I woke up this morning and I checked my emails (like always). To my great surprise, I found out I won second honorable mention in Joe Bunting’s Show-Off writing contest! Sure, I didn’t win the first place but it’s still a great thing for me.
Below’s my entry for the contest. Read and enjoy! 🙂
They say stories have to have introductions. Here’s mine: I dropped out of college in ’95, my parents wanted nothing to do with me after that, and I’ve been in and out of jobs ever since. My story starts in the summer of ’99. The millennium was halfway at its end. For some, it meant a clean slate waiting to be dirtied and new opportunities to be wasted. For me? It meant staying afloat in a city that wouldn’t think twice in devouring you whole. I was again out of a job and was looking for one. Times were getting desperate for me that year. Money’s running low and I’m sure my landlady was itching to throw me out into the streets. I needed a job fast.
That day would be the longest day of the summer, according to the radio. They said it would also be the hottest. The radio did not disappoint. If you gazed at the distance you’ll see the heat distorting the air around it and making everything dance. Eggs were being fried on the sidewalks all throughout the city. It felt for me that it was longer than it had any right to be. I had five job interviews that day. I didn’t get accepted in all of them.
I stepped outside of the building where I had my fifth interview and the heat crashed onto me like a freight train. I lacked the necessary skills they said. I looked back at the building, beads of sweat forming on my brow, and flashed my middle finger.
I shoved my hands deep in my pockets as an ambulance, with its lights on and its siren blaring, sped by. Behind it, a beeline of cars followed. I walked down the street with hands balled into fists. Frustration and anger and desperation made me wanted to plant my fists into someone’s face.
I crossed the street and there she was, standing in front of me, as if she’d been waiting there all this time. Her once auburn hair had been dyed black as midnight. She had it cut as well. It was now just a bit below her ears. She was no longer wearing her black rimmed glasses. She raised her hand and waved at me and she smiled. The last time I saw her was when I dropped out of college. She’s changed so much. That’s the first thought that popped inside my head.
I reached the other end and she walked closer towards me. “You look nice John,” she said. And for a moment…for a moment I forgot why my hands were balled into fists. I felt…happy.
“So, do you work there?” She asked, pulling me out of my thoughts.
I looked at where she was pointing and I saw the building I just got out of. “No, I just got out of a job interview,” I suddenly grew conscious of how I looked. My hair was matted on my forehead because of the sweat. I brushed it to the side. I loosened my tie and I gave her an awkward smile. “I didn’t get accepted though.”
“Sorry to hear that,” she said. “It’s their loss though.” She finished with a small smile.
Memories came unbidden, they swirled inside my head and I saw flashes of our time together. I saw us, in my bed, all curled up. I saw the tears and remembered how they tasted as she ended our relationship. I remembered walking to her dorm room on my last day in college. I had her shirt in my hand. I remembered knocking and the door being answered by a guy I didn’t know, behind him stood Samantha. I handed the guy Sammy’s shirt and I said my goodbye. There were no tears that day.
“No, I think they actually made the right decision of not hiring me,” I said laughing.
“You haven’t changed,” Sammy’s voice was soft and I noticed a hint of sadness in it. “You’re good and super creative. I’ve read the stuff you’ve written so I know what I’m talking about. You seemed to pull stories out of nothing, it was like magic.” She looked at me with her blue eyes. “But you never submitted any one of them. You just hid them away. You’ve got to believe more in yourself.” She was the only one who really believed in me. I loved her because of that.
I didn’t know what to say. We walked on in silence. Men wearing suits and ties passed us by, all around us the sound of the city filled the air mixing with the heat of summer.
I don’t know why we went there but I remembered us walking inside the city park. We took a sit on a bench overlooking the huge, marble fountain.
“What about you? What’ve you been up to?” I asked, finally breaking the silence.
She looked at me with her blue eyes. “I finally have my own bakery!” She said laughing. “I was actually headed there when I saw you.”
“Wow! You’ve always wanted that right?” I said smiling.
“Yeah, it is.”
We talked about the past—memories I thought forgotten came flooding back. I wished, desperately wished, that the longest day would grow longer until it never ended.
She stood up and faced me. “Listen, John, I’ve to go. You should drop by the bakery sometime. It’s just in front of the closed down library.”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll walk with you there if you want?”
She shook her head. “Go home John. Get some rest.” She gave me a kiss on the cheek and I fought hard not to pull her in my arms. “Believe in yourself. You’re good. You just don’t know it yet.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” I managed to push the words out of my mouth.
“No you won’t John. I’ll be leaving the city.”
“Leaving to where?”
“Somewhere far,” Samantha answered before she turned and started to walk away. I watched her, in her yellow sundress, vanish as she turned around the corner.
The following morning I went to Samantha’s bakery. She wasn’t there like she said. I asked the lady behind the counter where Sammy was and she started crying. She told me that Sammy was in a car accident the day prior. The accident broke her neck and she died on the spot. It happened a block away from where I had my interview.
I can’t exactly remember what happened next. I remember shouting. I remember shouting that it wasn’t a funny joke. The next thing I knew I found myself seated on the bench, in the park, overlooking the marble fountain. Believe in yourself. I remembered
the sound of her voice as she said it. The tears came unbidden.
Until now I’m not exactly sure what I saw that day. A ghost? A mirage from the summer heat? What I do know is I became a better man. A year after that I wrote a book and managed to have it published.
Whenever I’ll close my eyes, I’ll see her in her yellow sundress—short black hair, blue eyes like the sky, and a smile on her lips—and I’ll also remember the feeling of her kiss on my cheek and her voice as she says to me Believe in yourself John. It was the longest day I ever had—a summer’s day that would forever be burned in my mind.