Some parts of the write-up below are fiction, and others are not. You can decide.
Friday, 3:04 AM
The first thing I register as I open my eyes is that my project work is not on the screen. Sure, there’s a document, there are letters, but none of them have anything to do with political science. It’s a competition results list, scores seemingly from a football game, and the technical jargon I write in my practice diary for my actual sport— certainly nothing relevant to citizenship as a concept.
And then, much to my chagrin, a man in a black suit appears from my doorway.
My sleep paralysis was back with the demon, and once more, I did not have the time to deal with either.
“Wha— how— I didn’t— I fixed my sleeping schedule. I swear I did. This isn’t fair.” I exclaimed.
“And then you ruined it again! What fun! I get to be back, so at least one of us is happy.” he said, waving me off.
“I’m flooded with projects. This is a temporary problem. Also, you’re literally a figment of my imagination. Can you ever be truly gone?” I shot back.
“I suppose not. Anyways, here’s coffee! Extra sugar and all.” He said, handing me a steaming mug of what appeared to be a pitch-black liquid.
“I can’t taste it, it’s not real, and neither are you. Besides, what is this, tar? Did you burn it while you were hovering over the stove?”
“Accidents happen. And as we’ve discussed earlier, everything I do is a you problem. Not my fault you can’t dream up better coffee.”
I grumbled something under my breath.
Friday, 3:26 AM
“So, how’s the viva preparation coming along?” he asked, dragging a chair into my room. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I recognised it to be one of the wooden chairs from school.
“It was going fine actually, but then you turned up.”
“You made me turn up. Don’t blame me for that one.”
“…and fair enough. I’m too tired to argue with you tonight, really.” I resolved to staring at my screen again.
“Aren’t we all? Third wave of the pandemic just simmering down and all?”
I shrugged. “I suppose so. But I reckon everyone is feeling it a little differently. It feels lesser to me for some reason, in comparison to everything that went down last year. I’m not sure if it should.”
“You answered it for yourself. Everyone takes it in a little differently. There’s no right way of processing all of it, as long as it isn’t hurting you or someone else, I think.” The man took a sip from his own mug.
“It’s weird, isn’t it? How there’s so many of us on this planet going through so many of the same things but being impacted so vastly differently by them? And how we all come from such different walks of life but still find similarities we can celebrate and enjoy together?” I wondered aloud.
He smirked. “That’s what we keep talking about, though. Diversity and the spaces of unity we mould out through it. Seven billion going on eight, each with their individual wisdom, expressions, lives, and emotions. All tied in, however, with the human experience.”
Friday, 4:17 AM
I considered his words for a brief moment. “It’s just that… realisation. That’s the thing getting to me. That every person who walks across the street from me has everything of their own. Even my family. My friends. My neighbours. Every fellow citizen. Everyone else too. That there’s blanks about them I unconsciously fill by myself, because that’s my worldview. I will truly never be in their shoes and they can never be in mine. They’re their own people. Forgive me for the phrasing: main characters of their own stories.”
He snorted at the last sentence. “Bold of you to assume that even you truly believe you’re the main character here.”
“You look like you’re 40, but you speak like you’re a teenager with an internet addiction.”
“We’ve been over this, little girl. All your criticisms of me should be self-reflections, really. Introspect before you come at me perhaps?”
“Nah. That’s boring. And that would make my editorial boring.”
“Breaking fourth walls, are we now?”
“Glad you gave me the opportunity to use your words against you. Bold of you to assume there were walls to begin with.”
He raised his mug at me in resignation. “Touché.”
Friday, 4:33 AM
“I guess it shows, too, doesn’t it?” I continued. “In the expression, especially. How our perceptions impact everything ranging from politics, to technology, to the economy, to art of all forms. Even the little things, especially the little things. I think I do notice those, without even knowing.”
“What do you mean by the little things?”
“Well… I prefer sweet hot chocolate over coffee. A relative of mine cannot live without a black and bitter cup of coffee in the morning. I would pick a jacket over a sweater on a cold day, but a friend of mine finds more comfort in the latter. When it comes to creativity… I know of people who like reading more than watching things, and vice-versa. Maybe they’ve never told me, but I know that some of my friends like writing poetry more than long stories. The exact same way, some others enjoy putting time and energy into deep and intricate pieces of art but are irked by the lengthy essays they have to write for college.”
