His mom died last night. She was 65, too young everyone said. She was still so full of life, others commented, as if this fact made a difference to anyone. He supposed it was more tragic that way, to lose a relatively young and lively person is worse than losing one who is old and decrepit. He was sad, don’t misunderstand the situation, there was a definite air of sadness that hung around him like heavy perfume. Everyone could smell it on him and it resulted in bent heads, mournsome nods and bleak, no-lipped smiles. It was more annoying than anything, he just wanted to move on. It was a tragedy, but it was also just another thing he had no control over. The day his mother was born, her death was written in stone. That’s the only explanation for it, as she was a perfectly healthy individual pre-death. There has never been and never will be a way to escape fate. It’s not something that most people like to think about because then their choices feel rather meaningless. The day after his mother’s funeral, he was back at work, doing what he assumed he’d be doing for the next 25 years or so before he retired, if that would even be possible. It was a desk job, which sounds nice except his “office” was just another cell in an interconnected beehive of workers with no privacy or walls. He sat on the work issued chair that had little to no support and started entering data, the same way that he would do for the next seven hours. The people around him, his “co-workers” tried to make the job more fun by personalizing their desks and making friends with the people around them, but he wasn’t really interested. His desk looked like it did the day he started other than the downgrade they made on his desk two years ago and the Polaroid of his mother that he had taped to the fuzzy wall. The woman to his right (Savannah?) announced,
“Dude, I heard they are filling Alex’s desk today.”
He disliked her California-esque overuse of the word “dude.” It didn’t feel fit for the workplace or for these people she barely knew, but she used it nonetheless.
“God, I hope we get someone more interesting. Freaking Alex was boring as hell.” Someone else chimed in.
“Yeah, like get a personality.” A man in front of him said.
“He was a hard worker.”
All the heads in that quadrant of cubicles turned to hear where the voice was coming from and were shocked when they realized it was Peter, the guy whose mother just died.
“Uh, yeah Pete. He never missed a deadline.” Julian commented, trying to ease the awkwardness.
He hated when they called him Pete. His name was Peter and taking a letter off of it didn’t make them any closer to being friends. Everyone went back to work after that, as there really wasn’t much else to say. Around noon, their boss walked into the room with a man Peter hadn’t seen before.
“Alright, listen up. This is Franklin. He’s taking Alex’s old desk. Any questions?”
There were never any questions.
Franklin walked to the empty desk and sat down. He had one of those recyclable bags you can buy from all the stores nowadays and started to empty it. Everyone started chatting with him and he couldn’t blame them as nothing new every happened there. He unwillingly learned that Franklin liked dogs, craft beer and any movie with Jennifer Lawrence. Franklin went around asking people their names and after Peter gave his Franklin said,
“Ah, Peter Pan. Did you know that psychologically Peter Pan represents our deep desire to return to our selfish childhoods and a simpler, more free way to live?”
Peter was caught off guard but after a few moments replied,
“I’ve heard that before, yes.”
Franklin smiled and said, “There are worse things to be.”
“I don’t really have much of a choice.” Peter stated.
A few weeks later, and Franklin had become mostly commonplace. His desk was ocean-themed, which was a bit ridiculous for a grown man. Franklin continued to interact with Peter, something Peter knew he’d give up on eventually. That being said, at least Franklin was peaceful, got his work done, and had genuinely intriguing things to say. Peter kept his outward interest to a minimum, but he was always listening. He found that he was growing to like Franklin’s presence, even if the depth of their relationship (could it even be called that?) was shallow. Franklin was always asking everyone out for beers on Fridays, which Peter never attended. He’d never understood the bar scene and beer tasted foul to him. Another Friday was upon them, and Peter expected Franklin to, once again, ask everyone out for beers. This time though, Franklin said,
“Let’s mix it up this Friday, anyone want to go bowling?”
There was a general consensus that this was a good idea, so everyone packed up a bit early to head out to the alley they had chosen. Peter wasn’t really sure about bowling, as he usually ended up looking like a fool.
“Hey, Peter Pan.”
Franklin said and Peter turned to face him,
“Bowling is going to be a lot of fun, it would be nice to see you there.”
Franklin winked and walked away with the rest of the group.
