It was another busy morning in St. Lewis, along with the trivial traffic on my way to work. The cars seemed to exceed the permitted speed with a speed I had never seen before, although it is common that traffic rules were not taken so seriously here in the capital. But the problem was not that people seemed more backward than usual. The problem was the figure of a boy standing in the middle of the pedestrian lane on the main avenue as if no one could reach him. It was peculiar, to say the least, that all the cars deviated from the place where he was as if it were impossible to pass through an imaginary barrier.
Every day I took the same bus to work, and every day he was standing there. Just looking ahead, unreachable, as if he were a ghost. In fact, for a long time, I came to believe that he was a ghost. Today, I think the brown-haired boy in the denim jacket is just a mere illusion in my head.
While I’m standing watching him from a distance, he’s still standing in the crosswalk. I have the urge to get up and pull him away as any normal person would, but I think that would be crazy. Because I'm not even sure if he exists, and also not sure if I wouldn't die trying to figuring out.
The bus I was waiting for finally arrives and I immediately get up so I don't miss it. I greet the driver, pass the ticket through the machine and choose the back window to sit down. I want to watch the boy in the denim jacket one more time before I follow my destination, so I choose the same window every day. From here, I can see him looking at me. I know it's weird, but I feel like every day he follows me with his eyes as I leave the avenue. And every day I watch him watching me, in silence.
When the bus leaves, I can breathe again. I look ahead, finally leaving the boy's image behind. I must focus on what matters to me now, and that is, my destiny for the antique store where I have been working for almost three years.
My iPod is playing another of Cho Seung-woo's ballads, “As flowers bloom and fall”. One of my favorites since I first heard it. Every time I listened to it, I felt the same way: melancholy. I'm not sure why, but this song makes me feel sad every single time. This is a tremendous irony because it talks about leaving worries and sorrows behind. And that was exactly what I was trying to focus, on now.
Lately, I feel sadness without even knowing why. Some friends worry that I might be sick, but I know it isn't something like this. It is something I can't explain, because, well, I don't understand. I hadn't understood myself for a while and this was bothering me. It felt like my mind was forgetting something that I didn't even know what it was. Maybe it was my own essence, or maybe it was just a feeling of becoming an adult for the first time alone in the world; whatever it was, I was different. And I couldn't say what that difference means to me.
The time I spent on the bus to the antique store was not much, but it was enough to make me think about the things that were going on in my life. To start with this strange eagerness for a change. It was not like moving home, or country, it was just a journey that I felt was calling me out of my comfort zone. I was supposed to act, but I wasn't sure where to start.
On my journey through the city, focused on my thoughts, and I even forgot to pay attention to my destination. When I found out the bus was already close to where I was supposed to get off, I panicked. So I got up, and did the signal to stop, feeling a little disoriented. I somehow knew that I was not supposed to be there at that moment. As if the whole place were the same, but at the same time, everything was completely different. It could be some sort of teasing from me due to the scene of the boy I had seen this morning, but I felt that something was wrong.
I checked the time on my phone and realized the clock was broken. But that was weird because digital clocks cannot break. So, why would it be stopped? How was it possible? If there was a problem with the battery, then the phone was not supposed to be working either. So what was that? I unlocked the phone and it seemed to be working again.
That got me off guard.
The bus stopped, and I got off the stairs, stopping right in front of Mr. Jordan's antique store. It wasn't a store with many customers, but I enjoyed working there. What mattered to me, as always, was not the fact that people increased my commission by the number of sales, but, rather, learning more about the history behind the artifacts. I love to know more about things because I wanted to become an archaeologist myself. And for that, it was justifiable that I was in love with antique sales the same way Mr. Jordan was. We understood each other very well.
I felt a little melancholy when I headed for the store. When I opened the door, I could hear the familiar bell that rings right on top of me when I passed the door every day. Even today, when the day seemed to have that feeling of the past, as if the timeline was strange and nothing looked new, but it didn't look old either.
It felt strange to be walking in unknown terrain, even though I knew every inch of that block completely. I knew this family store, as well as the other stores on the block. With the difference that this one had a whole world of stories to be told at the touch of your fingers.
Working in a place that contained so many old things makes me a philosophical guy. Because they were not only memories that people deposited there, but also part of the history of the world itself. Things that have already impacted someone's life, things that people wanted to forget, bury at the bottom of existence to never be found again. Things that one day would be worth so much to someone, or even several people, the moment the antiquity left the store for the possession of someone else.
To write another story, another page should be drawn on the timeline. Again, and again and again. Every day. I feel it, I feel that history could bend in time without explanation and go around until everything was on the same axis again. And it was precise because of this mystery of the course of my life that I loved working there. For it seemed that every time I was holding time with my own hands.
Today, it would be no different. For there were several boxes packed in the corner of the door, one on top of the other, on the floor, or leaning against the back surface on the counter. Mr. Jordan shared smiled when he saw me entering the store. He lifted his glasses from the tip of his dark-skinned nose back to his eyes again and came out from behind the counter to greet me. He does this every day, but even though I was already used to it, I was still flattered by his enthusiasm.
“Good morning, Noah. How is today?” He asked with a deep voice.
