Yvonne/Richard

Yvonne/Richard


“And for the last group… Richard, Yvonne, Hubert and Lisa.” Mrs Gill barked out the last grouping and scanned the class with a gaze that pierced Yvonne’s heart. “If there is no objections, all of you can get up and look for your other group members and begin work now.”

Yvonne did not dare to raise a finger against Mrs Gill but silently, she wished she had objected. The students around her left their seats and grabbed their belongings and scrambled in every direction. However, Yvonne remained seated, hesitant to meet her group members, especially Richard, whom she had an uncomfortable history with.

“Hi, are you Yvonne?” A voice came from behind her. “Your name card says so.”

She turned to face a chubby boy with tousled wavy hair who was gesturing towards the name card on her desk. Every student had one.

“My name is Hubert. And this is…” Hubert gestured towards the pair that stood beside him, “Richard and Lisa.”

For some reason, the sight of Richard made Yvonne’s brain decide to cease all cognitive functions. It was not until Lisa extended her hand that Yvonne regained composure and gave it a shake. Richard followed suit, and Yvonne was surprised to see her own hand stretch out to answer. In a tragic miscommunication between brain and motor functions, Yvonne’s hand dangled in the air after Richard withdrew from the handshake. Taking this as an opportunity, Hubert took the hand and shook it as how an overly eager kid would with an unopened gift.

“Nice to meet you, Yvonne! I heard you’re great at this class, let’s find a seat somewhere and get started, shall we?” Hubert said as he let go.

Throughout the meeting’s duration, Yvonne sat opposite Richard. She secretly kept eyeing him while maintaining sufficient eye contact with whoever was speaking at the time. Oddly, he did not seem to return the interest. In fact, he seemed to be pretending to not know her at all.

Richard was intensely focused on the discussion and was trying his best not to bother with Yvonne or her equally intense gaze that she seemed determined to hold throughout their short meeting. He decided to brush it off with an attempt at forcing her to speak instead.

Hubert and Lisa were deciding between presenting on the topic of mergers and acquisitions or social organizations. Richard cut in.

“I think merger and acquisitions are particularly interesting.” Richard was intrigued about the conflicts that arose whenever two companies merged. “I think there is a lot to explore regarding the possibility of conflict and how companies successfully overcome it. What do you think, Yvonne?”

Hearing her own name from Richard’s mouth only made Yvonne realize how foreign it sounded as it rolled off Richard’s tongue. It lacked all the emotions, expression and longing that had once been the way she was accustomed to. A deep, throbbing pain began somewhere within her chest that numbed her entire esophagus. Her lungs expanded, expecting air, but she could not inhale, and she choked on the void that also seemed to have swallowed her voicebox.

“Yvonne? Are you okay?” Yvonne’s pain was evident to all at the table, albeit the rest only perceived it as a strange peculiar discomfort. Richard’s eyes were blankly staring at her, but as her gaze met his, she saw a flicker of concern, which was met by a flicker of rage.

How dare he utter my name as if all the time we spent together was wasted and for naught!?

“I’ll tell you what I think.” She inhaled deeply for the torrent of words she could feel building up and clambering relentlessly to be let loose.

Hubert began to squeak as his groupmate found her lost voice, “Well, that’s great then! I was getting worried-”

But Yvonne cut him off. “I think the conflict in merger and acquisition is an excellent idea. And you know why? Because there are so many ways to deal with it. Some companies address their differences. They talk it out, and they settle on a compromise. And some companies-“ Yvonne stared pointedly at Richard, “Some companies simply ignore it. They pretend they’re one big company and then they go about doing their own shit ignorantly without giving a single fuck about the employees from the other company. And what happens to those employees’ feelings? They get hurt. They don’t like it there. They feel like killing themselves. They-”

The torrent ended just as quickly as it began and Yvonne was barely holding back her tears.

“I need to go to the toilet.”

She stood up and left. The three remaining students stared at her seat. Hubert afraid, Lisa worried, and Richard a turmoil of emotions. Yvonne’s outburst had caught the attention at some of the students at nearby tables too.

Lisa was the first to move. “I should go check on her.”

Richard reacted. “No. Let me.”

Richard followed the echoes of sobbing that brought him to the emergency stairwell, where Yvonne was found bawling her eyes out until they resembled swollen tennis balls with slits. Instinctively, Richard’s hand acted before his brain did and it stretched out to wrap around Yvonne’s shoulders, but he withdrew it at the last moment. He was not sure if she still appreciated gestures like these.

to be continued

Yvonne/Richard

At the age of 18 you are permitted to redistribute your twenty skill points around into whatever skills you want permanently. You decided to put everything into LUCK and leave the rest at 0 points.

