Card Challenge: Day 36
Card Day 36: A person made of sheets of paper walks along a grassy field. Overhead, dark thunderstorms are rolling in, and trees bend with the force of the wind. The paper is beginning to fly off and swirl around.
Jamie had never thought that his entire life could fit into six boxes haphazardly stuffed into his trunk and back seat. Nevertheless, he had surprised himself, mostly by the meagerness of his life. In some ways, he felt he was running from the struggles behind him, but there was also something brave in his action, or at least felt brave at the time. Now it seemed more foolhardy.
Jamie ran a hand through his hair, looking into his own hopeful yet terrified eyes in the rearview mirror. This had always been his dream, one that had been put on hold time and time again, but something that had entertained his wildest thoughts when he imagined the fantasy that could be his life. Artists from all over the world had always flocked to the Big Apple, and he felt himself among the international migratory pull. It was the city that made careers, and somehow he was certain this adventure would reignite his flagging creativity.
His laptop, a battered thing that sluggishly churned through the internet and outdated games, rested in the passenger’s seat beside him, the tool of his trade. Hundreds of documents littered its hard drive, ideas and inspiration that always withered under the constant pressure of routine. Now, however, he was free of those responsibilities—which also meant free of the benefits. His boss was probably waking to his voicemail now, and would likely have the position filled by the end of the week.
“Hi Dan, I quit. I’m done with you, the company, and all the bullshit politics I’ve been slugging through for four years. I’m done, and there’s nothing worth keeping at my desk. You can box it up and throw it in the dumpster, because I never want to see the inside of that God forsaken building again. Good luck.” The intensity and certainty of his message still resonated within him, a decision that, for the first time in a long time, seemed to be in his best interest. But the same uncertainty and self-doubt that had kept him locked to the dead-end job, the failure of a relationship, still snaked through his thoughts.
It was just past sunrise, and the sun stung at his tired eyes. He had been driving for hours already, and the adrenaline was flushing from his veins. Feeling the tug of fatigue, he pulled off the highway and towards a local diner promising the “Best Coffee at Exit 47!” He lacked enthusiasm for the accolade, but assumed that a diner could make a decent pot of coffee just about anywhere.
He grabbed his laptop from the seat, slumped out of the car, and locked his car behind him. It would not do to lose all of his earthly belongings just after setting out on his own. Inside, the diner was quiet, humming with the anticipation of the morning rush. But, for now, it was Jamie, a middle-aged waitress with faded makeup form the overnight shift, the young blond cook in the back, and a sullen looking trucker seated at the counter with his eyes on the tiny television in the corner. Jamie slid into a booth, opening his laptop. This was the start of his journey, and probably the first novel-worthy thing he had ever done in his life. He needed to record it.
“Good morning, sunshine. We’ve got a pancake special until 9am and free wifi,” the waitress said, sidling up to the table and tipping her notepad towards his booting laptop.
“Just a coffee, thanks,” he said with a self-conscious smile.
“No breakfast? Most important meal of the day, you know?”
Jamie shook his head quickly. “Just the coffee. I’m not really feeling up for food quite yet.”
She read the tragedy in his eyes and gave him a sympathetic smile. “A coffee, then.” She shuffled away from the table and towards the coffee pot. He could already smell it filtering through the diner, and he began to feel that the sign might actually be an accurate advertisement.
He had no intention of getting online, but he was checking his email before he even knew what happened. The first four emails were from her. The cursor hovered over the message, walking a fine line between opening them and abandoning his quest, or trashing them.
“You aren’t answering your phone,” said the first subject.
“Were you serious?” asked the second.
“Babe, let’s talk.”
He could hear the pleading in the lines and knew how weak he was to that endearing tone. Her face looked up at him from her tiny picture in the corner, and the sight of those smiling eyes steeled his resolve. He had enough.
Jamie closed his eyes, leaned back in the booth, and released a heavy sigh. In that moment, he was again on the landing of his apartment, eager to surprise Candace with the exciting news. While he knew she would catch on pretty quickly since he was home on the night he usually worked until 10, Jamie was bursting with the news. He had gotten the promotion, and so they would stay put for another few years, just like she wanted. Nervous, elated, and only a bit disappointed that he had so readily agreed to stick around in the cow town if the job came through, he shifted from foot to foot. With a smile, he opened the door.
The sounds told the story before anything else. Rhythmic creaks of the bed, moans, and sighs. There were clothes in the living room—her underwear and another’s boxers. Jamie felt numb stepping into the apartment, his brain actively trying not to make the connections he already knew. Seeing Alvin from accounting in his bed had been shocking, but it was hard to feel too much. His emotions simply seemed to shut down in that moment. The room was already too full with the embarrassment, fear, and shame on Candace’s and Alvin’s faces.
“I’m leaving,” his voice said, dead in the new silence of the room. “I’m going to New York.” Jamie had left the room then, grabbing the boxes he had thrown in the hall closet for the day he would truly follow his dream. Candace shuffled Alvin out of the apartment quickly. She had cried and pulled at his arm, but he moved methodically from room to room, collecting those things which were definitely his. She could keep the couch they brought last year, as well as the television and entertainment center that would not fit in his sedan. He collected his DVDs, the clothes hanging in his half of the closet, and a collection of books, mugs, plates, and cookware that he had brought into their home in boxes two years before. All told, it probably took him less than an hour. She had been tearful and pleading, trying to block the door, but he left, mute and numb.
The waitress set the coffee on the table, snapping him back to reality. “Tough morning?”
“Tough night,” he corrected with a friendly smile as he clicked the trash can in the corner of the screen. Jamie was on the path of his dreams, and no one was going to hold him back or betray him. He would not give her the chance.
Jamie closed his email and opened up a blank document. Looking at the blank screen, he was aware of so many possibilities stretching before him, some for success and some for failure. Not knowing which he was beginning, he simply began to write.
This work by Katherine C is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.