Teetering

Source: Edge

I can’t even think how it feels like to stand on the edge of a cliff, with the view of deep waters below waiting to consume me… because I’m definitely going to wee on myself out of fear. If it isn’t adequately explicit, I’d like to reiterate that I do have a huge issue with heights and falling–surely enough an excuse for a grown woman to behave like a two-year old.

That is also not one of the methods I would choose to die, if I have the right for a last request.

Despite the lack of imagination, I had no idea why I constantly feel like I am on the verge, fighting the fear so I could take the plunge and just end all these bullshit ritual I had to go through in life. The horror is still there to keep me at bay, but I definitely can sense it is weakening lately. Or rather, my mind is playing tricks on me saying that the waters aren’t as deep as I thought, as much as the fall would only terrify me for a second. It’s almost as if it’s telling me the last thing I will feel is not regret, but relief.

Then another voice would tell me that it’s probably because I literally relieved myself. I would shake my head, cringing, repeatedly telling myself I ain’t leaving the world with peeing in my pants as the last thing I’m gonna be caught doing. Nu’uh.

Yet I should say, the intervals where the whole thought process goes has been increasing recently, as I tried building up the “motivation” (red. rush of panic) to write my thesis. Quite clearly, it doesn’t function well as an incentive as I simply don’t give the tiniest shit about the question of “what then” anymore. What to do now to be able to do next, what I need and want to do–they all seem equally pointless.

Believe me, I tried sleeping early and waking up early, triggering the rush, omitting all distractions, cutting the workload to achievable targets, self-shaming and scaring myself with imagined scenarios of things I wouldn’t like to happen had I not finished the bloody piece of pretentious bullshit to get a meaningless degree I am not even sure I need or want on the first place… and then I went back to square one, blaming myself for giving in to my idiotic impulse without even considering if I am capable enough for the whole schooling process as well as the diploma. I probably am just causing inconveniences to my advising professors and fellow students in class, even by trying. Not to mention this very ramble would probably offend those who are genuinely committed graduate students–I am truly sorry and ashamed for sharing the same status without possessing similar merits.

Oh, and letting these out of the system does not help this time. Even worse, I broke down in front of my faraway parents on a stupid call the other day–now they wouldn’t fucking take my bullshit about being ‘okay’ anymore, worrying about me more than parents normally would, which is already a lot. Brilliant. A cherry on top of a shitload of anxiety and depression scoops.

Mildly put, I ran out of ideas to make myself functional. My cold feet holding me back from taking the leap as the voice of reason within me seemingly hibernating, preventing me to conceive hysteria nor any good feeling to operate.

God Almighty, just… why? Even lamenting like this makes me feel more a whiny moron than before. Great job on oversharing again, bloody typical millennial.

At least please let the thought of me weeing myself be an effective deterrent, suppose it keeps me from answering the call of the void.

A Fishy Foothold

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Help

At the end of our inconceivable, nasal-challenging little cruise, an enormous door suddenly formed right before our eyes near the quay where we place the Fisher’s Ship. Not only were we stunned by the fact that we witness unbelievable things like this one in less than 24 hours, Jamie and I were amazed by the details of the wood carvings on the sides and head of the door. Honestly, I was expecting another toilet-themed encounter, and this certainly proved me wrong. The Drain Domain–a little nickname I came up with to call this realm–seemed to hold many other surprises, and I hope they stay as benign.

Mr. Nomura, the fishmonger, who probably has seen the door quite a number of times, casually opened the door and gestured for us to step inside. We were welcomed by another darkness, yet as the door closes behind us, torches across the room magically lit up almost in sync. We were encircled by bookshelves full of old books, figurines and weird collectibles I am unable to describe. As if the absurd curse Jamie was under and the wooden-carved door popping out of nowhere are not bizarre enough already, this dimension hit us hard in the face again by placing a seemingly professional bronze telescope in the middle of the circular room, with the other end of the telescope extending to a dome-like glass roof. It’s an observatory. Under the ground. Inside the sewers.

“Welcome to the Guild,” Mr. Nomura said, “please sit down and make yourself comfortable. I would need to check on the other side of this room so I can find an old friend of mine, the one in charge to help us operate the telescope.”

Jamie nodded silently, and we watched Mr. Nomura disappeared from one part of the bookshelves. Curiosity consumes us more than the need for comfort as we started to roam the room, each heading towards opposite ways.

Mr. Nomura explained on our way here that he was part of this Guild, which basically is, to my understanding, an association for merchants selling marine products, mainly seafood. The Guild supplied him the freshest fish at a very reasonable price, which would naturally attract people who do business in the field. He had been very careful to keep up with the rules of the Guild, one of them is to dispose remains of the fish in this one specific gutter, which was a portal to the Guild. My friend Jamie just so happened to fall in the wrong place and the wrong time. To get Jamie out of the stench and filth permanently, Mr. Nomura told us we need to find one of the Twin Sisters of the Sea. I assume our chance to locate them is up to this guy who runs the observatory and use this telescope.

We have waited for a while, but then we haven’t finished exploring the shelves in the room. A good number of the books are sea-related, most are tattered or dog-eared; Jamie would occasionally flinch for such “savagery”. My eyes are more attracted to the odd objects spread on one of the shelves. There was this eccentric magnifying glass shaped like a fish, jars of colourful dried fish scales, a gun shaped like a seahorse, and many more. I am trying my best not to trace my fingers in any of them as I kept browsing them casually. I stopped at my tracks when I saw wooden hourglass, its bottom half wrapped in a net. I was startled as I realized there was a figure crouching instead of sand flowing inside it.

Instinctively, I called on Jamie, and he immediately joined me at my side. I pointed at the hourglass and I saw his eyes widened.

“I-is that a small translucent woman I saw in there?” he asked.

“I can’t be sure what it is exactly, but at least we saw the same thing,” I replied, “do you think it’s… trapped?”

As I finished my inquiry, it seemed that the grey, smoke-like figure opened her eyes from a very deep slumber. She then looked pointedly at us, which makes us spring a step back out, alarmed. She then frosted the glass and wrote, “Help.”

She pointed to the net and gestured for us to remove it from the hourglass. She put her arms together as if she was pleading for us to release her from captive.