“That’s not a good idea, Zane. For one, we don’t have great data on the actual effects of enhanced Luck…”

“Look, can you do it or not? I need this.”

The gene tech sighed in the quiet office and swiveled his chair back to the computer. He was looking at a fairly standard representation of a human genome, red highlights in the mass of blue to indicate genes with likely altered function from human baseline and green to indicate potential areas for change.

“Let’s see, we have some modifiable options at rs2981205, rs730882133, rs423454-”

“Yeah, man, I get it, lots of fancy words. Bottom line it for me?” Zane shifted impatiently in his chair; flipping his phone from hand to hand.

“Based on population-level studies and retrospective analysis of lottery winners, survivors of freak accidents, etc, there’s about 20 genes we could modify in you to try to make you luckier. I’m obligated to point out that we don’t know for sure that these genes actually cause better luck, and frankly the latest research is casting some doubts on the validity-”

“Yeah, yeah, I signed the waiver already, do what you got to do; I have a lot riding on this.”

“Um, you already made the bet? And you want to get lucky now?”

“Not exactly, I don’t really want to explain.”

“Whatever, they’re your genes. Sign this form here, some more standard stuff. Given the specific genes we need to modify, you are looking at 85% chance for significant loss in strength, 90% chance for loss in fine and gross motor skills, 100% for loss in intelligence, 60% chance for loss in overall body aesthetic and symmetry, and 50% chance for loss in short and long term memory.”

Zane, took the tablet, skimming over most of the form. When he had scrolled to the bottom, he pressed his finger on the fingerprint scanner, acknowledging his agreement. He let his shoulders relax afterwards, like a weight had been lifted off.

“Okay then,” he said to himself in a quieter voice,”that’s settled.”

“Not quite, Zane. Given the severity of potential deficits you are required to provide a sperm sample on the chance that you would prefer to have unaltered children in the future. Furthermore, while we strongly suggest implantable birth control for all men and women that undergo elective alteration, per the 2024 SAFEGene act, prior to sexual intercourse with any potentially fertile partners, you both must be screened for possible gene incompatibility.”

“Yeah, everyone knows the rules.”

“OK, here’s your sample cup; I’ll give you some time to provide the sample and I’ll get the CRISPR transfer virus ready.”


Zane rolled up his sleeve, exposing a slightly faded tattoo; a simple heart motif with the name “Evon” on it.

“Just a slight poke, then you’ll be all set. This is your last chance to change your mind…”

“Get it over with.”

“OK”

The tech injected Zane’s left deltoid with the modified viral delivery system. Over the next 48 hours, the virus, a modified version of the flu, would infect the vast majority of his cells and re-write all of his DNA.

“It’s done. Now, you’ll probably have some soreness, fatigue, and a fever for the next couple days, similar to flu symptoms. This virus isn’t contagious, but to be safe, you need to avoid the very young and the elderly. Take tylenol if the fever or pain get bad. If you have difficulty breathing, pass out, or anything like that, get to a hospital immediately.”

“Got it. Thanks, doc.”

“Good luck.”


Two months later, Zane’s life, as far as any outsider was concerned, was pretty much unchanged. He’d had to quit his job as a barista; it was a bit too fast paced for him with his new weakness and difficultly remembering simple tasks. He’d found a perfect job, working at one of the few private libraries remaining in Baltimore. He’d only get one or two customers a day and they were usually older; if anything, Ben found himself getting along better with them than people his own age; the elderly clients seemed to talk and move at the pace he was accustomed to these days.

He settled in well to his new life; he was more lonely than he had been, but that suited him well. He had a new companion, in the form of a stray he named Tipsy, that had wandered up to his feet when he was getting back to his apartment one night. She only had three paws and occasionally fell over, but they were fast friends.

All in all, his life was stable, boring; an easy sort of anguish. And every day, as he left the library, sometimes with Tipsy peeking out of his backpack along with a few children’s books; the short ones with the easier words, he would take the 57 bus and transfer to the 23 to get to the long term care facility. There he would take the elevator to the fourth floor, his legs a bit too weak for the stairs, and sit next to Evon, who was perpetually silent except for the occasional hiss and beep of the ventilator, and read to her. Often, he would fall asleep in the chair next to her, dreaming that perhaps tomorrow would be his lucky day, and he would get to talk to her again.

