~ a short story
Kat walked side by side with Jho. He’s right here. And you can’t think of anything to say. A biting breeze swept through her light jacket and she regretted leaving her apartment so underdressed. The morning had grown colder in the hours since she departed. The inner city streets were mostly barren in an early morning haze. They had just left their initial yoga session downtown. This morning’s class had been especially intense. Kat’s legs were sore, her back still aching. An oddly good workout. And yet, Jho looked like he wanted to run. Something had him animated.
His new close-cropped haircut left him with a distinguished look. The collar from his overjacket was popped. His arms swung in wide arcs at his side and his pace increased. Kat struggled to keep up. Strike up a conversation. Say something, she urged herself, brainstorming. It was the fourth day of the new year. Teaming up to do this yoga class together had been her idea. Jho acquiesced, thinking increased time exercising every day in the morning to be a ‘productive idea.’ Those were the words he used. Kat’s ulterior motive of course, was to spend more time with him. Just be patient. She finally decided on what to say.
Kat started to ask “New year, new you huh?” in reference to his hair and the yoga, but a nearby car honked loudly and cut her off. A truck nearly rear-ended a fast braking minivan, and the drivers both stopped and got out. Jho looked over to the coming altercation with intrigue, and slowed up. Kat looked up to him, considerably taller, and nudged him with her hand from within her own jacket pocket. That’s a stupid thing to say anyway. The interruption was fate, she mused. And then asked a better question.
“So what is your new year’s resolution?”
Jho turned to her. That animation in his body seemingly transferred to his face. He grinned like a fool with foolish things on his mind. A handsome fool. Kat grinned in response. I am blushing, I can feel it. Then, Jho’s face shifted to one of concern. He stared into her eyes, as if scrutinizing her for some unknown purpose. Jho spoke, “Resolution? … C’mon let’s walk and talk.” They did.
“I’ve been obsessed with time lately,” Jho blurted not long after. They turned the corner onto a new block, one heading towards midtown. Not the route I intended to take, but that’s okay, thought Kat. If Jho wants to walk and talk, I am here for it. Kat didn’t have to be at work for a few hours. She didn’t expect to be particularly busy there this morning anyway. There’d be no real problem if she did arrive late.
“Time?” Kat asked ponderously.
“Yeah. We’re running out of it. All the time.”
Kat shook her head and laughed slightly. “What do you mean? Like life… Jho, you’re only twenty-five!”
“Exactly. Already more than a third of my lifespan has elapsed.”
“Well … when you put it that way, it seems like a lot. But another fifty years is a ton of time.”
Jho shook his head, he stared straight ahead as they walked. Their pace sped across their latest intersection. To Kat, it was like Jho was headed somewhere specific, with intention.
“Maybe. But thinking about how much time you have is not as productive as thinking about how much of it you don’t have,” Jho said.
“I don’t think I understand,” Kat shook her head slightly. “And what does this have to do with your new year’s resolution?” What does this have to do with anything? Kat had never heard Jho talk like this. Of course, I guess I don’t know him as well as I want to. This is why we’re here…
“For example, what if I told you you were going to die exactly five years from today?”
“Well … I don’t know. What would I do? I guess I would start preparing myself somehow…” Kat said, at a loss.
“You’d probably change every single thing about your current life. Would you stay at your same job? Same mindset, same place? Same people? Would you still spend the majority of your time doing meaningless bullshit?”
“Hey!” Kat interrupted.
“Sorry. I am talking more about myself… My point is that my answer would be a resounding — No. Everything would change. Every second would suddenly count for so much more. You would get to work.” Jho’s face held an interminable intensity. Kat was little bit unnerved, but also intrigued.
“Get to work doing what?” Jho asked directly and suddenly, turning to her.
Kat thought about it. “My passion.”
“And what is that?” he asked sincerely. He slowed up a bit to focus on her answer.
“Ever since I was a little girl, going camping with my parents, loving being outdoors … I’ve always wanted to be a park ranger.”
Jho smiled. “That’s good. That’s real good,” he said absently. “You should look into that.”
“I have… I guess. Just haven’t… “ Kat started. She didn’t want to go into this right now. Jho remained expectant. He does though. Kat stopped and instead asked him, “You still haven’t answered my original question. What about your resolution?”
Jho kept walking, almost acting as if he didn’t hear her. He was thinking. About how to say it? … Or whether or not he wants to tell me. Kat understood now that Jho had decided earlier, or was still within the indecision, on whether or not to trust her. This must be serious. Should I say something … No. Let him decide on his own. I don’t want to seem like I am prying it out.