I’m glad Jamie and I were both on the same page. As we have read too many folktales and other stories about magical beings, we have been very careful not to touch any of the antiques in the room, also very hesitant to help this trapped spirit. For all I know, she might be held inside the hourglass for good reasons, and I am never the sort who offers favors hastily. Jamie muttered under his breath, something along the lines of if he had known better he would have stayed put in the other side of the room and pretend he didn’t hear me, to which I immediately reprimand him to shut the hell up.

We were frozen in our position, the three of us just locking each other’s stares. I quickly regret my decision to keep my gaze as I felt a rush of thoughts running in my head. I seem to see parallels of the spirit and myself. I felt like I was transported into a hall of memories inside my brain; enslaved to a daily ritual, birthdays after birthdays passed closer to the grave, which I would most welcome to release me from the nothingness I would eventually end up with. A soft voice rings in my ear, saying that the spirit knows what I was suffering from, she knows how it feels to be imprisoned by time itself. It figures I would understand how one would jump at the very chance to be relieved from such accumulation of mortal pain, to the world where there are tears no more; and for her, it begins with disentangling the net from the hourglass.

You, poor soul, I heard myself sympathizing with her. But then another voice tried to hold me back from reaching out to the hourglass, repeatedly telling me this was not a good idea, that it might just make matters worse for Jamie and myself, that it would cost us our lives. But isn’t that what I also want? To leave the routine forever, argued the softer voice. But do I? Life is mostly a chore, but do I want to be rid off it now?

At that, I felt someone tapped my shoulder and I was alerted from my trance. I look to my right to see the person who did, and found a guy with tousled brown hair, wearing a pair of round glasses and navy blue hoodie. He then directed his hand to the hourglass, and bind the net all over it, which seemed to put the spirit inside to another deep slumber. I glanced to my left to seek for Jamie, who was sprawled on the ground. Next to him was Mr. Nomura, again, sprinkling the fish-scale to Jamie’s face, and seconds later he gained his consciousness. I knelt beside him to help him up.

“Wh-what was that?” I asked Mr. Nomura who was holding a cup of water for Jamie to drink.

“That was a water nymph trying to escape by putting you or your friend inside the hourglass instead,” the other guy answered, “I should’ve mended the net earlier. I wasn’t expecting guests, to be honest.”

“Then again if I told you we’re coming, you probably still won’t clean the place up,” Mr. Nomura commented, “you should really consider talking to someone professionally about your procrastination problem.”

“Come on, I’m just very positive about what I can accomplish in the future, Nomura-san,” the guy brushed his comment of, “and we actually did arrive just in time. Both our guest can handle it pretty well, especially considering the guy was still jinxed.”

Mr. Nomura shook his head in disbelief, but then took the confusion in my eyes and Jamie’s as cue to introduce the guy, “Oh, right. Ms. Chandra, Mr. Newton, this is Goh, our alchemist, and he’s going to help us find one of the Twin Sisters.”

“Pleased to meet you,” he smiled at us, “and I assure you it’s true because I have not seen anyone but mid-aged merchants visiting the Guild for the past fifty years. A change of air is quite nice.”

Goh didn’t catch the annoyed look Mr. Nomura threw at him as he made his way to the telescope. Still sitting on the floor, Jamie took the opportunity to find more information about the certainty of his cure, “Do they usually travel far?”

“No, no. Even if they do, we can still go to the nearest spot with another portal available,” Mr. Nomura assured him.

“Good, because I really can’t wait to get back home,” Jamie remarked, which I completely agree with. This bloody place smells nothing but doom. And a faint hint of fish guts, too.

“Actually, you’re in luck,” Goh looked up to us from the telescope, “one of the Sisters is here in the Guild for tonight.”

The Drain Threader

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Dirty

Something disgusting and absolutely bizarre that it almost add some amusement to my mundane days, happened to my flatmate Jamie just a few hours ago. And because of him, we are on an unlikely–but reminiscently clueless as life–quest, to say the least.

Arriving at our small, but cozy enough apartment, I dropped my corpse-like body on the couch after a whole day of tedious work. After letting out a huge sigh, I proceeded to turn on my computer for another session of mindlessly browsing funny videos online–some sort of habit I have been keeping up for no reason, so don’t ask me why, because I really don’t know. I reached out for a box of cereal I have conveniently placed on the coffee table for both breakfast and dinner–please refrain from judgment, as I consider those who have fast food or instant noodles almost everyday as people who are equally hungry and just want to get over with it before spending eight hours in front of cancerous radiation the very next day. After a a scoop and a crunch, I can’t help but stop because I smell something so foul, even my feet, which I suspect sweat sewer water, would never be able to compete. Scrunching my face, I looked up, only to find Jamie at the threshold covered with something I assume is a bucket of fish guts and other nasty thick mixture.

“What the hell happened to you?” I held my nose in a split second, also backing away from the couch.

“I was walking back from the studio after finishing work early, minding my own business, when suddenly I fell in a sewer, just in time for the pipes to spit out some more shit which I think is from the fishmonger,” he explained.

“Oh, it really was fish, then,” I muttered, “Jesus Christ, you reek like shit.”

“Oh, you’re too kind.  I’ve been covered in this for the whole five hours and I’m still not used to this rotting stench,” he bellowed.

“Five hours!?” I barked, “why didn’t you take a fucking bath? Actually, go! Now! Oh, I can’t take it anymore.”

“I have! This is my fourth time out of the bath,” Jamie exasperatedly answered, “I scrubbed myself clean, and whenever I stepped out of the bathroom, I got back to fucking square one!”

I was truly appalled, “sorry, what!?”

“You heard me right. I can’t get this bloody filth off my body,” he groaned, “come on, Sam, I wouldn’t lie about this.”

I took a moment before I answered, “right. I hope you don’t mind another try though. Get your stinky limbs to the bathroom.”

He was hesitant, “but, err, you’re gonna… watch or, uh…”

“No bloody time to get self-conscious! Just keep your stupid boxers on! And I’ll be standing at the door, spraying you water and let you finish the whole business afterwards alone.”

Keeping at least an arm’s length away from him, we went to the bathroom. Jamie stood on the bathtub, and I turned the shower on, blasting it on full-speed onto him, still keeping at least an arm’s length from where he was. I saw the murky brownish black water run down the drain, and when he seemed to get off all the dirt out of him, I picked a fragrant soap I received as a gift, but have never used before because it’s too strong, shoved it to his hand and let him use the bathroom alone. I wait outside for the whole thirty minutes, and started to get a little suspicious.

