“On this blank page lies a world of potential.” I finished off my essay and looked up at the glaring lights that inspected me like divers in a wreck of a sunken ship. Hello world, it’s good to be back.
The library was silent, so silent. Any noise would mean I got kicked out by a bunch of angry university students. I went to the toilet and looked at myself in the mirror. I splashed water onto my face and stared intently at my reflection. No outbreaks— a miracle considering the stressful week that had passed. My eyes were situated far apart, further than I last remembered. My skin was almost yellow in the warm light. I had no other explanation for this other than the fact that I had not slept for the last 47 hours. I was running on caffeine, three cups of coffee, two diet cokes and fifteen energy bars were expanded in my quest to finish my assignment.
I walked back to my seat, wiped my hands on my pants. Cradling my files in one hand, I picked up my laptop with the other, and closed it with my chest.
I opened the screen again. There was a bright yellow post-it note stuck onto the screen.
Meet me in the computer lab. 5 minutes is all I have.
I turned around. There was a light coming from the computer lab behind. It glimmered from the depths of the library like the hungry eye of a sea monster waiting in the hull of the sunken ship. Nobody used the computer labs, I thought to myself.
The glass was frosted, there was no way to look into the room. I sat down for a while, counting down the minutes. There was no reason to go. I could very well ignore the post-it. Three minutes past like the shifting sun. I felt moss grow up my ankles.
I was resolved to stay away from any of this drama, I decided. There was too much drama, too little energy. In fact all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. It was five in the afternoon, on a warm 35 degree celsius Saturday. I had been awake since 6pm on rainy Thursday. Not the healthiest of lifestyles, and I wouldn’t advise anyone to do the same. I crushed the post it, and threw it into the bin. It bounced off the edge, and missed.
The furious collective typing of the students filled the library.
I picked up my laptop again, closing it and cradling the last two days in my tired arms. My phone vibrated.
It vibrated again. I had a call.
It was her.
I let the phone ring as I stared at the screen.
Who was this girl? That would be a long story. But it would be safe to say that she meant a lot to me. She meant a lot then, and she still meant a lot now. In fact, I wouldn’t have hesitated to pick up the call had it been a month ago.
But some time had past, and our lives had shifted courses. She was no longer somebody I saw any future in. I believed that we had resolved our struggles, but I knew this not to be true. There was still a lot unanswered. The day she left was very much shrouded in the ocean mist, the thunder loud and waves roaring, high enough to sink hearts.
Why would she call? I hadn’t left anything with her, I made sure to take all my belongings, and return hers as well.
I remember how our last conversation went. We were at a street corner where a barbershop met a coffeehouse.
“So this is it?” She began by asking.
“You tell me,” I replied.
“This is it then.”
“What really went wrong?”
“What’s with you and finding out everything?”
“I just want to know so I can be better in the future.”
“You can’t live in the moment, dear. That’s what went wrong.”
At that moment I knew I had a lot to say about that statement. How it was unfair to keep me in the grey for so long, how there was nothing concrete to fall back on in our relationship. How we were being pushed about by the wind, unwilling to find an anchor. She flourished in stark uncertainty while I suffered. What was blissful to her was sheer torture for me.
But I didn’t say anything, and she just walked away. Perhaps she was right, I remembered thinking.
Five minutes was up.
The lights faded from the computer lab. I stood at the entrance of the library and noticed everything. The door opened, and a lady walked out. She turned the other way, walked a few steps and paused. The phone was probably on its last few rings. I don’t know why, but I panicked at that moment. Something told me that if I didn’t pick up that phone call that I would never see that girl again. And I was right. I found out later that she was leaving that night to study overseas. I should have known, but I didn’t. I only felt panic.
The lady that stepped out of the computer lab must have been a student. But I didn’t recognise her. She was lanky, like an antelope. There was something in her gait that made her look vulnerable in body but strong in spirit. She was as free as she wanted to be. I knew at once that it must have been her that wrote the post-it note.
Picking up the phone would mean a long conversation. I knew how things went with her, she would pour her feelings out. Real, genuine and thick. I would have to take a deep breath and swallow it all up. There was no other reason why she would have called. By the time the phone call was over antelope lady would have disappeared.
If I walked up to antelope lady I would have to miss the phone call. It was that simple. There was really no two ways about it. A student walked in and bumped into me. He dropped his copy of Ecce Homo by Friedrich Nietzsche onto the ground. He bent over to pick it up.
“I’m sorry,” he said, before shuffling away.
But antelope lady was almost at the end of the library now. The phone was ringing and the lady was walking away.
I had a choice to make, and I had to make it now.
This short story is almost entirely fictional. No such antelope lady exists in my school, or in my life.