Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Persuasion (not about the book) (09/01/11)
TITLE: Subliminal Persuasion
By Michael Throne
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There’s no response.
“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” I say.
“I mean, sure, I might have tried harder, but how hard is hard enough? That’s what I want to know. We can always try harder, right?”
Silence. Absolute silence.
“I’m not perfect, you know! And I never will be!”
I start the car and speed off.
In the months that follow, I go to work, come home at night, even go out with friends.
It isn’t enough.
“Hey, Jim, how about catching the Nationals’ game with me tonight?”
“I’d love to, but I’ve got the kids. The wife’s at a meeting.”
I’m envious. I want kids. I want a wife.
Being alone is something that I’m just not good at.
I see Nancy here and there over the next several months. She looks good, I have to admit. And I do miss her, but I’ve never called. I don’t know why I haven’t. Foolish pride, I guess. Stupidity, mostly. I thought she was the one.
It’s out of the blue. I’m driving down Elm Street thinking about nothing in particular.
“Why would I do that?” I ask.
Just do it.
I drive a couple more miles and don’t hear anything else. I don’t know. It’s been months, but maybe….
That night, I meet a girl at a bar. She’s wearing a short black dress and peppermint lip gloss.
“Hi. I’m Jeff,” I say, introducing myself.
“Ginger,” she says, unexpectedly laughing. Her lashes are long and her laughter’s enchanting.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
She glances at her empty glass. “Sure.” And suddenly I’m sitting next to her.
“So, Ginger, what do you do?”
“Yep. Fourth grade.”
She’s a perfect fit for me, kind, great with children, lots of fun.
We leave the bar and go out for sushi. Afterward, we stop in at her apartment and split a bottle of wine.
I drive home slowly, cautiously, several miles under the speed limit, just in case.
“She’s the one,” I say to myself as I park in my driveway, almost whistling in ecstasy.
I don’t think so.
“Huh?” I say it out loud, despite the fact that I’m standing in the middle of my driveway.
“But…but she’s beautiful.”
A neighbor walking her dog looks at me. I’m a little loud.
She’s not for you.
“Yes, she is.”
I don’t like it when I talk to myself like that.
We go out two or three months. Each date ends up at a bar and then her place.
It’s great fun.
But it’s not going to work.
I see Nancy going into the hardware store. A man had dropped her off and kissed her through the car window. I follow her in.
“Hi, Jeff. How are you?”
I pick up a screwdriver and put it back down.
“Nancy,” I say as a sudden influx of maturity swells up within me. “Look, I’m sorry about how things worked out….”
“Oh, that’s okay.”
I shake my head. “I’m sorry I was such a jerk.” And I was.
She hesitates and I see the grief momentarily explode upon her face before she regains her composure.
“It’s all right.”
We talk a while and just when I’m remembering how great things were between us, she tells me she’s engaged, and suddenly she looks radiant.
It really is over with Nancy.
I blew it.
I hug her and wish her well, then walk back out to my car thoroughly depressed.
I completely blew it.
Despite myself, I start the conversation.
“You knew I would fail, didn’t you.”
“Then why did you have me try? Why set me up for failure?”
It was your choice. All along, it was always your choice.
I hesitate, fully understanding my loss.
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“I’ll do better next time. I promise.”
I know you will.
As I sit, a plain young woman in a scarf and a jacket drops a newspaper and it starts unfolding in the wind. I get out and help her chase it down. Afterward, at the corner cafe, when she takes off her scarf and smiles I see that she’s not so plain after all.
On the drive home, it’s too soon, but I ask the question anyway.
“Is she the one?”
There’s a silence bordering on laughter.
I’m not saying.
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