At age 8, I knew how I would die. I found it absolutely mind boggling when kids told me they had no idea what they would do on weekends, or what they wanted to be when they grew up. I already knew all that stuff.
See, I had known how my whole life would play out since I was eight on May 1, 2004, in third grade. That day my parents had attended my school one evening for a conference with the teacher, who told them that I wasn’t getting the grades third-graders usually do in reading, math, and art. I was getting grades way higher. The teacher suggested she move me into fourth or even fifth grade, but my father declined both offerings.
He took me right into home school so that he could bring me up to be the best girl I could be. I was suddenly spending the week doing math, painting the evenings away and reading every night. I started getting lots and lots of schedules. I knew everything I would do this week, and next week, then next month and even next year. By fifth grade, I was joining the track club and doing long division and linear equations. By sixth grade, I was into digital realism art and was running laps around the neighborhood every morning. I had to stay fit. I had to stay smart. I had to stay perfect.
And that’s how my life was. At first I thought this new life was intense, since I never really had any free time anymore. But I knew my parents only wanted what was best for me. Dad was always proud of me and my achievements, and he said I was going to go far in life, if I only stuck to my routine.
But one day, my entire life was changed by one person…
The morning of that day, Dad was smiling at me.
“You’re going to win this marathon Sandy, just like you win with everything else!” Mom told me as she handed me my backpack.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that based on my full schedule these last two weeks, I hadn’t done enough running practice and would most likely get second place. Or even worse, third. I hated running marathons. Though I could study every runner and train my hardest, I could never really find out who would win, only get a good estimate.
“Okay, goodbye Mom, goodbye Dad.”
“And remember Sandy… you’ve got a presentation at an elementary school about art right after the marathon, so don’t forget!”
“I never do!” I said before hopping in my taxi.
Then the worst possible thing happened… something that had never, ever happened before. The taxi broke down!
Of course I was devastated. “Wha- how could this happen!?” I asked the driver.
“Oh, sorry. I thought we had enough gas to make it to your marathon. Must have thought wrong-”
“You should NEVER take chances! Always fill your taxi up whenever it’s not three-quarters full! How can you be prepared for the worst if you’re busy taking guesses! I’m calling my father!” I yelled.
“Woah, lady, calm down.”
“Wait, wait,” the driver held up his hands. “We made it to the city. You can still take the subway, and arrive at that marathon a few minutes before it starts.”
I huffed and got out of the car, slamming the door.
When I finally got to the subway station, I didn’t feel any better. I actually felt worse, seeing how dirty and crowded the place was.
I got on the subway, already ready to be done with this ride. All I needed to do was win this marathon, so I could continue my life. Next week I would have a meeting with the local art gallery to have my art displayed, then I would sign up for collage, get married, draw a graphic novel.
I looked around the subway car. Across from me was a teenager on her phone, her hair colored purple and pink. Next to her was a little boy and his mom, the boy talking excitedly about something, and his mom mm-hmm-ing and nodding to it all. Even next to me there was a man looking at everyone and taking things in, much like I was. I wondered, did these people have their futures set in stone? Did the purple-haired girl intentionally waste time playing a mobile game, or did she do it at the spur of the moment, because she wanted to? Did that little boy have a reason for talking so loud? Was the man beside me looking for someone, or did he not even plan to be here and was just looking around, like me?
For a second, I allowed myself to wonder. How would it feel to live spontaneously…
The train was speeding down the track, until it stopped. The train broke down, and I bumped into the man beside me.
That’s when I met Ron. He looked about my age, and even though I thought he’d be very ticked off about me bumping into him, he was fine with it and actually asked me to stop apologizing for it.
It turned out the subway had broken down. I was so scared I’d miss my marathon, but Ron kept me company, and we talked about how inconvenient things were. Then we fought about which city restaurant was better, and then we just talked about which book was better than which.
By the time we got off the subway, I had missed my marathon. I felt like crying, and I did cry, but Ron told me not to beat myself up, that these things happen.
“No they don’t!” I argued with him. “Not usually! My life was arranged to where the least amount of things were supposed to go wrong as possible! Missing that marathon makes me feel all cloudy and confused, like my schedule is jumbled up!”
“Woah. First off, you can’t plan out your whole life. Life’s unpredictable, and that’s never gonna change. Second off, it sounds like you just need to unwind a bit. How about I take you to Lacy’s Diner?”
“Yeah! You’ve heard of that spot right?”
“No.” I answered truthfully.
