Contest #240 shortlist ⭐️


Friendship Teens & Young Adult

 Don’t Know.

The wind, indecisive in its direction, takes the umbrella away from me.

“Come on!” I shout.

I hear the metallic clicks and snaps of the cheap fabric and reused metal that constitutes an umbrella, as it flies away. It ends up landing on a nearby pothole filled with water and I give up on retrieving it. Too bored or frustrated.

Maybe I should spend more money for better quality. 

“That went well.” My friend says.

“Shut up.” 

The words escape my mouth before I even realize.

The rain hits me anywhere it can, as if it wants to annoy me that much more. My nose is insulted by the scent of wet trash bags, cars whizzing past us and all the other good aspects of city life.

“How about we just go in that coffee place right there?” He says, from the safety and comfort of his expensive automated umbrella with buttons.

I have to manually fumble my way into drawing the instrument out like it’s a sword. If only my sword didn’t have a flying away function.

“Say that again? I can’t hear you over this rain!” I open my arms, trying to make myself look like more of a martyr.

Even that would be a better alternative than the position I’m in. A university student.

“Come on.” He turns his back on me, knowing I’ll follow.

The street has turned from its usual black asphalt look to a gray, ever shifting low gathering of mist. That’s the speed in which this storm bombs us with rain.

Because of the minute I spend outside, I open the door to the coffee place and I walk in drenched, my shoes slushing on the wooden floor.

Bad aesthetic choice, shop owner. Not my fault it’s raining the entire zoo outside.

“Jeez, it’s raining the entire zoo outside.” I sigh.

“You’ve been holding on to that one for a while?” My friend snarks.

“Um, could you...?”

The uncertainty in the voice could mean only one thing. The waitress is trying to pick a fight with my wet situation. I’m not having it.

“Really? You wanna-“

“I’m really sorry, the wind took us by surprise.” He pants. “We’ll just sit in the nearest table. Don’t want a mess. Really sorry.” He pushes me further into the establishment.

“You were saved!” I say back at her. “Damn, the rain isn’t even falling vertically anymore.”

I don’t even know how she looks. He keeps pushing me inside and I can’t look. Dammit.

As soon as he forces me on a chair, I take in the place. Surprisingly warm, light panels running all the way in the corners of the ceiling. A weird neo-medieval style. Wooden floor meets stone pillars and walls are made of glass.

If only people didn’t smoke in here.

“Be right back.” He says.

This place isn’t just a coffee place. People are having brunch here. Aside from us, there’s three more tables occupied of the total twenty. Someone’s having a slow day. At least, they’re far away from ours and I don’t have to deal with their smoking.

“Here you go. Lots of milk, lots of sugar.” He offers me a cup.

“You could have waited for them to ask us.” I say, taking a sip immediately.

Damn. That’s good.

“Didn’t want them to bother us.” He sits down, dragging the chair haphazardly.

He always does that. Can’t put his coffee and the donut down, he just has to have them on him until he decides to take a bite. Weird.

“So.” He takes a big bite. “Oh, that’s good. Chocolate is even, all around. So, what’s bothering you?”

“What do you mean? I just don’t like the fact that my umbrella was ruined. Nobody ever told me about these erratic weathers.”

“I literally did. Like, as soon as we thought about coming to stay in this area. It was the one thing we knew.”

“Shut up.”

“Come on, out with it. Our class was cancelled anyways. Might as well chill here.”

“And what’s more chilling than talking about our lives…” 


Does he have to keep looking at me.

“You got some- mouth- no, other side. There.” I guide him.

“Thanks. Now, talk.”

“How about you? Why don’t we talk about the fact that you don’t talk to your parents, huh? It’s always about me.”

“Because the only conversation we can have about my parents is that I don’t dig their, like, entire personality. There, conversation had. Your turn.”

I forget how confident he is with his problems.

“Would you like anything to eat as well? We have excellent brunch cho-“

“Thanks. I’m good. Actually… Can I have an order of fries with some cheese and bacon on top? Ready to go, in case I don’t eat the whole thing.”

“Of course. Be right there.” The waitress says.

“Its eleven in the morning, dude. What’s wrong with you?” He laughs.

I ignore him, finally getting a chance to look at the waitress that wanted to fight. Brunette, hair tied into an oversized bun, plain clothes that carry the brand of this oh-so-vibrant place.

“Hey, I’m talking to you. The underachiever.” 

“Screw you.” I respond.

“So, you suddenly like the waitress. I wonder why…” He chuckles.

“Let’s get back to the bearing of souls. Preferable than pretending you have a sense of humor.” 

“You are the one with the mouth open wide. Get a hold of yourself.”

“I’m not.” 

“Whatever. Focus on the whole shouting theme of today. What’s wrong?”

I take a deep breath, taking in the sweetness of the coffee that makes the sides of my tongue tingle. It hits just right.

“I don’t know, man. I feel like that cheap, useless imitation of an umbrella. Carried by the winds, wherever it may be. We are in the first additional year of our university and my roommate has already gotten her degree. And it’s not like I’m mad about it but I can’t help but feel like I didn’t do enough, I feel so frustratingly dumb. And now my parents have to pay for the rent for a whole year. If I even get the degree in time. So, I’m definitely letting them down. Sure, I don’t want to be here. It doesn’t mean I want to be a burden on my parents forever. But I haven’t worked a day in my life and nobody will hire me.” My eyes tear up a bit, a reaction I am not so keen on having.

