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December 24th

This is chapter eight of a story entitled The Other One. To start at the beginning, click here.

“Well if Christmas Eve gets boring, let me know! I’m sure I can help ;) ”

I never got around to responding to that message. I mean, even a “Sure will!” would have been a enough of a response, but for whatever reason, I stayed silent. Oh well, I’m sure at some point, I would think of a way to move past the stalemate I got myself into.

Truth be told, Christmas Eve was boring. It was one of those days where the thrill of seeing everyone again had almost worn off, but the excitement of Christmas wasn’t quite here yet.

So I found myself on the couch, watching whatever animated special had come on at whatever random time of the day, all the while staring at that one text message. I guess I hoped at some point I would just have no other choice but to respond and see what happens, but until then, it looked like another airing of A Christmas Story lied ahead for me.

My phone buzzed. Strange, considering the rest of the family was here at the house and Alex wasn’t supposed to stop by until dinner. Maybe it was somebody back in New York? I hadn’t actually spoken to anyone up there in a few days. Either way, I was confused to say the least.

“Great! Why don’t you meet me downtown for coffee? :)”

Oh no. My fingers had betrayed me. I had already replied and didn’t even realize it. And I guess I’m going downtown now.

And why does she insist on including smiley faces? Read More…

December 23rd

This is chapter seven of a story entitled The Other One. To start at the beginning, click here.

Sleeping til the afternoon wasn’t supposed to be a habit during this visit, but I apparently wasn’t trying to fight it. Of course, you don’t really have much of a choice when the night before involves concerts going late into the night and visits to Waffle House that last hours longer than you planned. And as my eyes started to slowly creep open and I thought back on the entire evening, there wasn’t a single exhausting moment I honestly regretted.

The walk down the stairs was much more difficult than I expected, though, particularly when there was little sleep and great need of caffeine. The world I discovered at the bottom of those steps greatly rivaled the sleepy world up above, and the only thing I wanted out of my day was an opportunity to relax and recover. The final step was filled with an overwhelming feeling that I should have stayed in bed.

“Well THERE you are!” Ashley would have been this excited at five in the morning. “You’re already late. Come on, hurry up and get ready.”

“Yeah, good to see you too. Late for what?”

“Christmas shopping! Come on, I need to pick up a few gifts and you are helping me.”

I paused for a moment. I know I hadn’t been good at time management the past few days, but surely my sister didn’t just say we were going Christmas shopping.

“Ash, uh….shopping? It’s already Christmas Eve’s Eve. Aren’t you running a little behind?”

“Why do you think I’ve got helping with me, silly?” Ashley was somehow making me feel like the idiot in this situation. “I only need to grab some stuff for the other men in the family. You’re easy to take care of.”

“Gift cards?”

“Gift cards.”

“Cool.” It was good to be so well understood. Read More…

December 22nd

This is chapter six of a story entitled The Other One. To start at the beginning, click here.

It was probably only a few minutes, but it felt like I spent two hours staring at my suitcase, trying to remember what was appropriate to wear to a concert in a bar. Or maybe I was figuring out what was appropriate to wear when invited to a concert in a bar by an attractive female whose motives for inviting me I didn’t understand.

Either way, I was partly terrified of going out with a group of people I didn’t know, but none of my begging had convinced Ashley to drop her plans and tag along. I was flying blind, dressing slightly nicer than normal and just hoping I wouldn’t do something dumb enough to require leaving early.

The show was some twenty minutes away in Jackson, the capital of the state. Growing up, there were always places in Jackson we went and places we didn’t. Our little suburb had what we needed, and the things we didn’t were safely in particular areas of Jackson. It wasn’t so much that my parents were afraid of the city, but when you have children, I think you just start to get a bit more paranoid than you were before.

There was something about the city, though, that had definitely changed over the years in the name of Progress. There was the old mall that we used to shop at because it was closer. Then, it became a place you only went to if you were interested in being stabbed, and we had to drive slightly farther to the “new” mall. However, this “new” mall has since been replaced by bigger and flashier malls farther outside the city, making it a place people didn’t care to enter.