“Jamie,” I knocked on the door, “I understand you want to take your time. But you’re oddly silent for thirty minutes already, and I reckon you don’t want to shrivel yourself for staying too long in the water either…”

“Uh…,” he replied from behind the bathroom door, “I was just wondering… maybe I should just stay here now… just in case I got dirty and stinky again if I stepped out.”

“Well, I certainly don’t want you to roam around the house smelling like gutter either, but you can’t possibly stay there forever,” I replied, “besides, I need to use the bathroom, too.”

“Shit,” he cursed, “but I got tired of having to shower too much. It really is not a relaxing experience once you have to do it every hour. And I guess turning into a raisin relatively wouldn’t be so bad.”

He’s got a point there, too. I grunted, “any ideas then?”

“For a start, you can ask our neighbour Mrs. Hudson for permission to use the toilet…”

“Yeah, yeah, I would in a sec, but I mean, in the long run, how are you going to go to work or eat and just carry on with your life? And after a few weeks, how am I supposed to explain to Mrs. Hudson that our toilet is permanently under construction?”

“Oh. Shit, I can’t think of anything besides the fact that I would need to stay in this bathroom forever, and that you prolly need to find another apartment.”

I face-palmed myself, “Unbelievable. What exactly was that fishmonger flushed from his toilet that got to you?”

And that’s when I heard a knock from the door. “Hang on, I got to answer the door,” I told Jamie. I rushed to the entrance, only to find the fishmonger as I open the door.

“Good evening, Ms. Chandra,” he addressed me, “is Mr. Newton home?”

I was quite taken aback that he knows us by our names since we only pass by his store a couple of times on our way to or from work. We never stop by for a chat, and most of the time when we buy fish from the store–which is rare if you take into consideration the fact that I eat cereal for dinner–it’s his wife that runs the counter, and she’s always busy handling a bunch of customers every day. Their fishes are the neighbourhood’s favourite and are famous for its freshness.

“Err, yes, but he might not be able to see you now,” I answered.

“Ah, yes,” he seem to take something into consideration, “of course, of course… he should stay where clean water flows… should’ve remembered that…”

“Sorry?” I interrupted, “what was that you said again?”

“Oh, right. I forgot to mention, Ms. Chandra, that I probably know that Mr. Newton is dealing with a… hygiene issue, if I can put it that way.”

“Wha–how do you know this?”

“Can I come in to explain? I might be able to help clear something up as well.”

I welcomed him in, and instead of the living room, I guide him to the bathroom door so Jamie could hear us.

“I’d just be straightforward to you,” he began, “there’s a reason why our fish is always fresh.”

“And how is that relevant to Jamie’s situation now?”

“To put it simply, someone agreed to provide us the freshest batch every day, but in return, we need to promise to drain the remains in one specific place, which happens to be the sewer which Mr. Newton accidentally fell into earlier this afternoon.”

“What, so you’ve been selling poisoned fresh fish whose guts are rotten inside?” I exclaimed.

“No, no, Ms. Chandra, I can assure you they’re not poisoned. In fact, they are hand-picked by the one who…”

“Uh, honestly I don’t care about that,” Jamie shouted from the bathroom, “just… do you know how you can get the stench and filth off of me permanently?”

“Oh, yes, yes,” the fishmonger snapped, “that’s why I’m here. I want to tell you that I can give you only three days time without the effects so that the three of us can go to get you the real antidote for it. But we should hurry.”

I’m not entirely sure why and how he is capable of doing that, but continued to entertain the possibility by inquiring further, “And where can we find this antidote?”

“First, we need to go back to the sewer where Mr. Newton fell into earlier so we can ride the last Fisher Ship. It’s the only way to the Guild to find at least one of the sisters…”

“What!?” This time, it was Jamie. I’m already at loss for words.

“I’ll explain more on our way later,” the fishmonger insisted, “We don’t have much time. The portal may close in an hour. If both of you will just follow me, please?”

Even though I can’t look directly at Jamie for us to somehow communicate non-verbally, I guess both of us don’t have much choice. It’s no longer a matter of trust or rationality, considering what we–mostly Jamie–have been through today. I knew Jamie decided to take the plunge–no pun intended–when I heard the sound of drained water and Jamie trying to dry himself quickly. He opened the bathroom door, dressed in his pajamas.

The fishmonger took a tatty pouch from his pocket. It contains something that looks like glittery fish scales, some which he put on his palm, and then blew towards Jamie. Jamie then hesitantly stepped outside the bathroom and let out a sigh of relief once he found himself still dry and clean.

“Now,” the fishmonger said, putting his pouch back in his pocket, “if we can make our move, please.” He hastened his pace, gesturing us to follow him.

Jamie and I looked at each other, this time agreeing to grab not only our raincoat and boots, but also the nearest cereal boxes we can find on the coffee table as we make our way out the house. As we walked silently, the fishmonger on the lead, I prayed that he somehow has a magic gill-mask or a pleasant-smelling squid ink perfume, or basically whatever that will block the vile smell of gutter from our nostrils.

Quite frankly, this is not the way I imagined I would get interrupted from my regularly and tediously scheduled life. It seems like a searingly, cruel joke whoever among the gods pulled at me for describing myself as a fish out of water more than I’d like to admit that it somehow lost meaning.

Well, more jokes on Jamie, then. He usually responds to it with, “No wonder you smell kinda fishy.”

The Better Part

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Fight

What is the glory in victory? You might bet it’s only something that came out of the mouth of a sore loser. In that case, you are probably correct because Ollie, who thought so, apparently is just dreading yet another of her loss last night.

No one would notice Ollie was still inside her little working space, curled up on the window seat, as all the lights were dimmed. She drew up the blinds, looking at the tiny shimmers of lights from cars and lamps outside. She thought she might enjoy it while she can, considering she might need to give up the place soon. It’s quite fitting with the whole set up on her upset about standing by what she hates to admit now as “a lost cause”, but not so much then.

Quick enough, she realized she would not be a sour puss had she not desired to win and thought of savoring all the good feeling that follows. She loathed herself more for pondering the obvious. Well, she thought, at least I didn’t blurt it out in public, finally able to console herself. Then she loathes herself a little more for the fact that she should be able to hold her tongue, unlike what happened yesterday.