The two of them passed by several more blocks of a residential area. Jho had taken them away from the main road and into the suburban sidewalks, likely in an effort to be away from the noise. Now they appeared to be headed to a small strip center within the neighborhood. Kat admired the houses, each uniquely designed and wildly expensive. She had never been in this neighborhood, or any place like it. She implicitly envisioned herself living in a house something like these.
Jho took a deep breath. “I had this dream, and … I decided,” he said at length, “to give myself five years. Starting a couple days ago, on the first day of this new year.”
“Five years … until what?” Kat asked, turning from a quaint two-story house colored baby blue.
“Until I die.”
Kat blinked softly. “You mean… you mean that you are going to act like you will die in five years, so you start chasing your dreams,” Kat said. That makes a certain kind of sense, I guess. Jho is definitely weird. Yet he seems honest about this. Kat felt she was no less attracted to him.
“Something like that, yeah.” Jho quieted, and then glanced to Kat again out of the corner of his eye. He’s still undecided, Kat realized. Say something. Maybe you can help convince him. Say what you are thinking.
“I think that’s an interesting idea. But what does it mean you will do differently? … What is your passion?” Kat asked.
“That’s the problem, Kat. I just don’t know…” Jho’s voice fell despondent. “I still live at home with my parents. I’ve been in and out jobs since college. Jobs that are just jobs, ones I don’t really give a damn about… I just want something more…”
“You want purpose,” Kat said intuitively. We all do, Jho.
“You could say that.”
“And so, you came up with this resolution to help you find that purpose, to really get down what it is that you want for yourself,” Kat surmised. “I think that’s a good idea, Jho.”
Jho nodded, and smirked somewhere in her general direction. “The idea made so much sense at the time. If there’s anything that would spur my thinking to serious action, to forcibly hash that kind of question out, I figured it would be this kind of hard deadline. With only five years to work with, it leaves me only enough time to do a very finite amount of work. “Five” lights the fire under me more than “fifty” ever would. With so much less time to work with, you make more out of it than you expect. Thusly, all of my time from here on out will be spent doing the things I need to do to get there. Wherever there is, my life would become devoted to getting to it. Always on the clock, always pursuing the ends of my dream, and my dream alone … I would only be involved with most absolutely important shit, you see, for me. And then, by the time I am 30, my dream would be achieved. My resolution consummated.”
“Achieved it, eh?” Kat asked. “I guess it depends on the size of the dream…” By this logic, everyone should act like they are dying in five years, Kat mused. Imagine how much might get done.
Jho chuckled and continued the thread, speaking straight ahead as they walked, as if talking mostly to himself. “And if I had more than five years to consider and execute this dream, then I would lose focus, and inevitably, make less progress. I would have to account for that time and it may corrupt me. The result: I take my sweet time. The five year window cuts away all the fat. There’s only the meat left to chew through.” Jho turned to look her in the eyes, “It makes a good kind of sense, I think.”
Kat raised her eyebrows and nodded slightly in agreement. …Okay, I get it. It does. And this is exciting for you. Then, why are you so dejected, uncertain? she wondered. Jho hesitated once again before continuing. Here it comes.
“But… I spent the last three days thinking day and night, reviewing the whole of my life, my past, my present and my potential futures,” Jho said. He looked far and away, apparently lost in the branches of a massive oak overhead as they passed underneath it together.
“Well … I just don’t know what my passion, my dream … is. There’s no known career I am interested in. I have no special artistic or professional talent to speak of. Where might I go to find this truth about me? Where do I look for it, if I don’t already have it in mind at this point? Is it too late? How bad is this? I don’t know what that dream is. And that… that has left me with a dilemma.” Jho raised his hand before his eyes and closed them, just as he tightened his fingers into a fist.
A bit melodramatic, Jho… Stop. I should try to be supportive. This obviously matters very much to him. Kat spoke, “Three days isn’t much time to figure out where you want to take your life. Most people probably spend most of their lives wondering at their purpose, their dream. Five years is ambitious, albeit quite motivating. In reality, you do have plenty of time.”
“But I don’t. I made sure of that … Did things a little out of order, I think,” Jho mumbled. “I already made the vow, signed it. My dream must be clinched within five years, or else…”
Jho and Kat emerged from the neighborhood and into the parking lot of the strip center. Some of the prominent businesses included names such as — Kentaro’s Sushi Kingdom. Lede’s Cafe. Tagoshi’s Hunter Academy. Wild West Wings. Kat didn’t recognize them, except for Wild West Wings. They were pretty good wings. Not her favorite. Top five, though. Jho looked like he was slowing down, he surveyed these places and then turned back to Kat.
