Echoes

It happened late one night. I was driving along the highway, with my wife, Dillon, asleep by my side, when suddenly a truck flipped and crashed into us, or we crashed into it – my memory is unclear. However, the result was clear; I awoke the next morning in pain, seeing nothing but a blur. But that wasn’t as hard as hearing Dillon had passed away and the other driver only received a few minor bruises and was going to walk out of the hospital within moments. I did press charges – not out of spite, but out of justice – and won the case without any difficulty; the other driver was just above the blood alcohol concentration. But I didn’t gain anything.

There are some days that I blame myself. I was a little drowsy that night and I often debate if I should have pulled over and stopped at a hotel or done something else, something different than what I did. I was arrogant, trying to muscle my way through the night to get home; I was a fool. The questions become especially hard since I don’t have anything else to think about; my world had dissipated before me. I was left alone with my thoughts. That’s what I have to live with.

I would occasionally wander the streets, finding my way to the church or passing the church on almost every occasion. From time to time, I would enter, especially when there was a wedding on. I would stand away from the ceremony and listen to the unification of the bride and groom. It would change my attitude, how I felt, even for just a split second, giving my life hope. Though, I don’t know if hope is such a great thing. Whenever we hope we just set ourselves up for the inevitable fall. But I guess, the fall is inevitable, so there’s no waste in hoping. What a farce!

One day, when I walked past the church, there was a wedding reception. I entered to listen to the laughs, the joys and the celebrations, feeling something more than what I had recently been enduring; I wasn’t able to describe what it was: euphoria, I don’t know. But I needed this; that I realized. I ambled into the reception and felt my way around, being drawn to the fun. It reminded me of when Dillon and I first met: on the dance floor at our office party, taking her hand and getting caught in the rhythm.

I continued strolling around, when suddenly I was tapped on the shoulder and was asked how I knew the bride and groom. I lied. I told them that I was a long time childhood friend of the bride, that she wouldn’t remember me and I was coming to surprise her. I would have told them anything to stay for as long as I could. The two men bought it.

After trying the buffet, I again stood away from the crowd, listening to the beat of the festivities. This is what I have become accustomed to, being an outsider, standing at a distance from life. I’m still not sure how I feel about this. I was so used to being the center of attention, having people turn to me when I entered a room, greeting everyone with a smile and a hug, inquiring about the great things they were doing with their lives. I know this sounds narcissistic, but I don’t believe attention is a bad thing, as long as you give something of value back to the people that pay their attention to you. Yet, having said that, there’s no such thing as something for nothing; even if I wasn’t as charming as I was, I would always have been giving value back to people. And maybe, what I was giving back wasn’t worthwhile; I did like to indulge in myself. Plus, now I feel that I am learning so much about others. It’s amazing what you learn when you shut up and listen to people. Most of the time they like to talk about themselves; they listen to what you have to say just so they can tell you what they want to say. People either do this or they complain and then, you either complain with them or you put up with it, depending on how well you get along with the other person. If I had learned any of this earlier, I wouldn’t have hung around the people I knew. I wouldn’t have spent late nights with complainers, whining about small, insignificant issues that have nothing to do with us, with anything, really. And maybe, if I was different, Dillon wouldn’t have passed away. On the other hand, maybe, she wouldn’t have been with me in the first place. If life is about learning from your mistakes, then life is a cruel teacher.

A few minutes later, one of the groomsmen approached me, asking exactly how I knew the bride. I lied again, but this time realized that I couldn’t continue my charade and quickly left before I caused a scene.

The wedding got me excited though; I didn’t just want to go home and let my mood wither away. I continued walking, feeling where life was taking me, listening to the vibrations, what they had to say. Since the incident, it occurred to me that sounds had a way of talking. Music is an amazing example of this, since tunes are able to evoke particular feelings, dependent on the person listening to the tune. Once I discovered this for myself, I couldn’t stop wondering why this is. Why should music affect us in the way that it does? Music has no purpose, no meaning; music just does what it does; it feels. I speculated that there must be something within feelings that bonds us to music; that feelings themselves must be vibrations of some form or other. The irony of it is that since we all feel, since we all vibrate, then that means we all have the potential to come together, as music does, even if our circumstances make us believe otherwise. Music is not only our greatest evoker, but is also our greatest philosopher.