Ollie proceeded to recall the first time she got engaged in the whole competitive fiasco. She was only four, and her day-care instructor, Ms. Roberts, told the kids that anyone who can make the best swan-like curve when writing number two would be granted a cute dolphin sticker on their book. Ollie didn’t think much about the dolphins, but she does like watching swans on the pond at the nearby park with her mother every Saturday afternoon. So she did have the sticker attached to her book in the end because she feels like she was drawing instead of jotting down the same number repeatedly on the dotted book. But then it seemed like Ms. Roberts and her mother were very pleased about it. Her mother even let her to pick two chocolate bars she likes on Candy Day, which is every Saturday, the only day she can eat sweets. Naturally, when certain actions are rewarded with advantages, it is part of the human instinct to categorize those actions to the “Kudos” box in your brain.

As the years roll by, she started to be more aware of that feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment, like she did something right and most of all beneficial, at least for herself. She seemed to get a hang of the world she’s living in; that if you win, you gain appreciation, and most of all, favors. One shouldn’t underestimate favors; they are somewhat like luck, but more tangible and reliable, thus making it in a way superior than holding on to the Goddess of Randomness (or Luck, as she is more popularly known with) as a cornerstone. Not that she dismiss it, it’s just that she does not tangle herself too much on the system in which luck works, which obviously no one really knows.

Not only did she not realize yet that winning does not always come naturally to those who perseveres and well-intentioned (though she admits most of the time it’s too self-centered to be called a genuinely good deed), it has not occurred to her that somehow it is favor-slash-fortune who decides the one winning. Oh, and that the post-victory feeling is kind of addictive as well.

Her profession as a private investigator requires both reason and rigor, and even sheer dumb luck proving her instincts correct. To cut the story short, she seemed to run out of the latter these few months, which deem the former two almost useless. She also found it hard to believe given the whole shit on diligence as a virtue. She found it even more irritating that she is naive enough to take it at face-value, like a starry-eyed protagonist in a musical, just singing off her issues hoping for magical animals to help brush it away.

Even worse, it appears that she has run out of favors as well. With her reputation sliding off closer to the edge, it seems more unlikely that she would win any token significant enough to save it from falling. Not to mention how she lashed out at a hotheaded client last night, it’s more than possible that her world is crumbling before her eyes.

Weird how one questions their whole life over what happens in a matter of months. It takes so little of disappointment to release its venom to infiltrate one’s minds. But perhaps it’s an antidote for one to snap out of delusions exalting the questionable goodness of life. Again, probably just thoughts of the losing party, Ollie grumbled, oh, so fucking be it, screw objectivity, there really isn’t any.

So, there is probably as much myth as it is to glory itself in winning. But there are certainly perks to it. After all, who would gladly choose to lose something if there is no strings of triumph or benefits attached to it? And once one achieve it, there is no going back–one should achieve more, not to add anything to it, but simply to maintain one’s record.

Alice was wrong, Ollie thought. We have been living in the same universe that the Red Queen holds jurisdiction. Winning only creates the illusion of productivity. And what the losers tell themselves would be, “at least you have put up a good fight”, which most of the time serves as a form of self-assurance rather than not. And it is, Ollie admitted, somewhat calming that she can entertain the thought of getting another client in the morning, if Lady Randomness feels like so. She crossed her fingers, praying for another chance, and promised to maintain discretion rather than thoughts of basking in the false grandeur life managed in making people “run in a fucking treadmill”.

Ollie decided it’s time to leave her office as it gets too dark in both the literal and figurative sense. As she strolled the streets on the way to her apartment, she wished she could just shake the Queen and turn her into Marquis–her pet kitten–and the world will have itself an improvement. Even better, with cats.

 

Fold and Bolt

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Legacy

Here’s the thing: the best legacy is knowledge, but having that with a sum of money would certainly help.

Not that I blame both my parents for not leaving me even a small amount of pocket money worth of a yellow-and-orange-dyed ice cream (hopefully not textile, although I should say some sugar would cover it just fine), but it really is a no-brainer that I won’t have to deal with a lot of shit right now had they did. In which case, I’m gonna buy that chemical-loaded brain freezer and sell it to Big Pete–the typical bully conveniently marking his dominion in a local abandoned shed across the street– behind his momma who’s worried about his weight; that way I can make a net profit of five bucks.

My name is Laurie, and I remember my mother used to tell me the name is from a book she loves as a kid called “Little Women”, while my father simply can’t argue for a better name. Up to today, I personally have not the intention to read it simply because I don’t want to be considered vain if I happen to enjoy the book.

It’s been about a year since they are gone and I have been living as a modern nomad. See, I beg to differ from being called “homeless” because I do have one in form of a tent, which comes in handy to support the lifestyle I adopted to fit my situation. Where did I get the tent, you ask? Well, as I have touched upon before, knowledge is the best legacy, but in my case, that is my only legacy… in hard-copy, if you catch my drift. My parents are both avid readers, and they have shelves of books in the little-rented apartment we used to live in before. After they’re gone, I sold most of them to secondhand bookstores, save for three I kept for myself: my father’s favorite, my mother’s and mine. I put enough shirts, pants and underwear in my nifty backpack, bought the cheapest tent, saved the remaining amount of money and went out of the place as quickly as possible.

Did I sound a little too detached? That should be credited as part of the legacy my parents left behind as well. Both of them are the very definition of lethargy sometimes I wonder how they ended up together. My father told me he was an only child, and his parents died in a car crash when he was ten. His aunt who then became his guardian died on a plane crash, which scarred him for life. My mother told me she and her older sister left home and changed their names to save themselves from their father’s gambling and alcohol problem, which at that point had gotten worse after their mother’s death. Her sister died because of the same illness their mother had three years before she had me. Will you look at that? Solitary life is just part of the family heritage.

They never really bothered to mingle with anyone personally, as we have never had guests in our house. Their jobs also does not seem to require a lot of long-term interaction–my father was a flower arranger, and my mother was a technician… talking about gender-bending stereotypes, huh?–to other people, and for the three of us, at least we got to eat regularly, and my parents afford to buy at least one book monthly, albeit some secondhand ones. My mother home-schooled me herself when she does not receive any calls. My father would read me stuff if he’s off from work. And I guess we were quite happy with the arrangement, seeing there are no complaints whatsoever.

