This story came to me while I was showering one evening, as I was thinking about strange signs life can give us sometimes, and how we come to realize things too late. The end might seem a little dramatic, but isn’t that how it feels, when we are too late to grasp what could have been? So here I present, “Oliver”.
He chews the antacid as he closes his briefcase. The quarterly reports nestle between thick manila folders, loose pens, and a calculator. He adjusts his sweater and heads out the door. 7am skies on a spring day, dew still lingers, and the sun hazes caught between gossamer clouds.
Routine as railways, his feet the unwilling steel tires effortlessly gliding through, passing coffee shops and their inviting aromas of freshly baked goods. A sign sways lazily on a light pole, almost falling from the clear striated tape:
NEVER HIDE TWO EYES
SEEN AND HEARD
He smiles at the inanity of it and continues, checking his watch now and then, knowing the train arrives at 7:30am every weekday morning. He sees another sign stamped on another light pole:
IF YOU SEE WITH TWO EYES
He scoffs, “yea, I wish” and laughs quickening his steps not wanting to miss the train -a few more blocks- he thinks to himself, egging himself further down the avenue.
He spots another sign:
His curiosity peaks and he veers away from the routine for a few minutes. He looks down the alleyway and decides on an impulse to follow. He wipes droplets of sweat off his forehead and smacks his chest gently wondering why the antacid isn’t kicking in yet.
A door is ajar, and he looks in. A solitary, wooden chair is off to his right, the room appears empty. Just as he is about to run back to his designated tracks, seeing there’s only five minutes left until his train arrives, something emerges from the shadows. He is momentarily taken aback as a small creature greets him by nodding its head. He notices the deep wrinkles on its face and within each fold, small mushroom like moles peek through. “I will grant you one wish” and it extends its arms towards this man.
He in turn watches before him, in his mind’s eye: a football game he played when he was in high school; playing a piano in a recital as his father records it with a video camera; a kitchen where his mother stirs a pot smiling at him; walking across a stage where a woman is holding a rolled up, ribbon tied paper; and a woman pulling away after kissing him, cheeks flushed, lips stained by the cherry soda they were sharing, the taste lingering on his tongue and her words echoing, “I think I love you Oliver”.
Before he could formulate his wish, a pain strikes him, his arm goes numb and he falls face down. He watches the creature disappear in a plume of upturned dust, the woman still in his mind’s eyes, “I think I love you Oliver” smiling. He could never bring himself to say them back. All the things between them seem trivial now. What was he looking for in life anyway? There was something strange happening between his mind and his heart. But as the blood slowly spills over the corners of his mouth, he could only taste the cherry soda.