I paused to look over at the man, who was still lazily sprawled across his chair.
“In a different regard, I suppose we have a tendency to think in ways that restrict tolerance and acceptance. Sure, we find comfort in familiar, like-minded circles, but there’s something rather beautiful about diversity too. I find myself being quite attentively involved in the discussions that we have in class about literature, history and politics, regardless of whether we end up agreeing or disagreeing on whatever they are about. It provides a new way of looking at things, I suppose. I’m also often pleasantly surprised by the new interpretations that different students bring to themes for the magazine, whether in writing or through something visual. Sometimes I wonder if such interpretations would ever cross my mind if it hadn’t been for the person submitting.” I halted my train of thought as the man took a deep breath.
“I’ll pretend I paid attention to all that. No, joking. I did. And I see where you’re coming from, kid. But it feels incredibly idealistic to have a space that has the perfect balance of freedom and sensitivity. I suppose a serious classroom of people who genuinely want to learn is the closest thing that can provide the sense of safety needed for that, but as you pointed out, we would still not look at everything the same way.”
“Human experience, as you said, dude. Everything can’t be sunshine and rainbows, but we can try, I think. To listen more, to be open to learning every step of the way, to be a bit more empathetic to differences. Even if that’s hard to do.” The man let my words seep in as I set my mug on my desk, eyeing the clock on my desktop, which showed the brilliant, realistic and utterly sensible time of 27 o’clock.
Friday, 5:01 AM
“Enough of the deep stuff. I don’t know how we always get there. If you don’t mind me asking, by the way, why do you have a chair from school?” I looked at him, amused.
He raised an eyebrow at me. “It was the best furniture your brain provided. Or recalled. Maybe you should spend less time remembering the good ol’ days of having a classroom and stare at the chair that’s kept your back alive for the past two years instead.”
My grin faltered. “It’s really been that long, huh. I know they’re saying this is the last of it, but I don’t know if I believe them.”
His voice softened a little as he spoke. “You may not be able to get all that time back, but it’s also changed you as a person, at the end of the day. And even if all of them aren’t in your life anymore… the people are still there. You wouldn’t have had the experiences you did without them. Hope is what has kept you going for so long— you and everyone around you. Don’t let go of it so easily, for your sake and that of others. Didn’t come so far just to give up, did we?” he smiled at me as he finished his sentence.
We regarded each other in silence for some time.
“I never did catch your name. What is it?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” he said as he got up, stretched a bit and picked up our mugs and his chair. “Didn’t think it did. Besides, too late for personal questions now. Your alarm clock will be going off soon enough.”
“It’s been five minutes since we started talking.”
“In the real world, it’s been way more. Besides, you have a lot to do, aside from that viva.”
“What do I— OH. I. Might have completely forgotten about other obligations in life. Great. There goes my sleep, again.”
He pointed the chair at me. “Sleep will make you more productive. Get some of it.” He advised before walking out.
Friday, 6:00 AM
The blaring of the alarm clock shook me out of my half-sleep as I lunged to silence it before someone else in the house woke up. I let out a sigh as I saw what day it was: just one more before a much-needed but all-too-short weekend. I listed out my schedule, making space for the work I needed to get done for the issue. At the very top of my chats, I had a reminder about the viva that was to take place on the day, a sweet good-night text from a friend, a sarcastic midnight musing from another, and a silly meme from someone else. All contrasting in nature, all sent by people who were starting and ending their days in their distinctive ways, but were at their core— incredibly, completely, and perfectly human.
I hope you enjoyed this issue’s rendition of the story-editorial series. There is much to explore in all that is to follow— poetry to cherish, art to absorb, photography to admire, and more. Express yourself as a reader as freely as those who have made this issue— like, comment and share everything you appreciate, and remember to be kind. Take in everything you can, and leave with something more of your own.
Best wishes for the year ahead!