We spent Sundays doing laundry together, at the rooftop of our shabby apartment, which quite surprisingly is almost always unoccupied. After we finish spreading all the garments to dry, the three of us would just sprawl on the old wooden bench to relax and enjoy the morning sun. At those moments, my parents would always tell me, “Son, one day you’ll grow up and we might not be around anymore. When that day comes, don’t let anyone hold you against what they think we did or didn’t do that they try to take advantage of. If that happens, don’t hesitate to leave, move on and never look back.”

Obviously, that is, to speak the least, cryptic for a ten-year-old. But one day, at the age of fifteen, I brought back some groceries only to find our abode, despite its already humbling qualities, in ramshackle; shelves knocked over, drawers opened, papers scattered, bloodstains on the floor; and my parents nowhere to be found. Whilst still trying to make sense of what happened, my eyes caught view of torn pictures of my parents separately, both seemingly taken from far away. That’s when I knew it’s the day; the day to leave, move on and never look back.

I didn’t even bother to call the police because I know I will leave a trace, and that’s exactly what my parents don’t want me to do. In fact, it appeared that they beat me to it. There was a police line barring the front door, which was ajar, but weirdly no one was there to investigate the place or even display a tinge of curiosity. I am convinced that dealing with the authorities would not help me much, and if by chance my alcoholic grandfather is still alive and them adults think that’s the best I can get, then no, thanks, I’d rather take the streets as I might end up there anyways.

Which brings me to today, contemplating in a crowded park whether I should give up my tent and be properly homeless.

Apparently, people have noticed and reported it to the authorities, and that is certainly what I have been avoiding so far. Life is cruel that way; it gave you exactly the things you don’t want or need, resulting in unending ironic envy.

That’s when I made my way to the nearest pawn shop, sell the tent and proceed to a nearby store to buy two chemical delicacies while saving up the rest of the money.  I cautiously approached the one familiar neighborhood, the one shed, and waited until the big guy dismissed his minions. Once he was on his own, he pulled out some sweets from his pockets, I made my less-than-dramatic entrance… well, not exactly as I waited behind the wooden wall of the shed where there are two punched holes.

“You’re not supposed to be eating that.”

Big Pete was perplexed and hurriedly put back the sweets in his pockets. Dum-dum. He could’ve just feign ignorance. Moreover he asked the obvious, “Who’s that?”

“Put it away, your momma’s on her way here,” I told him, and I swiftly hide on the opposite side so he or his momma wouldn’t see me. Just as I did, Big Pete’s momma was calling out his name, telling him there was a kid who asked for him earlier, saying he’s from school and has a science project together. Big Pete was making a fuss with his momma coming to the shed. I even caught her telling herself that it was just a phase he’s going through and she should’ve known what she did isn’t “cool”. She then apologized and told him she just want to make sure he didn’t miss dinner, which will be ready in an hour. After she left, he let out a sigh of relief. I made my way to lean next to the hole on the wall in the opposite side so he won’t see me.

“That was a close one.”

“Hell yeah, it was,” he still tried to catch his breath, “what do you want?”

Great, he doesn’t need any explanation of a tit-for-tat. I showed him two ice-cream sticks from outside the hole, “prepared you a treat. Just want you to pay them for five bucks each.”

“You think I would eat anything after that?” he sounded like he almost meant it, “and dinner is in an hour. She’ll know if I can’t finish it.”

“Come on, don’t sell yourself short,” I coaxed, “after all you can just tell her you want to eat less because you’re taking the diet more seriously.”

I can tell Big Pete was reconsidering when he muttered a soft ‘huh’. Then he said, “I’ll give you six bucks for two.”

“Uh-uh,” I disagreed, “bid higher or I’ll let her in a sweet little secret.”

“Pfftt,” he mocked, “and she’ll believe you?”

“Of course, I’ll let her know I finally found you and that we ended up having too much ice-cream together instead of working on the science project.”

“You sneaky little shit,” he hesitated, but then handed out a ten-dollar bill from the hole and grabbed the ice cream, “just this once, because I don’t have more one-dollar bills. Take it and scram! I’ll break your neck if you ever come here again or tell anyone else about this.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t,” I pocketed the money, “nice doing business with you.”

Before he changed his mind, found me with his minions and beat me into pulp, I ran to a nearby subway station, buy a one-way ticket to the farthest suburbs, and board the train. Just in case I don’t find the library for a free shower and a bedtime story, I hope the pawn shop there sells a tent that fits my budget.

As I stared blankly from the window, I reckon I might be wrong; it is not knowledge, and certainly not money (though I maintain both helps) which makes the best legacy. It’s probably something more primal, like survival instinct–which also makes it the worst for those unwanted and wanted at the same time.

Memento Mori

An imaginary conversation submitted for the prompt: Misstep

 

“Hey, watch it!”

“Sorry! Oh my God, that was close.”

“I mean it, young lad. You almost got yourself stumbling into the same hole again.”

“Stop with the old lady act. Doesn’t suit you.”

“Well, that comes with the package, I can’t help it. But really, stop getting tempted to give second chances to things that bore you. Be more decisive. Don’t have much time to live, you see.”

“Oh that’s where you came in, stereotypical voice of reason. Anyway, what is it with everyone saying life is short? And why is it bad? For all I know, it’s best to end it quicker. Y’know, that one dude saying those who die young is the happiest, yadda yadda yadda…”

“Aftermath, sweetheart. It seems short once you reach a certain age, and nobody knows when your life will end. Better safe than sorry, if you know what I mean.”

“Well, shit. You really are the voice of reason.”

“Hell yeah, I am. Now, let me ask you a simple question: what’s the goal?”

“Make enough money so I can still pay the internet bills and be a twat on the internet?”

“That’s achievable. Good. And what do you need to do that?”

“A job, obviously.”

“Exactly, so don’t stray from that path. Now, what do you have to do first before you get there?”

“Climb up Mount Thesis and Valley of the Interns.”

“Correct. And do you like climbing up that mountain?”

“Nope. My lungs can’t take the agony of too much bullshit writing for air anymore.”

“Precisely. Keep that in mind before you took another route of destruction requiring you to hike up, but instead of fresh air, you’re just inhaling crap all over. That’ll do it.”

“Right. Why bother hike two polluted mountains–assuming they exist–while you are struggling to go for one?”

“No, no. It’s more like: why bother hike two polluted mountains, while you can hike just one?”

“Even that is not obligatory.”

“Mm-hmm. Not only it’s too labor-intensive, it’ll get dung on your lungs.”

“Wow. Talking about third-world problems over here.”

