Last Updated: February 12th.
Scenario #14 has been sealed, a steady and smooth crease motivated by a satisfying turn of events, and the young man plainly drops the envelope into the open drawer. A gentle plop into the unorganized pile, which has been greeted by fresh air each of the past fourteen days, signals to the young man that he can now sleep. His eyelids, however, are not ready for sleep and do not become heavy. You could blame those eyelids as you wish, but he will get out a fresh sheet of paper and begin scribbling away the template when he would normally save this for the next night. The sticky substance of the final envelope desperately awaits the inevitable saliva saved for the completion of scenario #15.
A touch up of some commas, periods, and thesaurus-inspired word play and we’ve got a nice little template. Not in the least bit different from what he’s written before, but of course his silver trimmed pen, with its comforting grip and rolling ink tip, is ready for the harshest of cross-outs and edits. We will witness first-hand the routing of scenario 15’s mimicry. He has slowly hashed away at his dreams, which at first were very hard to even decide upon, and now he’s reached something of a breaking point; desperation, an “if all goes wrong” viewpoint, and the outcome of which he least hopes for. General wisdom suggests that maybe it isn’t a good idea to burden a mind with the stress of a hypothetical downfall, you may think depression or even paranoia begins in this fashion, but he’s careful in his aim and must take all measures into account.
Scenario #15 states that he will of course be un-married 7 years from now. He does see a very modest girl who, although she is sometimes unflattering, often wears fake flowers in her hair. She is very modest indeed, so much so that she hasn’t yet received her raise for the promotion to assistant store manager. They spend countless hours watching free limited cable and giggling about the small stuff in life. Neither he nor she are qualified to be included amongst the ‘funny people’ of the world, but thankfully their disposition in life has left them to be anything but picky. Quality time with someone who is willing to spend quality time is sadly the only crux of their relationship, even if it does spawn a fair amount of romance and hand-in-hand trips around the park. ‘Oh how she’ll love me, despite everything’ he thinks, because as nice as she is, the expectations of life are nothing but second notice to her.
Take her out and leave him single and alone. He cuts out the girl. This is how scenario #15 will be shaped. He’s single, because even the naive girl understands how useless her plastic sunflower accessories will be in the face of utter hopelessness and constant moneyless panic. She can’t keep her head above water with that attitude, and nobody else is willing to play along in his endeavors. He’s doomed to be without any legitimate relationship. This scenario eliminates romantics immediately, but he’s sealed away his fate as a swinger in other envelopes as well. Scenario #15 is the bottom of the pit, the sewer of the city, the tsunami of his future world, and so much more destruction needs to occur.
The note about the rotting wallpaper of his one bedroom apartment needs to be re-written to accommodate his lack of income. A wasted college degree, assuming he won’t drop so low that he somehow fails to graduate. There’s no decent job waiting for him, maybe he could sell coffee to tall men with overbearing chins and $150 laptop cases, but either way the place he calls home will most likely be at the mercy of a family member. He just can’t afford anything else. He’s already slowly shrunk down from the ambitions of owning his own house and won’t even consider residence at a trailer park of any sort, so in with his Uncle Doug in Michigan he goes, haunted by the ghost of his cousin who so tragically passed away and left the room vacant. It’s in this room that he will write his cryptic poetry of suicide decorated so that the meaning will always be concealed and he will never be shipped off. No, nevermind…he makes no note of suicidal tendencies, even in scenario #15.
Then what about his feelings? I’m sure we’ll witness him also sell his car away because insurance in the United States will continue to sky-rocket and, well, we’ve already seen how negatively this scenario is shaping up to be! The man has ambitions and any man with dreams and ambitions is sure to be crippled with self-hatred and a whiny attitude about meaninglessness if ‘all goes wrong.’ Despite this, he writes that he will ‘be a man of nature.’ A man of nature? Well, it doesn’t seem like he will explain this but we will hypothesize that he’ll be something of a dreamer. Countless walks and hikes in parts neighboring the Great Lakes and maybe even one to leap belly first onto the ground to watch insects and snails slowly crawl amongst the grass. A hobby that’s consolation for all of the 21st century entertainment he will not be able to afford. He’s made another mark here: ‘though nothing like a young Werther.’
As we expect, he continues onto the topic of his old car. It assuredly will not make the transition from scenario 14 to 15. What read as ‘the 96 Nissan, which had been my first significant purchase in my life, has endured through broken air conditioning, missing taillights, and an inconsistent gas gauge had successfully lasted me until the age of 27. A reliable piece-of-shit!’ is now being formed into ‘the 96 Nissan, which had been my first significant purchase in my life, was the cause of the major accident that had permanently crippled my spine. Bad breaks lead to bad back problems.’ Yet another twist, he really does not hold back! It’s awful, some readers may have to look away, to watch a man do carelessly imagine his life in such horrid circumstances. Sure sure, it could be worse. Always could be worse with sickness, death, and malnutrition. But this isn’t about how to construct the worst life ever. This is purely about the scenarios!