My friend stays silent, putting the donut down and giving me his entire attention.

Dammit. How long has it been since we talked like this?

I can’t stop.

“Who wants a student with no experience that needs an entire month’s worth of days off for exam seasons? I feel pulled in every which direction but I can’t even tell the direction I’m going. And as if that wasn’t enough, half the professors cancel our classes. Like… We don’t have a life outside of their lectures or whatever. And let’s not even talk about the worth of our degree. Our parents are paying so we can have a worthless piece of paper that will only get us to a place of work like this one.”

“Hey, don’t judge. It might have excellent benefits for all you know.” He chuckles.

“You know what I mean. I- I haven’t even lived a life of a stupid university student. It’s not like I’m drowning in relationships. I haven’t even been with anyone in this place. Everyone we know just counts down the time for a break so they can run off and talk on their phones. I’m trying to pay attention to class and my papers and dissertations still get a failing mark. What am I even doing here? I could just get lost in a mountain or something, take care of some sheep. And I get this bubbling feeling in my chest. Like I want to scream but I can’t. ‘Cause I can’t lose my mind now or I will truly fail. And in this tightrope of a life, I have to pretend that I am having the time of my life, all for the sake of my parent’s peace of mind. But, hey, we are what? Twenty-something, right? There is no way life is tough for us. We haven’t even lived it.” I pant, finishing whatever is left of my coffee.

The sweetness of the drink is a pure contrast to how I’m feeling right now. Is that why I drink my coffee sweet? Can’t think of that now or I’ll break down. 

We study literature and I can’t even be poetic about my feelings. I can’t be honest with my friend and talk about the depression that keeps me bogged down, unable to reach for someone’s hand and just receive some help instead of lashing out. I can’t talk about the dread of inevitability of failure that surrounds my efforts. What good is trying when it’s just not good enough? I can’t even express the elation that sweeps me off my feet when he just listens and does not even give advice. Because we both know lack of advice is not what keeps us back. Yet, we don’t know what actually does. 

Look at us. Too old to not have our life together but too young to honestly do.

I look around, not wanting to see the look of my friend’s face. Maybe, because I don’t want him to see mine.

I notice a guy who is receiving his order a few tables away from us, about our age. Could be younger. He is studying, books out, random sheets of paper spread out. This dude really knows how to organize. I could try to be social. All I have to do is ask him what subject he is studying for. I have my soggy bag with me. I could ask if I could join him, saying I need the company to maintain concentration on my studies. Actually connect with another human being, instead of being dependent on the one friend I know from back home.

“Here you go. Enjoy.” The waitress says, giving me a folded plastic bag along with the package of fries.

“Thanks.” I respond, pretending I am calm and collected. “Should we go?”

“Sure.” He says, placing a handful of coins on the table.

“Isn’t that a bit expensive for the donut and a coffee?”

“It’s for your plate of fries, moron. I’ve already paid for the rest.”

“You always do that. I have money too, you know.”

“Next time, you are buying.”

We quickly get up and walk outside.

As the door closes, I glance back at the guy who is studying. As if he senses me, he looks back. This would be a great opportunity to start talking. Connecting. But I am not one for extending a hand. I just stay in my bog of a psyche, the amalgamation of troubles that is my life.

“I forgot it was still raining.” I say.

“Not as bad as before. I heard this guy who was just standing there like an idiot, going- What else- What else?” He gestures with his hands in the air.

“Shut up.” I start walking, smiling as the rain hits me.

Sometimes, it’s just good to let it all out, even if it doesn’t lead to anything more than just talking.

“Thanks, dude.”

“Anytime.” My friend says, accompanying me with the umbrella ever so slightly away from me, just to spite me.

A true friend in the wind.

March 02, 2024 13:58

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Diamond Keener
19:56 Mar 15, 2024

Congratulations George! I really enjoyed your unique take on the prompt.


George Mexas
04:47 Mar 16, 2024

Thank you!


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John Rutherford
18:24 Mar 15, 2024

Well done.


George Mexas
04:45 Mar 16, 2024

Thank you!


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Alexis Araneta
16:35 Mar 15, 2024

Congratulations on the shortlist, George ! The bite in the dialogue is really nice. Great job.


George Mexas
04:45 Mar 16, 2024

Thanks! Means a lot.


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Mary Bendickson
16:07 Mar 15, 2024

Congratulations on shortlist. Will get back to read later. Good use of dialogue to advance frustration.


George Mexas
04:44 Mar 16, 2024

Thank you!


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R W Mack
17:18 Mar 09, 2024

Seems I got good picks from the submission pool this week. This felt delightfully natural and relatable. If I had to drop some criticism, I found the dialogue a little hard to follow between the two and a little more show than tell, but this was a decent little jaunt through uni life that felt almost bittersweet for me. Keep submitting. I want to see how much better you can be, because I think you've got the raw meat to cook up something good.


George Mexas
20:10 Mar 09, 2024

Thanks! I was more focused on the subject of the conversation a bit more than the flow of it. After going back and forth, I didn't want to overthink it and possibly miss the point of the story.


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