Progress kept pushing things farther and farther out of the city, and people on the outside started to get more and more afraid of the places they had abandoned. The reason for their fear never seemed to cross their mind. Read More…

December 21st

This is chapter five of a story entitled The Other One. To start at the beginning, click here.

I’ve likely only had a handful of days that felt longer than this one. The combination of anger and empathy is a strange on to say the least. Being upset that information was held from me, yet at the same time knowing that the information is bad news for the person who is holding it. I wanted to hug my mother at the same time that I wanted to shun her.

Manchester suddenly felt so uncomfortable. What had been so welcoming just a few days ago, so familiar after all the years that I it honestly felt somewhat normal, was suddenly hostile. All the things that I hated about the place stood out, as if there was some sort of injury I had reaggrevated just by coming back. It took seven years to come back, and that now felt like too short a time, like my return was the reason my mother was sick.

My mind was flooded with thoughts of the last days I spent here. How the entire summer after graduation and into the Christmas holidays felt like hell. How I had to watch my closest friend grow weaker and weaker until he finally couldn’t keep going. How I felt entirely powerless to do anything or help the situation in any way. Manchester didn’t feel the same after all of that, and with the passing of a few years, I hoped things would be different.

That faded quickly. Read More…

December 20th

This is chapter four of a story I’m working on called The Other One. For chapter one, click here.

Pots and pans clanging in the kitchen jarred me from my sleep upstairs. In the groggy moments where it took everything in me just to figure out what time it was and why I had slept so late, it dawned on me that no other day had started this way. Something was different, and why I realized what day it was, it hit me.

Ashley had finally made it home.

It took four days before I had a chance to actually see my sister, as she had left town for a few days before I arrived. She was fiercely loyal to her friends, having maintained the same core group since high school, and the main four of them stayed close even now in graduate school. Since they ended up in school in different areas, they would always celebrate seeing each other again with a small road trip at the end of each semester.

Where Alex had his charisma and his large networking circles, Ash had the ability to nurture, and she used that to keep strong ties with her best friends. Read More…

December 19th

This is chapter three of a story I’m working on called The Other One. For chapter one, click here.

It’s funny how some things start to come back to you. I just instinctively remembered how to get to the grocery store, despite not driving around town in years. In fact, the store itself hadn’t changed much, so even the layout of the old store was oddly familiar, bringing back memories of the countless times I was in here growing up.

However, even with the sudden rush of familiarity, this supposedly quick trip to pick up things for my mother would still likely take far too long minutes, due to her habit of making remarkably vague shopping lists. She knew exactly what she needed, so she wrote the lists out for herself in some language only she knew how to speak.

Without fail, though, she would ask one of us to pick the things up for her, and without fail, we would waste the majority of our time time trying to interpret which particular brand or size she needed.

I always wondered if she wanted to make it some sort of game. Maybe she got a good laugh out of knowing that we would inevitably bring home at least two incorrect items. But whatever her reasons, it was a foregone conclusion that the next several minutes of my life would be spent wondering if she needed sticks of butter or a tub of margarine, or even something in between.

Right about the time I was surely about to contract hypothermia from the dairy section, I started to worry that other people in the store would start staring, worried that I had lost my mind. I could already feel eyes falling on me, wondering if I would ever come to a decision.

“Aaron?” came a voice to my right. “Aaron Palmer?”

Turns out eyes actually had fallen on me, and was thrown off by a voice that I was certain I didn’t recognize. Read More…

December 18th

This is chapter two of a story I’m working on called The Other One. For chapter one, click here.

As expected, my first day back was a massive blur of southern hospitality. Everyone acted as if this were the first time we had even seen each other in years, not just my first time back in Manchester. There were sports to watch, ornaments to hang, and food to eat. Not to mention so many collard greens, mustard greens and turnip greens that I was certain I was through with the color green forever.

Thankfully, the next day was different. Things were calm, or at the very least calmer, and it allowed me time to borrow a car and explore the city. I wanted to eventually make my way to certain places I hadn’t been in years, though for some reason I felt like I had to build up to that.

More than anything else, though, it gave me time to process. Think about how things felt different, though they looked the same. Think about the past seven years. And to think about how things were seven years ago. Read More…