“Or else what? You fail your resolution?” Kat asked. “Hate to break it to you — but join the rest of America. I think you are being a bit melodramatic.”
“Am I? I just think something might be wrong with me… To not know what it is that I want to do with my life. But it doesn’t matter now. Since the die has already been cast regarding the resolution, and I can’t figure out my dream, which naturally means my end of the contract cannot be executed…” Jho rambled while looking to the storefronts.
‘Contract’? Jho certainly uses strangely formal terminology for all his ideas, Kat thought to herself. They stood in the parking lot, the wind had picked up. Kat bundled herself as tightly as possible for warmth. If she could help it, she had no wish to be out in this weather for very much longer.
“Jho,” Kat said, directing his attention to look her in the eyes. He did so, the lines of his face filled with concern. “Listen to me, there’s nothing wrong with you. At least, nothing that isn’t wrong with most of us. I think what you are doing is admirable. In fact, I was just thinking that it makes me want to go apply to get my ranger degree. You’ve inspired me in a way. So I think … you should just keep working at it. Experiment. Try new things. Take your time. I am confident you will discover your dream soon or later.” Kat smiled sincerely after finishing her sentiment.
Jho also smiled. Then he put his hand on her shoulder, gently, on the side of it and not atop it. She felt the blood in her face rush to her cheeks once more. Involuntarily, Kat looked down and away.
“Thanks Kat. I really appreciate those words. I am glad I am talking to you about this.” Jho released his hand and looked away, to the sky. He took a deep breath and exhaled it audibly, obnoxiously. He smiled widely for the first time that morning. “In a way, this whole resolution business has clarified my resolve in a whole other way. You see, that’s why I walked over here today … Thanks for walking with me by the way, while I ranted.” Jho turned and pointed to the Tagoshi Hunter Academy. “I am enrolling there this morning for daily training routines with some of the best martial artists in the world. While I search for the identity of my dream, in the meantime, I will become a Hunter.” Jho chuckles nervously. “Of course, I am wickedly inexperienced. I’ve never done martial arts. In fact, I am certain they are going to kick my ass… But it’s more out of necessity at this point, than sheer interest …” Jho spoke solemnly.
“The yoga will help, so thanks for getting me in there too … Truth be told, it is a lot of money to enroll. Y’know, because they are the best of the best, in the world. Almost as much money as what I tendered to the The League of Shadows for the contract. Altogether, over these last four days, I have pretty much cleared out my life savings… But I think it’s worth it. After all, my life, and all of those potential dreams within, it should be worthy of any price tag, right? Even literally all of my money. Ha-ha-ha.”
Kat squinted. Did he just say The League of Shadows? What in the devil is he talking about? All your money … oh Jho, what have you done?
Jho turned from her and walked towards Tagoshi’s, both his arms raised in a flexing motion. “When that assassin comes for me in five years, I will be ready … Yes. I may not have achieved my dream, because maybe I won’t know what it is yet — Ha!… but I’ll match him, maybe even overtake him in mortal combat.”
“‘Lebe als ob der Tag hier wäre.’ And today is the day!” Jho shouted as he walked further and further away from her.
Kat watched him go, ponderously, her mouth agape. She no longer felt the stinging winds of cold. What is happening? she wondered.
Jho stopped suddenly and turned back around, shouting from distance, “But wait! I just realized I never asked you what your new year’s resolution is going to be!”
Kat hesitated, not fully registering the returned inquiry. She struggled to remember her own dream… or rather, resolution.
“So what is it?” Jho asked excitedly.
Kat shook her head and mumbled, “Umm … to try that … ketogenic … thing.”
“Sweet. I’ve heard about that. It’s supposed to make you smarter and stronger. I think I’ll do it too. Why not? Anyway … wish me luck. I’ll see you next week. Have a good weekend, and happy new year!”
Jho walked inside the academy.
What a weird dude. Kat looked forward to seeing him next week.
Unconsciously, she glanced up at the nearby Wild West Wings again. Then turned to Lede’s Cafe.
I’m hungry, Kat thought, in both senses of the word. Her body still ached slightly from the early morning exercise. Tired of walking. Need to sit for a while. She considered that unfinished application to ranger school saved right now on her drive, which had gone unedited for over eighteen months. A full exhale of her breath struck the air before her face, fogging her glasses with condensation. Soon after, the unpleasant sting of the cold wind returned to her, spurring her towards one of the doors. ~