She hadn’t even heard of Instagram until I told her about it. And now she thinks she can block me? I downloaded the app on her phone. Hell, I gifted her the phone six months ago on her birthday. The first picture she uploaded on Instagram was shot by me – it was a photo of her looking at the sunrise. A sunrise she never would have seen had I not pushed her out of bed and dragged her to the top of a hill.
I clear my mind of all distractions.
I’m sitting in the conference room of an ad agency, waiting for an important interview to start. The agency’s called Blueberry Whale, and I honestly don’t think I’m going to get the job. I’m not even sure why I’m here. I’m a writer, but not an advertising writer. I prefer writing stories. The problem is my stories can’t pay the bills – which is sadly the case for so many writers – but here I am, waiting for the interviewer to look me in the eye and ask, “Why are you wasting my time?”
The interviewer finally comes in and I start things off by giving him a summary of my life and work experience.
“Alright, let’s see your portfolio. And just so you know, I’m going to give you honest feedback. Don’t take anything personally.”
I hand him my portfolio – which consists of sample ads. He slowly goes through every ad twice.
“Okay.” He says. “This first campaign is hallmarkish. That means it’s sweet enough to cause a stomachache. You don’t have to be so sappy.”
He’s talking about my ad campaign for a chocolate brand. As he continues giving me feedback, I feel a massive wave of relief wash over me. I completely expected this. It’s like getting your exam results back and being able to breathe easy again. Before you get your results, you’re in a constant state of anxiety. Afterwards, you feel like an anchor has been lifted off your head.
“Look, you have potential. But you need to immerse yourself in ads. Watch more TV commercials, listen to more radio ads, go through as many advertising awards books as you can. If you want to be an author, you need to read a lot of books, right? Same principle applies to advertising.”
He also tells me that whenever I see a bad ad, I should think about how to turn it into a good ad. I thank him for the advice, and he tells me to come see him again when my portfolio’s better.
I decide to walk home, leaving my car parked near Blueberry Whale. I’ll just walk back and get it later. Walking helps me relax. The fresh air, the sunshine, it’s good for me. Everything is going well until I run into Mrs. Braxton. The only way I can avoid her now is if I turn around and walk the opposite way. But she sees me. And starts talking to me. I tell her about the job interview. I tell her that they’re planning to call me for a second interview next week. If I tell her the truth, she’ll be snarkier than usual.
“Oh, a second interview?” She asks curiously. “You must tell me what that’s like. I’ve never been on a second interview before, I always got the job after the first.”
I highly doubt Mrs. Braxton has ever had to work. Unless you count the effort it takes to seduce and marry rich old men and wait for them to die so you get all the money.
“Do you have a girlfriend?” She asks.
“No.” I reply.
“You should be settled at your age. My son’s younger than you and he has twins!”
“Well, it’s been nice talking to you but–”
“How was Africa?”
I lived in Cape Town, South Africa for a year. I loved it and I’ll probably go back one day. Cape Town has a chilled out, laid back vibe. It’s right on the coast and the beaches are beautiful. Whereas Johannesburg is inland and feels a little more serious since it’s the economic hub. But now I’m back home because my mom is old, and I don’t want her to live alone.
But home happens to be a conservative small town with no pulse. It’s completely dead here. Look out the window of almost any room in this town, and you’ll see nothing happening whatsoever. And if something does happen, let’s say you do something out of the ordinary – even something as small as getting up on the opposite side of bed – word spreads so fast it’ll make your head spin.
“Isn’t Africa dangerous?” She asks.
“No. Anyway, I really need to go–”
“I hope you’re not bringing any diseases back with you.”
“If I had, the whole town would be dead by now.” I walk past her.
I mentally congratulate myself for tolerating that conversation.
A few minutes later I get a text. It’s from my ex, the one who blocked me on Instagram. The text reads: ‘Can you please come over? I need to talk to you.’
She lives way north of Blueberry Whale and I’ve been walking south so I’ll have to walk back to my car, and drive to her place. Should I go? Or should I not go?
I end up going.
Half an hour later, I’m ringing her doorbell.
But she doesn’t open it. Some guy opens it.
“Hey… you’re her ex right?” He asks.
“Um… Who are you?”
“I’m her boyfriend.”
“She’s actually not here.” He says quietly. “She’s at work. She forgot her phone at home, so I texted you. I want to talk to you.”
What… the hell is going on?
I take a step back.
“Please, it’s important.” New Boyfriend says. “Can you come in?”
“I think I’ll stay out here.” I reply. “What do you want?”
“How do I get her to love me as much as she loved you?”
Is he being serious? The question reeks of insecurity. What does she see in this guy? But I feel stung by the last two words of his question, ‘loved’ and ‘you’.
“I… I don’t know how to answer that.” I reply.
“You know, she’d still be with you if you hadn’t cheated on her.”
My blood starts to boil. I never cheated on her. She just assumed I did because I was away from her for a year in South Africa (we’d been together for three years before I left). But she visited me every four months and we Skyped almost every day. But she still stopped trusting me. She wasn’t comfortable with the new friends I was making in a new city. But I don’t have to explain all this to her new boyfriend.
“Look, just be yourself.” I smirk. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
I turn around and walk away.
But then I hear a gunshot.
I feel a bullet enter my lower back.
I fall face down.
“I’m sorry.” New Boyfriend says. “But she’ll never get over you if you still exist.”
Is my life really about to end? Like this?!
But I can’t help but smile. What’s funny is that you only realize what’s important when you don’t have much time left.
New Boyfriend uses his foot to turn me over. He fires again, the bullet enters my stomach.
I should never have wasted time trying to get into the ad industry. I should’ve never wasted time going to business school. I should’ve never wasted time doing a million other things. I should have focused exclusively on writing fiction.
I feel the world going black.
This is what happens when any asshole can stroll into Walmart and buy a gun.