Jen didn’t think this day would come. A silly thought really…if you organize something without cancel, it’s more than likely to come…
On the ground beside the front door lay a maroon backpack. The straps were worn. It’d seen better days. Jen considered upgrading, but Red was a pack-horse. Reliable, sturdy, spacious. He’d never let her down, and the thought of travelling without him wasn’t one easily entertained.
It was decided. Red, her, a one-way flight and a promise would travel together. The promise wasn’t hers, but another’s. A promise of work. Not much to go off, but tomorrow they’d go. The comfort of home would be but memory soon. Replaced by a journey into the unknown… Bolivia. She was to assist in a small orphanage for six months. Or, so she’d been promised.
Jen decided to spend her Bolivia’s-Eve day on a date. Meat-heads weren’t really her type, but she made an exception for this particular guy. Salami sandwiches had always held their own special nook in her heart. Three knocks on the door interrupted a rather intimate moment. She wasn’t expecting a visitor.
She wondered whether it might be happening again… Jen possessed the uncanny, or perhaps unfortunate, ability to encounter the perfect friend at the most imperfect of times. Once, while suffering from winter’s bite, Jen bought a six-hundred-dollar jacket only to be gifted the very same jacket two days later by a friend moving overseas. A minor example for sure, but when repeated with a frequency that defies the laws of coincidence it becomes hard not to believe in curses, jinx and the like. Jen often joked father time must have some kind of personal vendetta against her. Why else would he choose to play such cruel games?
Jen felt something was at play, but she couldn’t put her thumb on it. Piecing the puzzle together herself became a habit, as did the pondering of a most repugnant question: what if…?
At the door, a tall slender man sporting a wide smile stood to greet her. Jen couldn’t help but notice his shimmer, from his slicked hair to his brown leather shoes. Everything shined blindingly in the mid-afternoon sun. Even the man’s purposefully tucked lime pocket square glistened. Presumably it was silk. His smile sparkled. The only exception his charcoal suit. Its husky-grey shade reminded Jen of a long burnt out campfire coal.
“Hi Jen, I’m Fear. Nice to meet you.”
“Hi…Fear, yes… nice to meet you. Mike mentioned…” said Jen.
“Yeah, Mike… I’m Mike’s buddy. Exactly! Hey, look, Jen, do you mind if I come in?” said Fear.
A bold opening. However, Fear was a friend of a friend. Just a few weeks prior, while engaging in one of her goodbyes, Jen’s friend Mike mentioned he knew someone who Jen may like to meet. His name was Fear. Mike said Fear did plenty of this sort of thing and loved helping others in their own journeys. Jen didn’t know what Mike meant exactly when he referred to Fear doing ‘plenty of this sort of thing’. The ‘thing’ that was being ‘done’ was beyond her. Come to think of it, so was the ‘doing’.
She also thought it an oddity that such a person could exist. What kind of person goes around offering help to relative strangers? The remoteness of the possibility that anyone could meaningfully help her this late in the game wasn’t lost on her either. Despite these reservations, she gave Mike her number to pass along. No harm, she thought.
Jen invited Fear inside the living room, and went to fetch two glasses of water from the kitchen. When she returned, Fear had made himself comfortable on her floral-patterned couch, handed down to her by her grandmother. She passed one of the glasses to Fear.
“Here you go” said Jen.
“Jen, thank you, very kind of you” said Fear.
Jen sat down on the blue couch-chair directly opposite Fear. She watched as Fear flipped the flap of his brown man-bag open to retrieve a single piece of paper. He half-stood up out of his floral seat to hand it to Jen.
“Jen, this is a survey.” said Fear.
He sat back down and tucked his right leg over his left.
“Don’t worry it’s nothing major, just a few questions. The purpose of the survey is to help you better understand what you’ve decided to do here.” Fear said
“Look, before we go into that, sorry, that was a bit of an abrupt entrance. I’m Mike’s friend, which you already know. He thought I might be able to offer you some help. Seems you’ve decided to do something pretty out there. Bolivia, he told me, what a place! What an adventure! What a decision! Wow! How are you feeling?” said Fear.
“Yeah… Mike said you might come around. I didn’t really expect…yeah… but thanks for coming. Umm, I don’t know. Mixed feelings, I guess.” said Jen.
“Oh yeah… I hear you! Hah, mixed feelings. I’ll bet. Hey, look, take a look at that piece of paper I gave you…” Fear said, “just a quick look…the piece of paper has a bunch of questions on it. Have a read… go ahead”
Jen looked down at the paper in her hand. Five questions graced the page:
- What are you doing??
- You’re leaving a comfortable situation to pursue… a promise. Do you really think that’s wise?
- It’s great to do things on a whim, but what happens if something goes wrong?
- Do you even know what you want to do? Is this orphanage thing really what you’d like to do?
- Seriously, what the fuck are you doing?
Fear explained to Jen the purpose of this survey was to test her. The questions were deliberately confrontational, designed to help her in gaining a better understanding of herself and her decisions. Jen felt a tightness in her chest as she read over the questions. At least she could answer the last one… she didn’t know what the fuck she was doing.
“I know these are hard questions, but they’re important. I’ve done plenty of this kind of thing. Well, not done, but helped others you know? Plenty of… plenty of, experience. Too much really, hah!” said Fear.
“I…umm…what do you mean by ‘this kind of thing’ exactly…and experience? Experience, with? … I’m…” said Jen as she lost her train of thought.
Fear smiled, being indoors didn’t seem to dull the sparkle.
“Look, I’ll leave you with my card. I only want to help. I’m here to help. I want what’s best for you. A friend of Mike’s is a friend of mine.” said Fear
“I…I’m not sure…your card?” said Jen
“Yep. Feel free to call me whenever you want. They’re hard questions I know. So please, do call. I want you to feel like you can lean on me. I’m here. As a friend.”
Jen looked down at the piece of paper in her right hand, Fear’s card in her left. She looked over his card.
Here to care for your welfare!
“Look, I know these are difficult questions. And you’re going to need some time to consider them.” said Fear
“So, here’s the thing”, said Fear, “how about you give me a buzz if you need some help. Any time, really. Skype. Message. Email. Anything. I’m here to help. Just want to help, you know. What’s best for you. What do you think?”
“Yeah…I…I’m a little, confused, but yeah, I mean, sure…we can Skype, or message or whatever I guess”
“Great. Perfect. I’ll also stay in touch, see how you’re getting on” said Fear
Fear stood and flipped his man-bag over his shoulder.
“Thank you for the water, Jen. Look, sorry I can’t stay. I do apologise for the brevity of my visit. But thank you for your time. This was really valuable I think, don’t you think?”
Fear began to make his way to the door. Jen followed, her body somehow knowing what to do, while her mind was still processing Fear’s shine.
“Jen, great to meet you. Really. It was a pleasure.” he said.
“Yeah…I…likewise, thank you for your help…” said Jen.
“Any time. My pleasure”
Fear turned, and in hasty strides made his way to the street. A black Lamborghini sat parked out front. Fear stood next to it, turned toward Jen, nodded his head, flashed a smile and threw a one-handed wave. He disappeared inside. The Lambo growled, let out a bellowing roar and disappeared from sight.
Jen returned inside and sat down at the kitchen table. She placed the survey and Fear’s card next to her date. Apologetically she offered her date some much needed attention, and began to look over Fear’s questions.
Food was her gatekeeper of knowledge. If Jen were ever stuck on a problem, a snack almost always opened the doors of insight. “Sustenance-salvations” as she called them. Her date was the perfect partner to help answer these questions.
Thirty minutes morphed into an hour. No salvation this time.
PART II… to come…