By: Nicholas Palmeri
Kathleen remembered thin rivers of tears going down her head. The cool droplets curled along the ridge of her nose and fell onto her upper lip. Now, the better part of a year later, the enormous lecture hall had the professor’s voice echoing in ringlets. Her peers, all with a hard interest in the computer sciences, had their laptops popped open and their fingers at work briskly typing. Sitting alone at the very top had brought her more strange gazes than she could count.
However, in her tortuous twelve years of schooling, Kathleen had begun to view others’ opinions like simple sticks lying on the pavement: useless and unnecessary.
Friends were a rarity for her. Those she snuck her attention toward often floated away due to a habit she could not break out of. Nobody understood her reasoning for it.
After years of fending off a bully, Kathleen realized she did have a friend of her own. A friend loyal enough to stick with her through the bad and ugly. A friend filled not with envy or hate, but with compassion and love.
Going off to college, Kathleen believed a new start would rid her of her troubles. In high school, Rebecca the senior-bully, pushed every tale of mockery, every rumor down the throats of the student-body. The very sight of that pumpkin-head stain on the Earth made Kathleen’s eyes prickle and skitter. The hard-pressed reality of it also was the obedience her classmates showed, remaining silent like sheep. It killed Kathleen.
The tears spilled in silence were tears of this nature.
Painful nights of loneliness came back to her, wetly rubbing her eyes and sobbing into her pillow. The terrible, terrible luck she inherited was sending her on an agonizing journey throughout her worst high school memories. Kathleen believed that perhaps she deserved this mockery. If she did not deserve it, why didn’t anybody save her from the pain?
Kathleen could remember the lime-colored sweatshirt Rebecca wore, the sweatshirt that turned her into a walking Christmas tree ornament. Rebecca’s steps shook the nerves out of the lower grades, her thunderous footsteps shaking the grimy halls like a Tibetan Earthquake.
Her face a shade of lavender, Kathleen crouched behind her lecture-hall desk, as everyone knew she would do. Most shrugged the strange gesture aside, but it was the fact that she spent a whole hour down there was what truly fascinated her techy peers. During these spans of time, Kathleen kept her voice to a low thrum.
“Take me into your universe like you promise again and again,” she hissed.
As per usual, a cloud of lavender-colored smoke filled the warm air, and it spoke in a slippery tone. “No” it stated, and immediately after Kathleen felt her brow slide.
“Well, why not?” she demanded, her anger rushing, disintegrating tiny strands of her stiff hairs. Sweat pooled at the nape of her neck in response to this plain absurdity.
It said, “I have tasks for you, each of which will thrust you into a better position in your earthly life. A ‘visit’ to my fabled land was a ruse in order for you to progress.”
This was the final straw. Starting in hot May, the orders had begun to spill from this airy thing. It had summoned commands, such as brushing up on calculus, speaking to a new person, or writing a short story. After completion, Kathleen was reluctant to admit the pride that surged through her at the ability to successfully and completely mark something off an ever-growing checklist. With the tasks always done, Kathleen expected a result, a result of which the purple puff refused to provide.
“I do everything you ask of me, and you still say I cannot visit you!” She complained.
“I am not like ordinary friends, whose homes you could visit on the fly of whim. I have no home. I am a liar,” he repeated. “Complete my tasks, some of which may be difficult, and your future-self will reap the rewards.”
The lack of true human friends had cost Kathleen a portion of her sanity.
“I am greatly confused. I — I have no idea of your name.” Her mouth hung ajar, her tongue rolling carelessly over her teeth. “Tell me your name!” she yelped, suddenly afraid of the curious heads the command might summon.
“My name is luck. Listen to luck, heed his words, and find fortune in your later years. I am the only friend you need.”
The nature of the tasks given by Luck changed and sometimes, swerved. Through medical school, residency, and fellowship, the tasks shifted toward this purpose in Kathleen’s life. This dream. By listening to Luck, her knowledge of the human body has greatly expanded beyond that of which her courses had taught her.
Now, a proud graduate and endocrinologist, Kathleen popped out of her Chevrolet and trotted toward the revolving door at the front of Veterans Hospital, a huge white building with more floors than most of New York’s glistening skyline. In her periphery, she caught a whiff of air, then squinted her eyes to see the familiar purple in it. Her heart skipped a beat, gratefulness swarming her. If it hadn’t been for Luck and its motivations, its pushes . . .
“The tasks, all of them, led me to this moment,” she said, amazed and memorized.
Though fainter than Kathleen once recalled, the air said, “I was all you had. It was me and you. Now, you have it all.”
“Why — why me?”
“I come to those who are lacking something in their lives. And, I appeal to those who work and listen. Like you, Kathleen. I told you, your future-self will reap the reward. And you are.”
Categories: Creative Writing