Ron’s eyes widened at me before he laughed and said, “C’mon. You’ve gotta come live a little.”
Ron then took me to Macy’s diner, and that’s where things took off. We had pancakes and bacon. Before then, I had never tasted bacon before. I had been raised by a family of vegetarians, but I tried them anyway. They were actually good! Stretchy and greasy, but good! I told him all about my life. How I had to be on time and make no mistakes, spending late nights planning ahead, all the way up until I died. Ron thought this to be unbelievable. He told me about how his parents had died when he was 16, forcing him to make a life for himself. He had to find out where he was going to stay and when, and he had to struggle to find a way to eat everyday. What he relied on was his ability to play baseball, and that’s what he did now. I was surprised, amazed by him, sad for him, all at the same time. Never had anyone made me feel so many things at once. I told him about having to leave soon for an art presentation at an elementary school, and he politely drove me over there after we ate. I don’t know what made me, but before he left, I gave him my number so we could stay in touch.
I hated to use the phrase, but Ron was fun. We started to hang out a bit after that day. I chose Saturdays as my time to spend the day ‘drawing art’ or at least that’s what I told my parents. Saturday was also the day I took to hang out with Ron. we’d play video games or go to the nearby theme park, or just go to the park and talk. Ron was a breath of fresh air, one I hadn’t gotten to breathe since I was eight.
I was going to tell my parents about Ron, but there was just one itty-bitty fact that I didn’t think would sit well with them-he was crazy. Well, not literally crazy, but spontaneous enough to the point where my parents wouldn’t like him one bit. Ron was the type of guy to take surprise trips to other countries, or take me to random restaurants, things my parents could never imagine doing. So I hid Ron from them-for months.
One day I came home to my father’s smile. He said he had found me the perfect guy to marry. Uh-oh!
I started to freak out. How could I tell them I was with Ron now, When they had already so surely and honestly picked someone out for me!?
I called Ron and started to talk a mile a minute about being worried and scared about something, but he told me to relax-he had something he wanted to show me.
“Ron, this is NOT the time for surprise dates, I’m freakn’ out right now!” I told him, but all he said back was “I understand, Sandy, but you need to relax so I can understand what your talking about, and I have the perfect place to go to do so.
It turns out that place was on a billboard. Ron and I slowly climbed to the top of a billboard so we could sit and talk. I was scared out of my wits, but I relaxed once Ron put an arm around me.
It was when we were sitting, looking out at the city when he asked me what was the matter. I told him about my parents choosing someone for me to marry.
He gave me a sad look. “So you want to split up?” he asked.
“No! I just… I don’t want to marry who my parents have picked for me, I want to be with you!”
“...I think we need to talk to your parents. Or, really, you do,” Ron told me.
“I’m serious Sandy. If we’re to take our relationship any further-if you don’t want to marry who they’ve assigned you to, then you’ve got to talk to them.”
At first I was a bit upset, but then I thought about it. Ron was just saying what I needed to hear.
“Ron, you’re amazing.”
And then we kissed.
I almost fell off the billboard. There, across the street, looking up at us, was Dad.
We climbed down from the billboard. My Dad stood place, his mouth in a straight line the whole time me and Ron walked up to him.
“Ron. he’s… my boyfriend.”
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME YOU WERE DATING SOMEONE!?” Dad yelled at me.
“BECAUSE YOU WOULDN’T UNDERSTAND!” I yelled back. Tears welled up in my eyes. “I don’t want my whole life planned out. I have more fun being spontaneous than I ever had with my stupid life schedule. I DON’T WANT TO DIE PERFECTLY, I WANT TO LIVE HAPPILY!” I cried.
And that when Dad uncrossed his arms. “Sandy… I didn’t realize you were so unhappy.”
I sniffled. “Well, you wouldn’t know. I didn’t say anything.”
That’s when I realized my father wasn’t evil. He just thought he was helping me live a successful life. He had taken me out of homeschool, pushed me to my limits, to refine me, sharpen me into the amazing woman he knew I could be.
I hugged my father, who hugged me back.
“From now on, you don’t have to have everyday booked with something important. You’re a smart girl. You can manage your own time. As for you Ron, I look forward to getting to know you.” Dad held out a hand to Ron, to which he shook.
From then on, my life was much happier. I began to travel the world, take on new careers, have fun! I no longer knew how I would die. My life became unpredictable.
One thing was for sure though. Me and Ron stayed together for the rest of our lives.
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there will only be 1,000, and you can find them here!: https://algogems.io/collection/3265
Thanks for reading!