Posted in Short Story

The 25th (Part 1 of 6) by Cortney Joseph

O N E | Realization

So, here I stand, looking in my full length mirror as a complete mess stares back at me; barefaced with my cocoa brown skin looking dry, my jet black hair all over my head, wearing raggedy pajamas I’ve had for far too long, and a scar that has been present on my left cheek since I was about ten years old. Assessing my appearance, and my life as it stands now.
Where I am, where I thought I would be, and where I want to be.
Certainly not in this small house I’d been left by an estranged relative that claimed I was their favorite niece, and certainly not in the state that had presented so much of the pain, strife, and struggle in my life.

Twenty-four years, eleven months, thirteen hours, ten minutes. Sad how I can easily dissect the time like that, but… the closer it gets to my birthday, the more I stress. “I know you used to have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions, but what have you got now? Nothing.” I just happened to look up at the wall moments later; 2:26 p.m.
More time wasted, another minute older. I shook my head, moving around a little as Missing You by Chance The Rapper played over the speakers I had hooked up to my phone; thinking on how I’ve done absolutely nothing with my life.
My sister, the basketball star. Started in high school, then college, now she’s in the WNBA. She’s younger than me, the baby.
My brother, the musician. Self taught; drummer, guitarist, pianist. Touring the world with his favorite artists. Artists I don’t listen to, personally, but he’s still out in the world traveling. He’s younger than me, the middle child.
And then there’s me … the artist. Broke, struggling, with no support from those who used to claim they couldn’t wait to see me shine. I’m the oldest, and a nothing.

The phone rang, jarring me from my thoughts as my song was cut short. I took one deep breath before walking over and sitting down on my bed, picking my phone up from it’s resting place on my nightstand.
Swiping to answer, without even thinking about it, I began to regret it as soon as I heard the voice of my best friend.
I know, I know; bad thing to say about my best friend, but the truth of the matter is that he has a way of making me feel worse about everything. Even though that is never his intention. When you’re an overly pessimistic person who believes you’re heading nowhere in life, constant optimism from someone else with their life in total order can piss you off to the max.
At least, that’s how it is for me. Maybe that’s just the jealousy I often feel.
I cleared my throat, trying to speak with a more upbeat tone in my already low and deep voice. “Hey Jujubee.”
“Ocean! I miss you, and it’s been entirely too long since we’ve spoken to one another.”
Justin, or Jujubee as I’ve called him affectionately since he first introduced himself to me with a box of the candy in his hand, oozed total happiness and confidence as he spoke each word clearly. He, like me, loved to make sure words were pronounced in full to avoid any type of misunderstanding. “I miss you too, but you know that I hate talking on the phone.”
“And texting. And replying to twitter mentions, facebook posts, and emails. I know Ocean, I know. You also hate leaving your house to actually visit people, even those that only live ten to fifteen minutes away, like myself, but I won’t hold that against you ‘cause I know that you do love and care for the people you ignore.”
I smirked, although he couldn’t see me, and pulled my knees to my chest after moving to the center of my bed. “In all fairness, you’re never home for me to visit so why bother leaving the house?”
“Because My Love, there is a whole world out there for you to explore. Have you even gotten back out there to promote your work?! I have yet to hear about you or see you posting picture from spoken word readings or things of that nature. Hell, I watch Verses and Flow season after season, waiting to see you on that purple stage showing the world what you’ve got!”
“Psh, ain’t nobody trying to hear me speak about nothing. Most people don’t even see me, so how will they HEAR me?”
He cleared his throat, and I could tell that he was taking a moment to think and choose his words carefully.

