A man finds a curious message on his phone changing the trajectory of his live
The ambulance made its way through the confined streets of the city as fast as it could. Sirens blaring, they were losing precious time as the other drivers congesting the vehicle’s path were slow to make way. In the patient care compartment, Jon tried to focus as much as he could to simply breath as the paramedics worked furiously to keep him alert and stabilized. It was getting difficult to stay awake as Jon began to feel increasingly exhausted.
As he felt the fight in his body start to fade, Jon tried be brave. I guess today is the last last day he thought to himself. He had never imagined it this way. Sensing what was going through his mind, the paramedic attending to him gave Jon's hand a squeeze. Stay with me Mr. Wallace, she encouraged him, we're almost there! Jon looked up in the direction of the voice trying to comfort him. Her chocolate bangs and soft brown eyes reminded him of his daughter Helena. Jon, he managed to rasp. He never liked being called Mr. Wallace, it always made him sound so anal. Laena, she responded smiling. A sign, Jon thought, noticing the similarity to his daughters nickname Lehni. Stay with me Jon, we're going to take care of you, she repeated. I Just need a little break, he thought, not sure if he'd actually said the words.
Exhaling laboriously, the world around him began to blur as his eyes rolled upward to close. "He's going into arrest!", he heard Laena yell to her partner Del, her voice moving further away and becoming increasingly less audible. She immediately started CPR as Del readied the defibrillator. The driver lay into the horn and slipped the ambulance through an opening in the traffic ahead, running a red light leaving the cluster of cars at the intersection behind. Jon began to feel a sensation of weightlessness, as if he were levitating motionless in space while all sense of time left him. The scream of the siren had disappeared and the military-like interaction between his would-be life savers had faded into silence. With his last shred of coherency, he thought "whew, much better!"
From somewhere in the darkness, Jon's mind came back on line. A flood of images began to play before him as if on a movie screen, somehow ordering themselves chronologically before reaching that one critical moment when 5 simple words changed the trajectory of his life.
A Strange Message
Jon pressed the end call button on his phone after his wife didn't pick up. Deciding to send a text, he opened the editor and turned the phone horizontally to start typing. But to his surprise, in the text field next to the blinking cursor was an unsent message that he didn't remember writing. Looking cluelessly at the display, he read the words: Today is the last day.
What the hell, he muttered. Where did that come from? He quickly read the previous messages trying to find something that would give an indication of what he may have been referring to and why it was never sent.
Checking messages from the previous day, he read "yes" in answer to his wife as to whether he would be coming home the usual time. He then scrolled up through the seemingly endless thread of conversations, questions and answers. A myriad of commands, instructions as well has heated exchanges over a massive collection of assorted banalities. All of which bore testament to his mundane life, but offered no answer to his question. Seeing all that past correspondence as a whole painted a vivid image in Jon's mind as he realized how far removed he was from the life he envisioned in his youth. Instead, he had become just another average husband in a suffocating marriage and a dead-end job. A fate he swore in his naive 20’s, would never befall him. How did I become this “thing”? He wondered, feeling a stinging twinge of disappointment in himself.
Jon looked over to his kids, who after breakfast had moved on to their usual Saturday morning activities. His 1-year old Helena, practicing her newly developed walking skills, traversed the toy-strewn carpet on the living room floor of their 4-room apartment with short choppy steps. In several attempts to inspect one of the scattered playthings, she reached down bending at the knees to pick it up only to fall on her bottom – which was luckily protected by the padding of her thick diaper. She's getting cuter by the day, Jon thought as he watched her. Benny, an overly energetic 5-year old with ocean-blue eyes, was sitting reclined on the couch looking at one of his favorite picture books; this was his calm before the storm phase.
It was already after nine-thirty and the breakfast dishes had be sitting on the table for at least an hour, so Jon put his phone down and decided to start cleaning up before his wife returned from grocery shopping and running errands.
Meals were always an exercise with two kids. Helena was in that phase where she wanted eat by herself, mostly with her little hands that she used to stuff food into her mouth by the miniature fist full. She would alternate and try using the spoon however. Either way, little of it actually reached the intended destination. Benny wasn't much help. He would always encourage his baby sister to flick her spoon or try to make her laugh or spit, so she would launch whatever she'd actually managed to get in her mouth god knows where.
The walls and floor around dining table - proof of Benny's previous success - were already starting to look like something that would have made Jackson Pollock jealous. Or inspired. Jon could never understand why Benny always found it funny. But apparently it was worth being yelled at and sent to his room time and again.
They're my entire reason for being, he thought with a slight smile while cleaning up the breakfast debris and making sure to keep an eye on his budding toddler. Jon loved his children beyond all things. They were the crown jewels of his existence and possessed the magical power to banish any sense of remorse over past choices he might lament from time to time.
After the table was cleared and the dishwasher turned on, Jon picked up his phone again, deleted the mysterious sentence and started writing his intended message. The words however, continued to reverberate in his head: Today is the last day. What could that mean, he thought. I don't remember writing it. Did I even write it? Where else could it have come from? The cosmos? A long-departed relative? Mom?? And if today IS the last day, then for what? For whom?
Maybe it was just the auto correct again, he shrugged. That thing had produced no shortage of howlers in the past; unfortunately most of which WERE sent. Though Jon wasn’t the type to believe in mysticism, he still found it a bit unnerving. While tapping out the message on his phone’s display, he was interrupted by his wife returning the missed call. Jon immediately stopped writing and answered. The discussion was regarding whether to put Helena down for her nap though it wasn't time, since she hadn't slept well and woke up extremely early. She was already showing signs of tiredness, which had prompted the original call.