At the age of 18 you are permitted to redistribute your twenty skill points around into whatever skills you want permanently. You decided to put everything into LUCK and leave the rest at 0 points.

Submission

“… , therefore we ought to review his work and reevaluate if the positive admiration received by his work is justified.”

As his fingers hit the final full stop key, relief flooded his body and an entire week of pent-up stress released itself in a single breath. He flexed his shoulders and enjoyed the feeling of being able to do it without feeling the guilt that every passing second spent flexing his shoulders is a passing second that could have been spent productively.

His eyelids closed, and he entered a state of bliss. It was as though his pupils were producing magical water that had miraculous healing qualities. He leaned back in the chair that has been imprinted with his rear for the past week and lazily, he moved his mouse cursor and clicked “Submit.”

Submission

Waiting for that magical moment

You miss him so dearly. So you leave him a text. The same text that always worked. Then you sat and waited while you let the text work its magic. But you don’t realize that the magic of this text has already been lost. He saw right past it. He saw it as insincere. He saw it as lazy. He knew you could do better but you didn’t. So he didn’t reply. And you kept waiting for the magic, but as we all know, magic doesn’t exist.

Waiting for that magical moment

Where does the fun lie?

It may just be a scrabble game, but you’re winning and it feels overwhelming. All your interest in classic novels and texts have paid off. But the other three players start to grumble about how you’re trying too hard, but they don’t realize that they are killing the fun for you. They don’t understand that the fun isn’t in the game, but it’s in realizing that something that you believed to be an inferior hobby turned out to be worthwhile after all.

Where does the fun lie?

Descent

down-the-rabbit-hole

It was all a huge lie.
I wish I had learnt sooner,
Because at the bottom I found
a little hole that only goes deeper

The rabbit hole.
No end is in sight
So I tumble ever downwards,

Scraping_____________________
my hands__________
along the walls
 ________throughout
__________________my
________________________downward
____________________________flight.

Descent

It’s a New Year

So the year has finished running its course once more. And where was he this time? In another poorly lit room with loud music but accompanied by a different group of friends. Together, they danced the night – and the year – away.

But as the night slowed down, he began to wonder what has he truly accomplished in those three hundred and sixty five days. Or has he been running in circles. Well, he did end up celebrating New Year’s eve partying again. Has he simply spent a year just to end up where he started?

He racked his brain to rise above its alcohol-induced haze to come up with an achievement in the past year, any achievement. He came up flat. Perhaps it was the alcohol. But he did not drink pass his limit, so his cognitive functions should not have performed that poorly. So it was with some trepidation that he concluded, he has indeed just wasted a year doing nothing.

 

 

It’s a New Year

Meeting below Streetlights at Midnight

guy_sitting_on_the_pavement_under_streetlight.jpg

I tiptoed towards the door with my hands unconsciously raised in front of myself as a zombie would. The carpet padding muted my footsteps, but then again, it was really unnecessary  as everyone in my household slept behind closed doors.

I opened the door, there was no creak, and soon I was no longer in  the comfort of my own home, but enjoying the chilly winds and the eerie but serene quiet of midnight.

I headed to where we were supposed to meet. At first I didn’t see her, but as I approached the meeting point, there was a figure sitting beside the bush. She was not obvious at first because she sat in the shade cast on the bush by the streetlamp. She dressed like how a mugger would; surreptitious black hoodie, black pants, black shoes, and with her hoodie drawn. Then I looked down at what I was wearing and felt guilty for passing that judgement, for I was wearing exactly the same thing.

I sat down quietly by her side. She was smoking, something I didn’t do myself because I didn’t approve of it.

“Hey,” she acknowledged me.

I replied her with the same word. I could smell the stench of cigarettes on her breath and instinctively twisted my mouth. She noticed and mumbled an apology and cautiously exhaled away from me before continuing, “Nice to see you, Ern.”

“I wish we didn’t have to meet like this every time.”

It was something I felt ever since the first meeting but the initial excitement from the mischief of doing something past my bedtime had faded and was eventually not enough to overwhelm the annoyance I felt from always having to meet her under the cover of darkness and at the hours when most living creatures slept.

“What’s wrong with the way we meet?” she asked nonchalantly, as if nothing was wrong, while exhaling smoke into the frosty night air.

I did not have a plan of how to confront her about all the things that were wrong with the way we were meeting, so I decided to drop the subject and change the topic instead. I asked her why she was dressed like that.