“So when you see the chance to break off of that vicious circle…”

“You fucking take it by the balls.”

“Atta boy. So, watchu gonna do now?”

“Sleep. I reckon I will need some energy for an arduous hike tomorrow. Oh, and buy a freaking oxygen mask.”

Foul-Weather Friend

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Flow

I was gasping for much-needed air to fill in my lungs, looked up to my tutor and said, “can we take a break for a moment? I start to feel light-headed.”

She sighed deeply and headed to the other side of the room. In a flick of her hand, she caught two glasses from thin air, “one last time before the break, conjure some water in at least one of them.”

I tried to concentrate as hard as my tired mind can take me. I took one glass from her hand and imagined pure mineral water running fervently filling in the glass, only to be able to fill the glass with what I reckon four drops of water. Exasperatedly, I pleaded, “I’m so sorry, Cassie, I’m seriously exhausted. Can we please just take a moment to breathe?”

She reluctantly nodded, and took a seat on the floor, as she effortlessly filled both our glasses with enough water, which I gulped down a little too fast that I choked for a bit. She made her way to pat me on the back and told me to drink some more, but slowly. I recovered myself, joining her to sit down and rest my head against the wall. Through my peripheral vision, I noticed that she looked at me almost apologetically, which I have the decency to avoid because pity is the last thing I want to receive today after all the self-loathe I have directed at myself for not being able to progress at all.

In case you are wondering, what I have been trying to practice is wandless magic. And yes, I am a wizard by the name Justus. Unfortunately, my name does sound as pretentious as my status as a wizard, which I am currently trying to uphold. It seems like the practical thing to do after I broke my wand in two in the middle of nowhere, not to mention that I am lost and can’t seem to remember anything that happened to me before except for my name, my magical qualities and another name, Augur Auden, whom by his title is a Seer.

I stumbled upon a cave and tried to settle there for a while to avoid the heavy rain. My hunch on the weather is weirdly always right, but I probably am never one to possess the prowess to conjure magic without my wand, even when I was about to be taken down by a group of trolls who thought I was a willing, sacrificial dinner. That was when I met Cassie, who petrified the trolls for at least three days already by now. Wandless.

I learnt that Cassie was also on her way to see Augur Auden as well, and that she was on a secret mission she is not willing to share with me. After a day full of persuasion and pleas, using both pity (come on, I wouldn’t be able to live had you not stopped them. How do you think I’m going to survive out there once the rain ends?) and reason (yes, I understand you don’t have to dwell in the trouble of teaching me anything, but we are going to be stuck here for no one knows when), she acceded to teach me wandless magic. It goes without saying that I have failed not only to entertain her by emitting no signs of hope with my skills, but also to add into her annoyance for being stuck with a stranger she possibly suspected as a poser.

“How do you do that?”

She perked up her ears, “sorry, what?”

“I mean,” I began, “how is it that you can do that almost as if it’s just natural to you? With so much ease.”

“It is natural for us to do magic, Justus,” she replied, “please don’t take it in a bad way. Actually, part of the reason why I was hesitant to help you apart from the fact that we don’t know each other, is because I have always felt it flowing from me with or without a wand. When I lost mine, I didn’t worry too much about being unable to do magic, nor did I care for the stigma of how shameful it is for a witch to be deprived from possessing and using her wand. In all honesty, I felt almost liberated. And I have no idea how it feels to be so constrained without a wand.”

She added, “I apologize once again if I sound obnoxious. If it doesn’t work out still, it’s probably just because I am not a proper teacher, a lot more than you not learning well enough.”

“You… you lost your wand on a trial? It was taken away from you forcibly?” I inquired.

“Yes,” she answered curtly, seemingly not willing to elaborate why, which is fair.

I broke the silence that ensued by a chuckle. “It’s funny, really. How one is supposed to have magic as part of their natural instinct, how it manifests strongly when one was provoked or endangered as a wee baby or a helpless child, but then gradually it seemed like it’s almost worn out and we seem to rely our powers on this one tool that is as much as a companion. It gives us… structure… but then also dependence on it to function. Now that it’s lost, it’s hard for me to go back to those days, when it just flows and curiosity gets the best of me to try.”

Cassie took a moment before replying, “It’d be difficult to forgo the structure, but you can still try to imagine that it’s still there, through your fingertips.”

I looked at her intently as she again took the empty glass. “Like when you learn to focus on a spell on your wand, try that on the tip of your fingers,” she diverted her gaze onto the glass, “suppose it running through your veins, and as it touched the glass, murmur the spell and turn it into water,” and the water fills the glass again, “like this.”

I gripped the glass and closed my eyes, hoping it will help me concentrate and did it right this time. Cassie was right; the magic runs in us wizards and witches. It’s not bound by possession of a wand. If anything, it might explain my accurate inklings of the weather.

I tried to focus on summoning as much amount of magic I believe I have, and directed it into my left arm, holding the glass. I felt the flux as it seem to seep in my fingers. With a desperate wish, I whispered slowly, “Vloeien.”

I heard Cassie gasped, followed with what I assume is gleeful chortle. I opened my eyes, and found water is filling my glass. I let out a sigh of relief, and take a sip.

“Well, at least it doesn’t taste like a troll’s piss,” I remarked.

Cassie shrugged, “if you say so, I’ll conjure my own water for myself, thanks. And, you probably need some rest so you can try more spells tomorrow. I’ll take first watch.”

“Thank you,” I said quietly.

As I drifted off to sleep in the humid cave, I reckon I could tell her that the rain will stop for at least three more days before a huge one the next day which would result to a flood. Yes, I am aware I will need to deal with the possible rage from her about the fact that I, unlike no one else, know for how long we were going to be stuck in the cave, and argue that it really wasn’t wasted for nothing. Let’s just hope I will improve my wandless protection charm tremendously when tomorrow comes.

Good Call

A work of fiction submitted from the prompt: Inevitable

One word came to mind easily when contemplating the inevitable: death.

And that is exactly what young Lewis was thinking about one rainy Saturday afternoon as he sprawled on his bed.

