November 22, 1998
My mother is dead. My father too. There is no point in life.
It was another day at school. Another. Horrific. Day.
The cafeteria that smelled like burnt onions, the classrooms that looked like World War II had just happened and the bathrooms that had walls splashed with urine. Nothing different. It’s always been like that. Nevertheless, I could not live another day in this world, suffering, when my life could be way better than it is right now.
I sat on my chair in front of the old desk my mother had been renting from our next-door neighbour. It was a brown wooden desk full of gum and pencil markings that were done by a 10-year-old. It smelled like old newspapers and dead fish. But, I guess it was okay. I made it work while sitting on the very edge of the chair since a dog bit off the other half of it. I learned how to make do with whatever I had. However, I still want to make it better.
It was six o’clock in the evening and it was time for supper. My mother had made buttered carrots, which were borrowed from our neighbour as well.
“Nari! It’s time for supper. Get down here right this instant,” my mother yelled. She isn’t exactly the happiest at times, but I know how hard she works, so I still respect her. I then rushed down, and we all sat down to eat on the floor, as usual. We didn’t have enough money to buy a table, since all of it were used to pay for electricity and water.
My father never came home either; he had late night shifts and early morning jobs every day. So we just supposed that he was okay, living inside the garbage cans to keep himself warm. Sometimes, he would visit us, but we lived too far from his work, and busses were crazy expensive! Riding a bus would be like riding an airplane in first-class! I wonder when I would be able to ride it.
I have always wondered what my classmates’ lives were like. I wonder if they had to worry about food, or worry about electricity and water. They were always well dressed when they were in school, wearing different clothes everyday and smelling as fresh as a flower. I came to school wearing my grandmother’s ripped romper that smelled like mouldy laundry. It looked horrific. But then again, I didn’t have an option. I had to live with what I had and make sure that I was making the most out of it.
It was another day at school. I wore my smelly romper and used a plastic bag to put all my books inside it. Several layers of plastic bags had to be used because one bag couldn’t carry all my books without tearing apart.
However, as I made my way to school, I saw this poster that advertised, ‘Are you sick and tired of your life right now? Do you wish to just restart and make everything go your way? Join us today, and get free money by doing an easy job!’
Wow! Restart my life? Free? Yes! Yes! Yes! This is exactly what I was looking for. I ran back home, hoping my parents wouldn’t notice that I ditched school, and immediately shut my bedroom door. I called the number on the sheet of paper using mom’s ancient phone that can only call three times a day. Most of the time, we use those three calls to talk to my dad, but that never really happened since he was constantly busy. There was only 1 call left on the phone, so I had to make sure that it was worth it. I dialed 877-802-3421. Every time I pressed a button, it made a funny beeping sound.
It started ringing. After a few moments, there was a lady on the phone who said, “Good Afternoon! You’ve reached The Technological Global Organization. How may I help you?”
I was shaking. I’ve never really talked to anyone with perfect grammar and such a soothing voice. I usually talk to myself or mom on an everyday basis. I don’t participate in class, nor do I talk to my schoolmates. The sound of the lady’s voice was like an angel coming from heaven. I wish I sounded like that, but I wished for a lot of other things and this is only one of them.
She went on, “Hello? Hello? You’ve reached the Global Organization! Hello?” Wait. Global Organization? I don’t understand. I was supposed to call the number on the sheet of paper. I then realized that I pressed 2 instead of 1. What am I supposed to do now? The nice lady was still on the phone, so I had to say something.
I continued with a shivering voice,“Hh-hello? Ya-um-well I think I am talking to the wrong person. So m-m-maybe I should go. Thank you though...”
The lady suddenly replied, “Wait! No, don’t go! I think I’ve heard your voice before.”
“Really? You’re probably thinking of someone else. I hafta be honest, I’m kinda invisible in this world,” I mumbled as I was twisting my hair like a shy, little girl.
She then said, “Yes, it is you. I saw you walk down with your mother last week. Remember me? I’m Janet.”
Janet? Do you mean that lady who gave her coat to me when it was raining? I think I remember her. She was that beautiful person who came from a wealthy family. She had long blonde hair and the bluest of eyes that were as blue as the ocean. She was the most lovely person I’ve ever met!