I gave him a half smile because I was amused by his cheerful way of being. He was the kind of contagious person you could count on to improve your day when you saw him, just like his son Chadwick. I liked them both very much because I always feel the same excitement every time I see him behind the counter, just waiting for the next curious customer with ancient artifacts; or even when I meet Chadwick on the weekends.
“I'm fine, sir. And you?”
Mr. Jordan smiles kindly at me before pointing to the boxes on the floor.
“I'm fine, son. But I need you to do me a favor. Those boxes... they can't stay here. I need you to take them to the attic before customers start arriving. Those are new pieces that still need evaluation to be put up for sale.”
I glance at the number of boxes, already feeling my back burn in advance.
“I think... it will take me some time to load them all.”
“Yes, Yes. Take your time, son. I just need every single one of them to be up there.”
I nodded like a good employee. I left my bag on the main counter and bent down to pick up two boxes at once even though the amount was beyond my capacity. They were really heavy. I had no idea what was in there, but I didn't want to ask. Whatever it was, I knew it should be an important piece for the store, so every care would be too little to take care of with an old piece like that.
Slowly and carefully, I went up the stairs and went to the dump room where most of the antiques that arrived at the store were. There was everything there, like a Room of Hidden Things. From childish nonsense to artifacts that are worth some money, everything was very easy to find.
I leave the boxes on the dusty floor very carefully, while I sighed, and take a deep breath. I should start exercising better if I was going to continue to work this harder. The problem was: with the routine I had and the whole school study, it was very difficult to follow a healthy life. In fact, in the modern world, this was a luxury.
Looking around, I realized that there were a lot of messy things in the room. I didn’t remember why new things still haven’t been organized, since I usually always did the job. That confused me. Walking among the objects, I could see that there were many of them that I had already arranged for last week.
I frowned, looking at a rag doll lying on the floor. Her mouth was sewn with a red thread, in the shape of a big smile. It could be a smile, but for me, it was still pretty bizarre. I took the doll in my hand, noticing the thick dust on top of the cloth. I wrinkled my nose and a sneeze came. And one more. And one more.
“Ah, you're going to kill me with rhinitis!” I say to her, feeling pretty ridiculous afterward for giving a doll a lecture.
I went to a mirror in the cabinet to put her in there since it was usually where we put things that didn't have space to be displayed in the store. The same second I looked at the reflection in the closet, I was amazed. Because the boy in the denim jacket was right there, looking at me from behind the mirror.
“Aah!” I startled.
He opened his eyes wide but said nothing. He just kept looking at me as if it were a mirage, but also very real. I didn't know if it was a trick of my mind, much less did I know if I was going crazy. All I could see is that he was there looking at me as if he knew me.
I ran away from the attic in the same second, my legs shaking as I hurried down the stairs. Mr. Jordan was already holding a baseball bat in his hand and coming out from behind the counter when he saw me at the bottom of the stairs in despair, probably white as a ghost.
“What happened, son? I heard you screaming from up there.”
I didn't know what to say. What could I say? That I finally saw the boy in the denim jacket somewhere other than the crosswalk? It would be ridiculous. Lunatic. No one would believe me. It was also likely that I would be admitted to the mental hospital, like a crazy person.
“I-I... I saw a rat, sir. That's it.”
Mr. Jordan sighed, laughing slowly.
“Ah, my boy. A poor, harmless rat? Did it scare you that much?” He laughed again, “I see, I see.”
I was feeling ridiculous lying to Mr. Jordan, even though I knew it was necessary. The lie was something I despised, but I had no choice. I doubted he would understand if I explained the situation to him. Even though I myself do not understand anything. Not even a little.
Mr. Jordan returns to the counter and ends up talking with some customers who had just entered the store. I didn't want to go back up there, because I didn't know how to deal with the situation. I should go to a hospital, or maybe I just needed food to stop my delusional sighs. Food, yes! Maybe that was it!
I remembered that I have left my bag above the counter, so I waited for Mr. Jordan to take one of the customers to the back of the store before I touch it. I opened the bag and took out a cereal bar and my iPhone. On the phone, I could see again that the schedule was still completely broken.
I went into the device settings and tried to edit the numbers. But even with the cursor blinking on the screen, I couldn't type. The date was still the same as always: July 15, 2015. My eyes widened because I knew what that date meant. It was the same day as Chadwick band's debut show, the same day that I had been anticipating for months.
I held the phone in disbelief.
Today was the 12th, so what was going on? Why was the phone going ahead alone? How could all these weird things be happening at the same time?
I was about to call Chadwick and ask him about those things when for some reason, I received a message notification.
Alex Diaz: Hey, I had a lot of fun today!
Alex Diaz: Thank you for entertaining me at this party, I wouldn't have persisted in staying there if it weren't for you ^^ ~
Alex Diaz: Can we see each other tomorrow? In fact… are you okay? Chadwick told me that you fell drunk at the crosswalk. Haha. Should I worry about that?
What the…? I opened the confusing application. I didn't remember meeting any Alex Diaz. I was about to type “Who are you?” when the screen suddenly lit up with an answer:
Noah Johnson: Forget about Chadwick, for God's sake ㅠㅠ
Noah Johnson: Of course, we can see each other tomorrow! I'll be waiting for you!
And then nothing more.
The answers were at a different time, twelve hours ahead of the time it really was, besides the day being scheduled for July 15th. My stomach suddenly turned over, and I wanted to throw up.
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