading now also by numbers, and he decided then that a business journalist might cover a lifestyle bit, just for a change of scenery. Well, it’s just that he noticed that the years in the article didn’t quite add up and if there wasn’t just some editing mistake, this girl he was reading about –absent minded, really – should have been older than they said she was. Way older, actually.

„Hello!”

„Hi…I’m J.L…aaa, I’m a journalist and I was just reading the article in today’s newspaper, about your story and how you got where you are now and just wanted to ask you some questions. I have your phone number from the author, he’s a colleague of mine”, he added, sensing the steep silence on the other side.

„I understand. I’m a bit…”

„It’s about when you left the village. It says here you were 17, but I think…”

„Look, sorry, I would love to answer your questions, but I’m a bit busy now. I’m just heading to the airport, so it will not be possible to discuss now. Thank you for your call, though. Good bye for now!”

„Should we…”set a meeting when you get back”, he wanted to say, but she was already gone.

And that is how he ended up in the next train to the village. To the town closest to the village, for accuracy, but the plan was to get a car and drive there first thing in the morning.

Which was exactly what he did and at 7.30 he had already arrived.  You could say that he was a man of action, waking up so early and taking an 1 hour drive on a weekend day, but actually he couldn’t sleep. He was starting to feel somehow self conscious, wasting his time with such a story, when serious economic matters waited to be analyzed. But he had taken the trip there, so he might as well get his answers.

First man he encountered in the village was the postman. Which was a good thing, postmen do tend to know a lot of things.

„Hey there, sir! I’m a journalist and I’m working on a story about S.J. I know she was born here and I was wondering where I could get more details about her family, her childhood…you know, some background stuff for my article…”

„That would be her father. You usually find him in the store at this hour, but today it’s closed, so maybe you could try by his house, it’s the third on the street just there”, said the postman pointing in the direction of a narrow street with lots of trees around the houses.

J. looked a little distrustful at the postman. He remembered clearly that the article said her father was dead so probably there was some kind of mistake with this also. Or maybe the postman was just mixing things up, he was rather old.

„You know, whatever they say, she really was a good girl”, the postman kept talking, oblivious to J.’s puzzled look. „Strong headed, that’s true, but a good girl.” He giggled. „When she was really little, she kept going near the fireplace and her mother, to teach her a lesson, pressed her hand a bit on the stove. When the stove was not really hot, you get it, it was just to teach her a lesson. Must have hurt, though, at least a bit, but she didn’t say a word, not a…”

„Sir”, J. interrupted, „I was under the impression that her father was dead”

The postman giggled again.

„No one is dead in that family”

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Story#3: All those things you don’t tell

Story#3: All those things you don’t tell

Oh, Good Lord, Soph!, she thought to herself, you’ve outdone yourself this time. They should give you the trophy for Miss Congeniality right now, on the spot. Oh, no, wait, not plain old Miss Congeniality, no, you can do much better than that; if fact, you did much better.  Miss “I’m so Smart and Great and Likeable and Chatty and Fun while I do Math Equations in my Head”. Yeap, that’s you, that’s much more accurate.

Now, you should just admit it, you don’t really want this job. If somebody would ask you now if this is indeed what you want and you were absolutely compelled to say the truth, you would finally let it out and say that you still don’t understand what all the fuss is about and why people act so important and busy. And it’s not like they were sent here and stationed between these walls to save the world; they were really not and you do not want to be like them, thank you very much.

Now, it probably doesn’t matter what you’ve said. What’s done is done, I’m pretty sure that once again you’ve put on your professional hotshot mask and voice and just went on and on, self assured, but not arrogant – you cannot be arrogant, everybody knows that – about what you know, what you did and most importantly, about what you can do for them. All this so that they would say: “Hey, we so much want you”.  But, if it were to truly say what you thought, maybe the speech would have gone something like this: “Hi, I’m Sophie and I don’t have the slightest idea what you want from me. Didn’t know before this conversation and for sure don’t know now. Heard the words, they all sound so deep and complicated, like there’s some space ship that needs to be prepared and sent right through universe at warp speed. Yes, it all sounds very good, except that there’s no simple explanation for how to go from A to B. More than that, why go from A to B. And what the hell is A, what is B and why there is no C?

And yes, you sound like a fun person. But do you hear how fun I sound? Told you, Miss Congeniality has nothing on me. It’s true that words seem to come to me quite easily, I’m also amazed by it, but I can assure you I’m not like this all the time. In fact, to be honest, in most of the cases, I would probably just ignore you. Not that you’re not ok or interesting or anything like that, but, in any other situation, wouldn’t find the reason to go through all this “let’s get to know each other” process.  Or maybe I would, who knows, but the big difference is that now I feel I have to.

Some things about me? Well, I’m great. Except that not all the time, but for the sake of this conversation, let’s just go with that: i.am.great. I know some stuff, maybe a lot of it, but for the most part I’m just terrified of the stuff that I do not know. And which everybody else surely knows, they absolutely do, that’s the big trick, otherwise things wouldn’t be so fun. And I am open to change, yes, let’s thick that box also and we can take some time to describe to you exactly where I see myself in five years. Or maybe we’ll book some separate time for this, I am very good with details and would probably take a while to go through the exact colour of the shoes I’d be wearing at the time and place where I see myself in 5 years.

Oh, no, it’s perfectly ok to go through some more questions now. I have a few that I’ve prepared myself, they’re all written down, we’ll take them one by one later on. It’s ok, I do have the time and I feel that this discussion is going so well.

So, you’d like to know what I really want to do.

Oh, that’s simple: be a princess.