She then said, “Yes, yes, that is me. Janet Witherson,” she calmly mentioned. OH MY GOD. I can’t believe that I am talking to the person who helped me get through the pouring rain!? However, what is she doing, working in The Technological Global Organization? Can I possibly work there with her too? I might be too young, but maybe it’s worth a shot.
Janet and I had a meaningful conversation over the phone before I realized that my mother was already home. I had to go, quick. We quickly said our goodbyes and she told me to meet her in her office tomorrow, at 1 pm. I agreed.
It was noon the next day and I wore the most beautiful dress from my closet. It was a bright yellow romper with white flowers on it. My father had given it to me on my birthday 4 years ago, with all of his money used from his jobs. I’ve only worn it once. I wore it on the day of my 7th birthday when I received a small chocolate cake from our neighbour. It was delicious!
Sneaking out of the house wasn’t easy. I had to wear my dad’s long jacket to cover it up. And before I knew it, I made it to her office. It was a 15-minute walk from our place, but not too far, I guess.
Janet’s office was beautiful! It was a modern building with white walls and a fountain in the middle. The lobby was gigantic! It smelled like an orchid from my neighbour’s garden and the white tea my grandmother used to drink.
Then suddenly, a sweet angelic voice came up to me, “Hello Nari! I’m glad you made it.”
Janet brought me to her office, and we talked about this project she was working on. She was working on this virtual world that you can live in. She wanted me to experience it, and know how it is like living a life normally. She said that I can control the world any way I would like, but she said to choose wisely.
I mean, what can go wrong, right? She brought me to a room with notables. No chairs. No people. It was empty. There was only the helmet on the floor that she asked me to wear. She asked me to close my eyes and count to three.
Where am I? I am exactly where I was three seconds ago. What happened? Did it not work?
I took a step outside and realized that maybe this is it. I am in a world where I can control everything that will happen in the future. My clothes, the food I eat, my school, my friends, my parents, I can control anything! Woah, I thought. This is awesome!
First things first. Food. I was starving! I wanted a hamburger, fries, chicken, pasta, spaghetti, fish, shrimp, sushi. I wanted everything! How do I get money though? I remembered what Janet told me. I shall imagine myself in whatever situation I would like to be in and then wait for it to happen. So, I stood there, trying to imagine myself as the wealthiest girl in the world, and as I reached into my pocket, it was filled with money..
I went back home to see if I can give my parents what they’ve always wanted... a day of doing absolutely nothing! I went to my mother and talked to her. I asked her what she’s always wanted her whole life and she said, “I want to have a nice day with our family.” I thought, how will I make that happen? This is why I have decided to visit my father.
“Dad,” I mumbled. “Dad! Dad! Dad,” I yelled as I saw him reading a newspaper in front of the garbage can.
We hugged each other. I told him all about my plans and how I met Janet and went to her office. Surely, he’ll understand. I then mentioned that I can make anything happen and that I wanted to bring him home. Our house is pretty far from this place, so I decided to make a helicopter come pick us up. We were also pretty hungry, so I made a large
pizza come our way. But as soon as we got inside the helicopter, a giant pizza box started rolling our way. Uh-oh! This can’t be good. The helicopter started breaking down as my dad and I started screaming inside it.
“What’s happening,” I yelled while gripping on to the rigid walls of the helicopter.
My dad weakly responded, “I don’t know honey, but whatever happens, I want you to remember that... I... will... always... love... y-”
“NO,” I screamed as my dad came falling out of the helicopter down to the ground.
My father is dead.
The one time I finally got to meet him, I screwed it up. How did I make this ever happen?! I want to go back to how it was before. I don’t want this life any longer. I don’t care about how much money we have or if we couldn’t ride the bus. I’d prefer to walk than ride a helicopter that’ll just kill me. How did this happen? I might’ve said I wanted a helicopter, but I never said I wanted us to be safe in it. And I imagined a pizza, but not a normal-sized pizza. Maybe large meant gigantic! What will I do now?
I used the parachute to bring me down safely. I rushed back home to my mother then I saw blood everywhere. Pieces of the helicopter have fallen in our tiny little home, stabbing my mother. The floor cracked and all our cans of food had been cracked open.
There was nothing left, except for... me.
I was speechless. There was nothing to do. How do I turn back time when everything has already gone wrong?
My mother is dead.
My father too.
There is no point in life.
This piece was published in our summer 2020 issue.