“Do you have a problem with how I dress, Ern?” She emphasized the word problem. Her tone suggested that she was not particularly fond of my constructive criticism about her dressing. She also said it without making eye contact, which made me flinch.

I was about to apologize, but before I could, she beat me to it.

“I’m sorry, Ern.” She said as she turned to me. “I’m just feeling a bit cranky now that’s all.”

I laughed nervously and told her I totally understood, although I did not understand in the slightest bit. She finished her cigarette and I watched as she tossed it into the drain-hole  that was set in the pavement. Littering was one of the reasons why I disapproved of smoking, but I kept my mouth shut.

“So, do you want to make out now or what?” She removed her hood, which revealed her beautiful mahogany brown curls, turning to face me once more.

The virgin within me perked up and began to scream at me, “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?” But her cold demeanor had turned me off, and I was not particularly feeling in the mood to make out with her, especially with the stench of cigarettes fresh on her breath, along with all the worldly problems I was facing at that point in my life. I politely declined her, while the virgin within me began to hurl curse words at me that I did not even know myself.

I did not realize I was blankly staring at the ground with such intensity that could have bore a hole in the tar road until she jerked me by pulling my arm.

“Hey Ern, I may not have much practice at this, but I can tell that something’s bugging you. And I may not be the right person you want to share this with, but I think you should share it with someone. It’s not good to keep all those problems bottled up.”

When I made no move to reply, she continued, “Everyone has problems, Ern. And everyone deals with them differently. For me, I smoke, I steal, I get high. And I believe you don’t do any of those things, right?”

I shook my head, although she was not expecting a reply because she already continued talking.

“So, one way or another, you have to find some sort of stress relief. Those feelings you have inside you, those bottled-up problems, they’re going to eat away at you for every day that you don’t share them and don’t solve them. You’re going to be worrying about them day in and day out, then you can’t live your life to your fullest, with those burdens on your shoulder. Trust me, Ern, I know.”

I abandoned my mission to bore a hole in the tar road and looked up. There was truth in what she said, and she was also true at suspecting that she was not the one I wanted to confide in, so instead I mumbled a lame ‘thank you’ and gave her a weak smile.

“It’s chill. Always glad to help,” she chirped as she withdrew her pack from her jacket pocket. She held it out to me.

“Smoke?”

I gave her a face which made her laugh, piercing the tranquil silence of the night. I looked around in sudden panic, glancing down the road at my own home, looking  for lights in the windows.

“Relax, Ern,” she said coolly, as she breathed out a cloud of smoke.

I calmed down and resumed my hole-boring mission while she smoked beside me. We were from such different worlds, I thought. She respected my choice to not smoke by not exhaling in my direction, but I could smell the nicotine fumes which drifted rebelliously beyond her control. It was a disgusting smell. At first. But as the minutes ticked past in silence, the fumes got to my head, and I began to feel a numbing calm.

How weak, I scolded myself. Getting numb on secondhand smoke. Seriously, Ern, get it together.

Just then, I heard sounds of gravel rubbing on gravel. I glanced up just in time to see a black box truck approach us, headlights turned off, despite the time of the night. I recognized this truck. It belonged to one of Lynn’s friends. It also signaled the end of our meeting, the end to this unlikely overlapping of two very different human beings from two very different worlds.

“Got to go, Ern.”

I waved my hand in farewell.

“Take care,” she said, blowing a kiss in my direction before entering the back seat and shutting the door behind her.

I watched the truck crunch gravel as it drove off until it melted into the inky darkness. Then I sat on the pavement for a bit longer, appreciating everything the midnight hour had to give, until there was no trace of nicotine fumes and until my butt hurt. Then I got up and trudged home, feeling like a vessel without a soul, as I returned to my own world.

Meeting below Streetlights at Midnight

He sat there in the corner, just waiting. From his perspective, he thought everyone must be wondering what he was doing there. He felt insecure and afraid.

From his perspective, the rest shot him furtive glances and suspicious stares. He tried his best to avoid them, but he honestly had nowhere else to look. He ended up looking at each and every one of them, straight in the eye.

But from their perspective, more than half of them were busy and occupied with something else. The student was walking with hasty strides towards an appointment that he was already late for. The businessman was too busy hoping that no one would notice he wore a horribly coordinated outfit that day. The celebrity was too busy strutting her stuff about and being wary for cameras and fans.

The moral is, you always seem in the weaker and less desirable position in your own head. Think less and don’t mull over your own thoughts too much. Leave psychology to the scholarly people.