After hanging up, Jon turned his attention back to the kids. He picked Helena up from the floor and told Benny he was putting his sister down for a nap. “You can either stay here and finish looking at your book or go play in your room”, he informed is son. I'm going to my room and build something Benny announced, choosing option 2. After a quick diaper change, which thankfully didn't contain any "surprises", Jon carried his little princess to the master bedroom where her crib was stationed next to her parents unmade bed. Benny in the meantime was already in his room constructing one of his super-mega death guns out of Lego blocks. "As soon as Lehni is asleep, I'll be right over. Ok?" he told him. "Ok", Benny answered matter of factly. As if he had expected nothing less. He's like a miniature adult sometimes, Jon chuckled to himself. Though sometimes, he found it annoying.
Once he had let the blinds down to darken the room a bit, Jon began quietly sang Santa Claus is Coming to Town while rocking his little girl gently side to side. Helena’s mother first sang it to her around Christmas time and though it was now June, it was still the only song that lulled put her to sleep. Helena lay her small head on her father's shoulder loudly working her pacifier, settled in his arms and began to doze. As she fell asleep, Jon's mind drifted back to the discarded message. “Today is the last day”, echoed repeatedly in his mind. Knowing that there had to be a completely rational explanation behind the text, Jon couldn't help but wonder, what if today were the last day?
If that were true, he continued thinking, then I would have to be angry with myself for all the time I let pass putting the things I wanted to accomplish on ice. Not to mention a whole slew of other career opportunities over last 18+ years of marriage, that I let slip through my fingers. I was a fool for letting her talk me out of so much; a fool in love. And to think, I almost had nothing to show for it! You and your brother though, he whispered to the little angel who was now fast asleep in arms and snoring , are the only reason any of it was worth giving up. Kissing her gently on her head and stroking her wispy brown hair, Jon lay his daughter in her bed, turned on the baby monitor and quietly closed the door behind him as he left the room.
Jon then went into Benny's room as promised, who enthusiastically showed off his super weapon. "Look at what I made!" he said proudly. Although Jon was uncomfortable with Benny's apparent obsessions with guns, he had to admit it looked pretty cool. With his Star Wars figures already positioned, Benny put on his directors hat and began giving his dad the lines for each character and explained exactly what was supposed to happen and when. As well as who was supposed say or do what. Playing along and following director Benny's instructions, Roy hoped that this facet of his son's character would lead to great things. Maybe we might have a movie maker in the family, he thought as benny obliterated Chewbacca with the super-mega Lego death ray. I so hope he grows up to make movies, Jon prayed with a slight desperation, otherwise we’re gonna have a problem!
Just then, he heard a key turn the lock and the door flung open. Jon's wife, came in laden with bags full of groceries and produce panting laboriously under their weight. Jon hurried to relieve her of the load, which she released with a loud sigh and without fail, started complaining with the next breath. Are you going to get the rest? she asked mid-rant, annoyed that Jon wasn't moving fast enough for her. Jon knew that after he returned from the car with the remaining items, there was going to be an entirely new monologue about something he may have done or something he didn’t do. Or maybe something he did wrong, or perhaps didn't do right, followed by a listing of all the work that has to be done over the weekend.
Which of course, they probably wouldn't get to because the kids will keep them busy or some other thing might get in the way. And of course, he would be criticized for them not being done. It was such a routine that Jon had become completely desensitized. Most of the time, this so-called work turned out to be simply a collection of everyday chores that didn’t matter what day of the week they were done. But regardless of how small or large, they were all given hyper-critical significance. As if lives hung in the balance. The only real purpose these reoccurring tasks served, Jon felt, was to consume just enough time to keep him from achieving anything meaningful.
On the way down to the car, Jon thought to himself If today were my last day, THIS is not how I would want to spend it. I’ve been in a rut far too long. It’s time I got out!
Suddenly Jon had an epiphany. He could treat every day like it was his last day! Like people, who after being diagnosed with a terminal illness, try to fulfill some life-long dream or live the time they have left with as intensely as possible. Something Jon understood completely. As we become adults, we get caught up in keeping food on table, clothes on back and roof overhead. Not to mention all the other daily distractions that befall us, which if we think about them, actually aren't all that important Jon reasoned. Then out of nowhere, something comes along and turns our world on its head, forcing us to reevaluate our lives and try make up for lost time before there's no time left.
Well I don't want to wait until I'm dying to start living! Jon said to himself determined. And so it was decided. Today, his inner voice exclaimed, is the day I resuscitate my life dammit! I’m done being a prisoner of other people’s opinions, fears and insecurities! I’m done stagnating! Jon felt a surge of enthusiasm rise within him. Something he hadn’t had in what seemed like forever. It reminded him of when he was younger. Back during the time when he felt is life was going somewhere, building up to something spectacular that seemed just beyond the next sunrise.
Rational however, soon stepped in. Jon realized that he couldn't just abandon all and go off on some zany adventure worthy of a Jim Carey movie. Such a move would be doomed to failure. There were also two little lives which meant the universe to him and Jon wanted this new direction he was taking to benefit as well as inspire his kids over the course of their own lives. It would be great, Jon thought to have something to leave behind. A legacy of sorts. It was clear to him that he needed to decide what actually wanted to do and how. What would be the most achievable? Jon wondered to himself.
Could whichever goal I pursue first act as a gateway to achieving the others? A good question, he thought. I need a plan!