He woke up late, as deemed proper on a weekend. His parents are out of town, again, after cancelling what was supposed to be their trip to his grandfather because of work. So there he is reading and re-reading his favourite comic books all day, and as the stormy clouds covered the once clear blue sky, his room lost the touch of sunlight and he did not bother to switch on the lamp. He decided to stop reading the comics and just stare blankly at the ceiling. He hates being dramatic, but it just so happens that most brains are wired to find darkness related to thoughts of nothingness, and eventually death. And the fact that the adults somehow came to the conclusion such thoughts should not occupy anyone with red rosy cheeks, too green for the world that it is not good for their growth, makes him very careful never to tell anyone about it and just ponder upon it himself.

Actually, he was just wondering if Grandpa Joe is as disappointed as he is that they don’t meet this weekend, and if in days like this he miss Grandma Su more than any other, just because of this sick game the brain is playing on everyone just because the movies created nuances of certain images related to each other, and made their ways to the the storage, popping out at times like this. That is one of the reasons why they were planning to visit him; it’s been a month since Grandma Su passed away, and even though Grandpa Joe seems to handle it just fine, Lewis thinks it’s just nice to keep him company.

Suddenly, it took an unlikely, deeper turn. It’s like there is this dusty, dim room that is his brain, which he entered. He snapped his fingers and small light bulbs hung around the walls flickered, his pupils adjusting to it. There are loads of pictures hung on the wall, mostly of his parents and him, his grandparents, and his friends, Judy, Dio and the twins, Ash and Min. There are posters of his comic books, too. There is a huge cabinet where he assumed he would find his own drawings. Then he saw it, the one thing that always brings him to this moment of clarity: “the mind-opener”. As he expected, there was a piece of paper on a desk, written on it was: “All humans will perish eventually. We just don’t know when, but one thing is certain. We are mortal beings, with just one life, at least as ourselves”.

Huh, was his first reaction, followed by a tentative, trruuee. And again he wander around the warmly-cast room, one hand supporting his chin, while another supporting his other elbow. He thought about how weird it is that Grandma Su, who is always eating healthy and regularly exercising would just be found lifeless on her sleep, while everybody said that was the key to a long life. She was gone as much as how Dio’s uncle died because of diabetes and heart problems, or how Judy’s Mum lost her fight on cancer, though she had fought well, as his parents would say. Probably there is someone up or down there who decided that it’s time for people to leave and never come back–which he find odd because if it concerns the person who needs to go and those who are going to be left behind, why these so-called decision-makers kept it a secret. If death is really inescapable and they just gave them some heads up, surely it wouldn’t sadden too much people who got left behind… or cause too much of a shock to those who did leave.

He side-stepped to his right and found a long comfortable chair and rest his body on it. He continued wondering how inefficient, or rather indecisive, these decision-makers are. It is hard to pinpoint why they even let humans live on the first place if in the end they are just going to take them away. Is death not the ultimate purpose? But then what? Is it to live? But then why are there lots of rules of what one can and cannot do? Lewis, for instance, likes eating burgers and fries, and probably that is the one thing he is most excited about in living apart from reading his comic books, meeting up with his friends and spending time with his family. He said it for more than a million times, but he doesn’t mind having burger and fries everyday for the rest of his life, and he thinks that it will make him happy. Unfortunately, everyone’s digestive system, Lewis’ included, cannot match that sort of diet; people will be obese, have a heart failure and die. So, he cannot really do that unless he doesn’t mind dying in pain with an extra trouble breathing while he is in between. After all, he still wants to hang with his friends and find out how the main character of his comic book solve a mystery that will come out on the next series, released sometimes around next year.

Then, he thought of Grandpa Joe, and how he liked spending time with him, especially when he tells him the comic books and books he read when he was Lewis’ age. He doesn’t want him to go like Grandma Su did, without any warning. But then even when the signs are somehow clear, it always strikes when it is most unexpected: when the sick ones shows improvement, or when it took the lives of the young, or relatively young ones, instead of the older ones, and so on. Then he was engulfed with fear, not only because he doesn’t want his family or friends to leave and not come back, but also because the fact that he, or anyone, cannot do anything about it. He suddenly felt smaller than he physically is already.

At that, he opened his eyes and sat up from his bed, feeling a little suffocated. The rain is still pouring heavily outside, with occasional lightning and thunder accompanying it. He saw his phone lying on the floor next to his neatly piled comic books. He took it and dialed a number, which is immediately connected.

“Lewis? My boy, I’m glad you called.”

“Hi, Grandpa Joe. Sorry we can’t make it today. How are you?”

For now, Lewis thought, at least the uneasiness earlier subsided. Maybe, just maybe, life–things you like, people you like–is merely a distraction to the fear of the inevitable. Oh, well, Lewis thought, I have always been easily pleased anyway. Perhaps all humans are.

Waiting Room

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Longing

The room looks old-fashioned: two plants on each side of the door, red-carpeted floor, polished wood pillars at the four corners, four doors divided equally at two sides of the room, and chairs at the other side. He saw a girl fiddling with her fingers, emitting a bored look which is expected for anyone who entered the room. She also had her earphones, an effort to occupy herself that doesn’t seem to work as much. There is only two other chairs available placed conveniently next to the girl’s left. Not wanting to bother her, he took the one on the far right corner.

Five minutes in the clock, he can sense the tedium filling the room already. If not, then at least it undoubtedly has tickled his nostrils. And just as the girl was putting away her earphones, his old, rather unwelcome habit whenever he gets bored strikes back: he started a conversation.

“Uh, hello.”

She looked up to him and disinterestedly said, “Hi.”

“Erm, I’m just wondering,” he carefully worded, “perhaps you know how long people usually wait here.”

“Depends on what you’re expecting,” she answered nonchalantly, “I’m now actually just contemplating if I should just give up entirely.”

“Oh,” he was taken aback, “do you, uh, mind if I ask you what you waited for, and how long have you waited? There doesn’t seem to be other people around, so…”

“That door over there to open and call my name, if you can see it,” she pointed to a door with a placard in front of it saying ‘The Old Times’, “I’ve been waiting for a couple of months. Finished my paperwork in 2 weeks, thought it’s a good enough sign. Now I can say I was wrong.”

“That’s what I’m waiting for too! I even finished submitting all the documents in one week,” he was aghast, “now I’ll be lying if I said I’m not worried.”

“Well, I’m not here to give you advice or persuade you with anything,” she remarked, “I am personally just exhausted already. I just thought I was not as a daydreamer as a guy who was waiting for ‘Certainty’ to open. Turns out this one hardly opens just as much. Don’t worry to much, though. I was probably just impatient. And if at the end of the day it won over me, you’re next in line.”