Only about the scenarios! Writing his life like lottery options waiting to be picked out of a hat! Is the hat really a random decider here? We can’t really tell, because there are altogether very legitimate arguments either way! There are things in this world that will seem to always remind you that there is order, a simple ‘code’ for how things will work, and that everything that happens does so according to a ‘cause’, or if you would like to go deeper ‘everything happens for a reason.’ But maybe you don’t buy that? Maybe when you walk outside you see the mosquitoes dancing around freely and sucking the life out of everything in their paths, maybe you see young beautiful and humane people dying because of simple wrist spasms at the wheel of a car. Maybe you stop and ponder about your existence, the many insignificant acts of complete absurdity, mutations, and adaptations, and you really see no order, no constants. Either way, in both types of beliefs, how on earth could we say that any of these scenarios should be right? Our writer seems to be banking on one of these actually working out, in their entirety, but we can remain skeptical. He has no idea what his life will bring.
But back to the scenario, which he seems to be finishing up. He’s added a development of intense allergies which critically affects his time with nature. He’s given himself a very large amount of debt due to a court decision that he is indeed fully to blame for his car accident. He’s taken away his friends to the likes of death, losing touch, and their disappointment in him. Really all he is left with is his small haunted room, a few note-pads, and his own mind. He concludes scenario #15 with a bold sentence ‘Despite everything, I’ll still continue to hope for a change. I’ll still dream big. I’ll still be alive.’
As he gently places down his wondrous pen with silver lining and precisely creases the paper into a perfect tri-fold, the envelope next to him seems to open itself. He lets scenario #15 gracefully fall in and seals it with aggression. He begins to coolly place it on the pile to join the others, but a momentary twitch in his neck gives in, and he quickly shoves it into his school backpack.
It remains to me a mystery as to why the young man always carried around that envelope. Specifically THAT envelope with THAT horrible scenario! Now, it’s not as if it just sat with him at all times. In fact, it became somewhat of a useful tool for him in his college life. Being still young, he had always been unsure how to respond to questions about his life after college and what he would be doing. Yes, people mostly were asking about his future profession, which in itself was hard to answer, but there was always a deeper insinuation to the question. People really couldn’t just be asking about his label at the work place, they wanted more. He could never properly answer these questions, but now he keeps scenario #15 at hand so that he will always be able to answer. Why this specific scenario?
The first time he used it, an acquaintance in college was discussing a recent application for an internship. Our young man was mostly nodding as the future financial accountant was talking about how it could ‘boost’ and ‘jump start’ his career. Then came the rhetorical question ‘but I guess anything could happen, who really knows?’ A crisp paper was slid into his arm on the table with bold letters entitled ‘Scenario #15’ at the top, and the accountant began reading.
His reaction was somewhat predictable; he asked ‘what the hell is this?’ Our young man explained that it is ‘what will happen’ or at least a possibility. There wasn’t a proper reply; just a lot of grumbling and confusion and then they never spoke much again.
When he showed it to a friend there was much more ‘conversation’ than there was with that future accountant. It was more of a speech from his friend about the economic opportunities that were waiting for him, the necessity of confidence, the small probability of failure, and the usefulness of an education. He finished the speech but urging our young man to talk to somebody and to try to be more optimistic. Our young man had responded only that he was very confident and that he had big dreams. He did not explain why he chose to present this scenario instead of maybe one of the ones where he’s happily married in Boston with a summer house in Florida…
It seemed that anyone he showed it to, and there was quite a lot of them, only had negative reactions. He was confused by this; you could tell by the side-shifting face and crunched eyes during the many speeches and words of encouragement he received. I’ll never understand what he truly expected. It seems possible that he actually preferred this scenario to the others. I cannot understand it, but he treated the paper like an infant baby. Always making sure it did not bend and that the edges did not become crumpled. Even on his graduation day, when he was celebrating at a local restaurant with dozens of friends and family, he stopped their noise with a clink of his glass, stood up, unfolded the paper with certain professionalism, and clearly read line by line of scenario #15. He only received blank stares, but our young man smiled brightly, looked up at the ceiling, and thanked everyone for coming. ‘Anywhere from here is a dream come true.’
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Short Story / Romance
Short Story / Literary Fiction
Short Story / Literary Fiction
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