Fiction

Another Snippet From My Story


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On my way to work, I sat in Boston’s notorious line of traffic. I usually listened to the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast to pass the time, but the newest episode wasn’t out yet since Joe was on a hunting trip. I was going to put on some music but the license plate in front of my caught my attention.
SAV 819
I see the number 819 everywhere. Some people believe that it is a sign when you see the same number, others believe it is a self-fulfilling prophecy because you think you see a number everywhere, so you are more likely to notice it. I don’t know which is true, but instead of putting music on, I sat with my thoughts, recalling the many other times that I’ve seen that number.
When I arrived at the University of Massachusetts, or Umass as we call it, I parked in the Bay Side lot and took the shuttle to the University Hall stop. My first class of the day was at 8:00 and I always tried to get to campus early enough to enjoy a second cup of coffee while staring at the ocean. Umass Boston is located on Columbia Point, an old landfill, that sits on a peninsula in Dorchester Bay.
After my coffee, I casually strolled over to my classroom, located in the McCormack building, and arrived with fifteen minutes to spare. As I was settling in, I heard a knock on the open door.
“Knock Knock”
“Good morning Justin, how goes it?”
“It goes. Do you want to eat lunch on campus or go somewhere else today?”
I tilted my head slightly upward, squinting as I stared into my thoughts.
“Hmm…that’s a good question. I have office hours this afternoon, so eating on campus would be smarter, but it is Friday and my students definitely aren’t going to stop by so…let’s push lunch a little later and take off a little early and we can grab a few drinks too. How’s that sound?”
Justin smiled and slapped his hand against the door.
“I like the way you think my man! I’ll swing by around 3?”
“Yeah, that sounds great.”
Justin was my best friend since middle school. He was half white and half Asian and we used to practice martial arts in his yard. By martial arts I mean the moves we’d learn from watching Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan movies. His was a kind man with a big heart. His mother had passed away while we were in high school and his father wasn’t around so it was a miracle that he turned out so great. We both still lived in Woburn and got jobs teaching at Umass Boston. He taught history and I taught English composition.
Shortly after Justin left, Stephanie arrived. She was always the first student in the classroom. We made small chit chat until the other students began to trickle in.
“Alright class, let’s begin. Today we’re going to have an in-class writing day since your papers are due on Monday. The more you get done in class, the more you get to enjoy your weekend, how’s that sound?”
“Thanks Professor!” Aamir said, “Can I wear my headphones while I work?”
“Sure, just make sure that you can hear me if I need to get your attention.”
As they wrote, I thought about my dream. Why was I having a reoccurring nightmare about being shot in the back of my head? The strange thing was, I kept getting shot in the same spot, where my birthmark is, which some called a “stork bite” because it was located on the back of the head, where the neck met the skull.
I realized that I had been day dreaming and wondered how long so I checked the clock. 8:19. I pretended like that didn’t bother me.
The rest of the day went by normally. When quitting time came, I went to see Justin in his office.
“You ready to break out of here?” I asked.
“Does the pope shit in the woods?”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s an expression bro.”
“I know, but I don’t get why. I’m almost certain the pope would just shit in a toilet like the rest of us.”
“Yes. The answer is yes, I am ready to break out of here. Jesus.”
We met at The Brickyard, our usual spot. The downstairs was a bar with cool wall panels that change color. We ordered a few drinks and talked about work, our most difficult students, and our gripes with the education system. We had tons of ideas of how to make it better but never a single one about how to implement anything. It was nice just to vent sometimes. Eventually, the conversation led to my dreams. I told him about the gun shot, waking up in a panic, and how Carla was concerned. I mentioned the number that I kept seeing everywhere and how I thought I was going crazy.
“Have you tried looking it up in the bible?”
“What?”
“The bible. You know, that book your mother could recite verbatim.”
“Duh. I know what the bible is, but why look up a number in it?”
“When I was a kid, before my mother had passed, she used to tell me to look up numbers in the bible. She said that God communicated in all sorts of ways.”
“Did it ever work? Did you look up something and think that God was communicating with you?”
“When I was young, I thought that it worked, but as I got older, my faith faded and I realized that bible verses can be like fortune cookies. They all sort of apply to your life in a general manner, but it still feels good.”
“Hmm. Perhaps I’ll try that.”
I noticed that there was a man at the other side of the bar looking over at us from time to time. I assumed it was because he overheard our conversation and thought we were loons. After an hour or so, he got up and walked toward the stairs. He paused before leaving and looked over his shoulder and made eye contact with me. A nervous chill rushed down my spine. I felt his malicious intentions with just a look, and then he went upstairs.
“Michael, you okay?”
“That guy…”
“The guy over there?” Justin looked but the man was gone. “Oh, he must of left. What about him?”
“He just gave me the coldest look.”
“Are you sure he wasn’t just flirting?”
“No dude, he looked at me like he wanted to kill me.”
“What? Why would he want to kill you? Are you sure you’re not misreading this situation? Maybe he overheard us bad mouthing religion. You know how die hard Christians can get.”
“Yea, maybe.”