That was Justin. Always had to tell me about myself, but he never wanted to say anything that would seriously hurt or upset me. He’d often told me that my friendship was the only one that mattered to him, and while he would always tell me the truth, he would choose the way he said things just to protect what we have.
I’m sensitive, and can’t take too much without being easily offended. Or so I’ve been told.
“You’re so basic, Ocean.”
“Excuse me?”
He cleared his throat again. “Everyone knows that you are my best friend, you’re my heart, and you mean the absolute world to me. So you listen carefully to what I am about to say, okay?”
I sighed, closing my eyes as I pinched the bridge of my nose with my free hand. “Okay.”
“Ocean, you are by far one of the most talented individuals I have met in my life. When I say that you are basic, I am not talking about your looks or the way that you carry yourself. That shit isn’t what matters at the moment. What does matter is that you have a gift, a strong gift, that you have been blessed with and you’re just sitting back, letting it waste away as if there’s nothing good that can come from using it.”
“Well-”
“Well, nothing. Well, my ass. Ocean, everybody knows that I couldn’t give two fucks or a rat’s ass about poetry. Just give me my music, and a few good movies, and I am content. However, by coming across you and your poetry… your art, you have shown me a piece of something I was missing out on. I personally don’t enjoy everyone that screams they are an ‘artist’, but I enjoy you. I adore you, and I am sick and tired of sitting back and listening while you whine and bellyache that you’re not getting anywhere. It’s your own fault you’re not getting anywhere, and all because you don’t think you’re good enough when honestly… you’re fan-fucking-tastic.”
“Justin-”
“You complain all day about missing opportunities, but you never stop to think or realize that it’s your own fault you miss these opportunities. I send you all types of links; everything possible from people looking for script writers, to open mics and everything in between. Hell, I hooked you up with this dude that was looking for a writer for his album. You passed on that ‘cause you were scared and now he’s making his come up with big time singers. You take one glance at any opportunity passed your way, if you even bother to open the links at all, and say ‘eh, well they wouldn’t like my style anyway’.” That was true. “The truth is, Ocean, you don’t know what the hell these people would like. You don’t give yourself the chance to showcase what you’re all about. AND, even if some of them don’t like what you have to offer, someone else will. It might not come as fast as you want it to, but Ocean, your time will come. You have to work for it. You can’t do the bare minimum and then sit back and complain because you get knocked down on the first try. Better yet, you can’t complain when you quit before you even try the first damn time.”
“Justin-”
“All I ever hear is ‘no one came to listen to it, no one bought my book, no one downloaded or purchased my poetry album, so I guess it sucks. I suck. I quit’.”
“Jujubee-”
“Day, after day, after day. And I’m sorry to snap like this-” He was getting angrier by the second, his voice going up and down as he stopped every few seconds to pop his mouth or catch his breath. “However, you do this constantly. I used to always feel sad, always felt bad for you and I would try my hardest to keep you happy, or help you look at the bright side of things.”
I finally opened my eyes, sensing where this was going. I was losing him. “But?”
“I’m out of the arrows and directions that I used to point you to the bright side of things. I don’t think it’s for me to help you see how great you are, and how you need to keep pushing-” I lost him. “I, like so many others can keep telling you but you still won’t believe it. You’ve gotta do that for yourself now. Whether you get knocked down, or knock your ownself down with the negative thoughts, you’ve got to figure out how to pick yourself back up and keep pushing forward.”

I sighed, refusing to speak on the matter while hoping he’d just changed the subject. “Anyway, how are the plans for your birthday coming along? The big twenty-five, aren’t you excited?!” The way his voice went up to a higher register made me nauseous and all I wanted to do in that moment was jump through the my phone and slap him.
I’m turning twenty-five; no, I’m not excited. No, I’m not happy. I’m petrified; my life is ending before I’ve even had the chance to live it. “Please don’t mention that, or the horrible age I’m turning. Ugh.”
I could just see Justin shaking his head, balling up his free fist; both fists if his phone was resting between his cheek and his shoulder. “There you go again; Negative Nancy. You are blessed! Twenty-five years-”
“Of screwing up and getting nowhere. What is there to celebrate or be happy about, Justin? Really?”
“Ugh, I am not doing this with you today, Ocean, nope. I need to go and get ready for work, but let me leave you with something.”
“What?”
“August 31st, 2015, at 1:15 a.m., I hope you truly thank God for bringing you this far. People who complain about getting older, people like yourself, always seem to forget that there are people who haven’t even made it as far as you have. I love you, Ocean, and I’ll see you soon.”

And with that, after I murmured a sad goodbye out, Justin hung up, leaving me to feel like the fool that I am.
But, I can’t help the way I am. It’s not my fault that I can’t see this supposed talent in myself. It’s not my fault that I have difficulty believing that I’ll ever get anywhere. I mean, what else am I supposed to believe after nearly fifteen years of working my ass off? Still where I was when I started, with not a drop of recognition for my work in sight. What else am I supposed to think?
` I looked around my bedroom, noting how the bare white walls that I thought were perfect suddenly looked plain and dull. Everything in my bedroom was white; from the walls, to my dressers, comforters and sheets, jewelry boxes, small furniture, and the carpet. Dull; much like my life. Not a single spot, nothing showing that something exciting or unexpected had happened. No pictures, no splash of color, no pretty accents, nothing but white. Blank, empty.
With that realization came to understanding that my best friend was right. I’m going to be twenty-five in thirty-one days, and I’m stuck where I don’t want to be.
Something has to change, and fast.

______________________________________

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Author:

Creative Soul. Artist. Perfectionist. Virgo.

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