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Story #2: Diary of a Ghost

Story #2: Diary of a Ghost

Dear Diary, 

My name is John and I am crazy. 

I mean, I must be; I wouldn’t necessarily like to say that I am, but if I put all the evidence together, I am compelled to admit that this is the truth. 

To the outside world, and to myself in most cases, I seem pretty normal. Happy childhood, average teenage years, quite successful adult. I like to think of myself as an intelligent man, I have flaws, but I’m rather relaxed and ok with myself as a whole. Except for the fact that I see ghosts. One ghost, to be precise, and I’m not even sure that this is what she is. 

 

 

I would call her the girl in white, if it wouldn’t sound so cheesy. First sighting was when I was little, too little to remember, so it must have been really early. I remember mostly a sensation, some white dress, veil or whatever and a girl walking. So I’m not sure that this is a particular moment or a collective remembrance of several and I don’t recall feeling anything in particular about it. I guess children tend to take all things as they come and not question the nature of their reality. Or wouldn’t have a problem with things that are not real. I just guess, I’m not sure.  

The next reliable memory of her is when I was 9 or 10. I was in the living room with my parents, watching some movie on the TV. I was, of course, bored with the movie and couldn’t follow it, so I entertained myself with what I liked to call my secret powers.  If I concentrated hard enough, the shadows that the moving images on the screen made in the dark room started to take shape and I could command them to become anything just by willing them to. And so I had clouds, horses, some not very refined shape that looked like a dog. I liked the game, but couldn’t play it too much because at some point the shapes started to rebel and they would become scary. I was doing that and at some point she just crossed the room, in her usual white gown. She didn’t seem to pay me any attention, but I knew that I was the only one who could see her. 

 

 

With further encounters, she started to make some kind of contact, if a slight glance or a fugitive smile could be called that. I saw her in many other occasions, at school during class, when I was out playing with friends, exams, football games, when I was out with girls, wherever and whenever, randomly, no pattern whatsoever and always wearing the white dress. 

 

 

So, dear diary, now might be the time when you ask: and why does this bother you?

Actually, it doesn’t. You see, I grew so accustomed to it that this is my reality. I cannot remember a time when she was not part of my life and I never felt threatened or even wondered why I can see her. Never thought of a reason why and I’m tempted to say that there probably is none. I have no problem with it, but I went to this medical exam which also included a talk with a psychologist and she asked me a bunch of routine questions. I think they are routine questions. I was candid about all of them and answered as accurate as I could, but she must have sensed that there is something I’m holding back.  So she told me to keep a diary and see if that helps me in any way. 

 

 

This is what I am doing now, I’m keeping a diary. Well, it’s just the first day writing here and I thought to write about something that really no one else knows. I am supposed to write here daily, pour myself into these pages. I think that’s what keeping a diary means, but it seems quite boring to me.

I guess I’d rather keep my ghost. 

 

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Story #1: A case of apples and ice cream

Story #1: A case of apples and ice cream

She was holding the cup with both hands. The coffee inside had a shine to it that made her think about water swirls and moments when you’re just about to fall asleep. Nothing in common between the two, probably, but this is how her mind worked and this was a good day to just go with it and let emotions come as they pleased.

Yesterday, he said that he decided to leave. He was not leaving her, she knew, but still, he was going to put some ambiguous number of kilometres between them; hundreds or thousands, it didn’t even matter, it was too far for waking up together in the morning or having a cup of coffee, just like this one she was enjoying now, alone. “Not too far for phone calls, though”, she remembers him saying. She just smiled then and didn’t answer. Maybe she nodded a bit, like some kind of approval, couldn’t tell for sure. After all, although such a clumsy thing to say, it was true; it was not too far for phone calls, it just sounded like something you would say to a small child after you told him he couldn’t have ice cream. “Here, have an apple instead”, you would grant as a favour to the confused child.

Anyway, she understood, she really did. It was that kind of opportunity to which he couldn’t say no. If he did, at some point, he would have regretted it. And beat himself up because he did, but still couldn’t help to regret it in the first place. And there you have it, a never-ending swirl of mixed feelings and that’s how waking up together suddenly doesn’t feel as good as it used to and coffee starts to taste dull.

 

So he had to go and she was ok with it.

She could go with him. He didn’t dare say it, probably the “regret to regret” skinny letters were dancing around in his mind too, and he left it unsaid. She praised herself on being rational, though, and this was undeniably an option.

She didn’t want to go. Didn’t give it any thought at all, no need. She knew perfectly well that it was not the right time for her to move, so she chose to stay. She will miss him, of course, she can already see those lonely mornings and empty nights creeping in, but she will do her best to fill them and keep him close. Was she being selfish? she wondered. Probably yes, and yet it’s better to be honest about it. She had to admit, it wasn’t hard to take the decision. A hard decision yes, it was, but that is something else, it’s good to make the distinction and keep things neatly in their allotted boxes.

The sun is passing now from table to table, drawing little patterns that seem to change with every second. The wind is going through the tree in front and this little dance of shade and light performed by the moving leaves makes her feel a little dreamy. Or sleepy; or something that feels a lot like reassurance. It was here where they first met, a couple of years back, totally by accident, when they both decided that they wanted to sit on the exact same chair, at the exact same time. Goofy moment and all, like in those cheesy movies with happy ending, but it worked. They were tempted to call this their place, but in fact it wasn’t a place either of them really liked. They just happened to meet here and probably neither of them could remember now what they were doing there that day, who they were going to meet, where they were going next. The coffee was great indeed, and that’s something that one can always appreciate, regardless. A brief smile passes on her face, as she catches herself wondering if the ice cream here is any good.

 

But apples are ok and two years are not that long. One can survive on apples for two years.

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