I turned a number of corners that I probably shouldn’t have and got lost, but I didn’t care, I was feeling excited, energized by the possibility of experiencing something new. As I continued walking, I started to hear a ruckus and approached the noise. It must have been from the stadium, where they held a number of different events; concerts, carnivals, you name it. It was incredible how they were able to design the entire stadium for new events, in order to stimulate the mood for that particular event. It made each event its own experience.

I walked up to the ticket booth and asked for a ticket, but I could hear the hesitation. The ticket seller asked if I knew what the event was and I told him that I had no idea and that’s why I wanted to buy a ticket. He then tried to convince me to not buy a ticket, describing it as a, “waste of my money,” on account of my handicap. I told him that I’d be the one that determines if the ticket is a waste of my money or not. He gave up and I was able to buy a ticket.

As I entered the stadium, the chaos grew louder; I could feel the excitement, the energy as people screamed at the top of their lungs. It took me a while to realize what they were screaming about: soccer. I was at a soccer match. I couldn’t make out who was playing who; everyone was just chanting to be louder than everyone else. That was also another thing that I realized after the incident: people aren’t clear when they communicate. They just speak words without applying any thought behind the words. It just highlights that people really don’t think. The human brain is the greatest asset that humans have, giving us an evolutionary advantage over all other creatures on the planet and yet, we don’t use it. We must, ironically, be very irrational by nature. Soccer is a great example of this. We like to come together and chant for our team and at the same time, taunt the other team, competing against each other, over something that’s not going to matter the next day; why? Why do we care? This is something that I still struggle to understand, especially, because competition doesn’t help us in anyway, it doesn’t serve us, it just causes friction. Maybe, it’s just the irrational ones that do this. Unfortunately, a lot of us love soccer. I quickly left the stadium before the game ended.

I was beginning to feel hungry, so I went in search for the closest restaurant. After a few hours and some help from some nice people, I found myself at a diner. I asked the waitress for a water and if she could read me the specials; even though the soccer match wasn’t the highlight of my day, I was still feeling good and wanted to treat myself. She told me that they had an amazing one-of-a-kind cheese burger that further provoked my taste buds. I went for the burger and she told me it’d be out in fifteen minutes.

I began to listen in on the people in the diner; not to eavesdrop on them, but to listen to their fidgeting, their mannerisms, attempting to guess how many people there are, how old they are, what kind of people they are. It's a lot of fun to assess a person’s story. I estimated that there were about ten other people in the diner, either my age or younger; a group of four behind me, a couple or two to the right of me and two to four people sitting alone in front of me. When the waitress came back with my water, I confirmed with her if I was correct. She was amazed, inquiring how I knew that. I told her that it was, “magic,” and she laughed and walked off. Magic, that elusive concept that we use when we can’t explain a situation. Much like luck, magic doesn’t benefit anyone, yet the notion exists. People just use these ideas as excuses to continue to say and do the same things they say and do. And the amusing thing is, people just say and do things; they don’t take in the experience, they don’t embrace life and all the things that life has to offer, they don’t listen, even when everything is right in front of them. It’s as if our perception plays its own trick on us.

Within fifteen minutes, I could smell my cheese burger, as the chef called on the waitress to collect my dinner and serve me. But as she was walking to my table, with my food, as if by coincidence, I suddenly heard the lights go out; the waitress jumped and dropped my cheese burger on the floor, while the other customers gasped, turning and moving to each other for support. They sounded as if they weren’t sure what to do or even how to respond, that they had never seen darkness before. They shouldn’t be startled by the black, because now, they can see.

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And finally, thank you so much for taking the time to read my short story. I feel so grateful to get to do what I do and it’s thanks to you for taking an interest in the content I create. So again, thank you.

Keep growing. Keep creating.

Ewen

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