He wasn’t sure if that was a joke, so he just flashed her an awkward smile. He shares her opinion about the chance for ‘Certainty’ to open for anyone though. As much as people can hope, that door is just off limits. He even wondered why it’s still kept there, and why a lot still sign up and made it to the waiting list. But then again, most of them don’t even show up knowing that it took a while before the first on the list is admitted. He is suspicious that it’s simply still there because it keeps people’s hopes high up, which is kind of fucked-up if anyone gave it some more time to think about.

“Excuse me,” the girl’s voice interrupted his thoughts, “feel free not to answer my question, but… what brings you here to the waiting room?”

Weirdly, he rather welcomed the gesture and felt like a burden is going to be lifted from his shoulders, so he said, “No, not at all. Probably just to reminisce the short period of time I spent with a loved one. It was my brother. He passed away when he was four. I was eight. I noticed how it’s getting harder for me to keep the already vague memories I had with him, and our parents weren’t affluent enough to have even the cheapest camcorders back then. So I was hoping this will help.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” she sounded genuinely unbroken, no longer bounded by her previously indifferent tone of speaking.”

“No, it’s okay,” he replied as genuinely, “I actually missed talking about him. Mentioning him to my parents can be difficult, you know? Even though they might be the only ones left that truly cares about him.”

Silence and awkwardness consumed the room once more, until he was brave enough to ask her to return the favor.

“Uh, so, if I may,” he began, “why are you also waiting for ‘The Old Times’ to open?”

“I guess I owe you that one,” she smiled a small one as she folded her hands and told him, “to be brief, I am overwhelmed with certain dynamics I have in my close friendship with someone I probably have known my whole life. I am here to just… have a moment or two, reliving how it would be like had things not changed for the worse.

“Part of me realizes that this might be just another hurdle to overcome, and that probably a stronger bond awaits us, to be poetic about it, “she chuckles sadly, “but another part of me also felt like I might lose this person seeing how we have not managed to even agree to disagree. At one point, I felt pressured, and constantly frustrated even after trying my hardest to make my point clear that this friend can still respect me without understanding my choice. So, I decided to give this room a go when I saw it in the newspaper one day.

“At first I honestly considered trying ‘Certainty’, but not only the officers, even I can still smell the tendency of me never coming out of the room, so I thought maybe not. After giving it much thought, the next month I almost applied to ‘Consistency’, which I thought would probably give me an insight of what it would be if nothing had changed, but then I have learnt from my previous experience and some other applicants that, it’s as wishful thinking as applying for ‘Certainty’. I then thought I should just go to ‘The Old Times’ and see if the relationship is still worth the trouble, to refresh my mind of what we have been through together, and what the past hurdles are… just to give me some time to think clearly rather than just beating myself up because I feel guilty for ignoring all conversations whenever I sense it’s about to go downhill, which I thought is better than having an argument that will further destroy it, but then does it just the same.”

She let out a deep breath, “Well, whaddaya know? It does make you feel a little better talking about it. Your strategy kinda works.”

Now he dares enough to let a real chuckle because she did just the same. Suddenly, she got up from her seat and stretched.

“Are you leaving?” he asked.

“Yeah. I’ve waited all morning here, and I feel like it’s time for me to take a little walk because my backache is nagging at me again just now.”

“Oh, I thought you–uh…,” he hesitated to indicate she mentioned about giving up. She caught on.

“Well, who knows? Maybe I would. Even for a different reason, like me being clumsy and leaving my jacket again like last time. Anyways, the day hasn’t ended yet. And I suggest you keep yourself occupied or give yourself small breaks. Nobody asked you to constantly stay in the waiting room, especially on lunch time.”

And with that, she took her jacket and waved him goodbye. As the door closed, he saw her earphone and music player were left on the chair. He hold the thought for a moment, then shrugged and put the earphones on, thinking she most likely wouldn’t mind at all. After all, he is only following her suggestion.

Spring to Being

Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt.

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Leap

“Leap.”

Aaand what? Fall on my knees? Dislocate my shoulder? Break my neck? N’ah, I’ll just walk. I’m good.

What the–hey, hey, hey, what’s going on? Ouch, careful with the arms, can’t speedy-type without those around, y’know? Where are you guys taking me?

Another dark place, how original of you. Saving on a blindfold, quite thrifty aren’t ya? Oof. Ugh, I hope that’s not moss. This place is too damp for my taste, and stinky to my nose. What is it with you high, mighty blokes and cold dungeons?

Alright, what do you guys want from me? You don’t need to be harsh, let’s talk about it like civilized beings, aight?

“Leap.”

Well, see, I’ve got a problem with that request. First off, where do you want me to leap to? And two, how can I know where to land if it’s pitch fucking black here? Whether this is some kind of sick joke or a twisted version of a trust exercise, I had no intention whatsoever to be part of this. So can we please just be done with this so I can head back to–err–head back to… w-what? W-where am I from?  Why c-can’t I remember anything?

“Leap.”

Whoa, whoa, hold up, someone’s having a moment right here! Okay… okay, I was in front of the library waiting for… before I was in a… room, dimly lit… but where? A lady… was that my Mum? She’s smiling… A man is crying… an old book… a baby… Th-this doesn’t make sense!

“Leap.”

Hang on. It’s you, isn’t it!? You make me forget so I can be some sort of your fucking lab rat! I can’t see this as just a prank anymore. You give me back my memories, and even with that you still owe me an explanation why I am here in your shady, humid psych ward!

“Leap.”

Grrrr, alright. There, I jumped. Oh what now? You don’t specify a particular type I should do… Fine! Backward. Forward. Forward.  To the left. Right. Ri–aaaaaaaaargh! Oof. Trap doors, pfffttt, oh this can’t get any better… ow, my head… I… I can’t seem t-to feel my…


 

Wha-ow, that’s a swollen duck’s egg on my head… Hello? Hey, it’s kinda dark in here. Where the hell am I?

“Leap.”

What?

“Leap.”

Whatever the hell for? And where to? Can I just get out of here an–a-and… wait, where was I? Wh-who am I? How did I, and w-why did I end up here?

…what is happening?


 

Be there early, she said. The best spot might be taken, she said. I showed up here right at the time the library opened and I can’t find her anywhere. Great! Now she ditched me to do her part of the paperwork. Fucking convenient, eh, Jo–huh?

That was funny. Why did for a second think I need to be here with someone?