Peter wasn’t sure to do after that. He didn’t ever think it would be in the cards for him to make friends at work, but maybe Franklin’s invitation was fate pushing him to go bowling. He still hadn’t made a decision, but started to watch his hands pack up his things, put them in his bag and soon enough he was pushing his chair in. It was a surreal experience, but he drove all the way to the bowling alley not really knowing what he was doing. Peter made it, but sat in the parking lot, wondering if going in was a good idea or not. He’d always lived with predestiny in mind, and that there were truly no choices in life that had not already been determined. This was quite possibly the first time in his life that Peter actually felt like he was making a decision himself and that fate wasn’t sitting on his shoulder telling him that things were already set in stone.
So Peter went into the bowling alley.
His coworkers were clearly surprised that he was there but after a while they all got caught up in the game and no one paid him any mind. He bowled a terrible few games, though Shannon (not Savannah as he once thought) was worse than he was.
“It’s just not my game, dude. But challenge me to a game of air hockey and I will dominate.”
It wasn’t the most fun he’d ever had, but it was nice to be out in the world with people and do something pointless. Franklin hadn’t made a big deal about him being there, which Peter greatly appreciated, but when everything was over, Franklin walked up to him and said,
“You really suck at bowling.”
Peter chuckled and replied, “It’s just not my game duuuuude.”
Franklin laughed loudly and patted Peter on the back,
“It’s ok dude, I’m glad you ended up coming.”
Peter shrugged, “I thought I might as well.”
Franklin nodded his head, “Hey, do you want to come over to my place for a few drinks? I promise I won’t make you drink beer or anything at all if you don’t want to.”
Peter smiled, happy that Franklin had noticed his disinterest in the drink and also happy that for the first time, Franklin seemed a little nervous.
“That sounds nice, sure.” Peter replied.
“Great, You good with following my car or-?”
Peter nodded and they walked out to the parking lot together. Peter got in his car, as did Franklin and they drove out of the lot. As Peter drove behind Franklin’s bright blue car he turned on the radio and began singing. He sounded terrible, but rolled down his windows anyway and blasted the music. Franklin looked back at him in the rearview mirror and beamed at Peter, even honking his horn a few times with the beat. Not long afterwards they both pulled into the driveway of a small house on a busy street. It wasn’t much to look at, but the yard was well maintained and there was a pot of flowers by the front door. Franklin nodded them inside and started flicking on a few light switches. A little dog came racing up to Franklin and quickly noticed Peter, who he diverted his attention to.
“Peter, meet Trixie.”
Peter had never been an animal person in the past, probably because he’d never owned a pet growing up, but he bent down to touch Trixie. She nuzzled into his hand and made little snorting sounds that made Peter crack a grin.
“She is the neediest dog I’ve ever met, but she knows good people when she sees them.” Franklin explained and this made Peter’s cheeks flush ever so slightly.
“She’s so small.” Peter said and Franklin replied,
“Oh yeah, definitely. She’s a chihuahua mix.”
Franklin walked further into the house and Peter followed, with Trixie close on their heels. The room was sort of a combined living room/kitchen that had a very beachy vibe Peter found disarming. Franklin started mixing them some drinks while Peter ambled around the room, trying to take in who exactly his coworker was outside of the office. Clearly Franklin surfed, as there was a literal surfboard on one of the walls and Peter asked,
“Do you surf?” He kicked himself for asking such an obvious question, but Franklin didn’t treat it that way.
“Yeah, I have ever since I was a kid. It sounds cheesy, but it’s my favorite thing in the world to do.”
“The ocean terrifies me.” Peter blurted, once again kicking himself for saying something stupid. Franklin immediately followed up,
“What about it scares you?” Franklin asked as he handed Peter a drink. Peter was relieved to have something to hold and began sucking down the fruity drink. He thought about Franklin’s question and honestly didn’t know what his answer was. He’d never really thought in depth about the ocean scaring him, it was just something he avoided as much as possible.
“I guess it’s the unknown. I don’t like the idea of not fully knowing what is down there.”
Franklin nodded his head like he understood.
They both sat down on the couch and Peter asked,
“Why don’t you fear it?”
“I just had to make myself comfortable with it all. Yeah, the ocean can be really scary, but I never regret going into it.”
Peter nodded his head like he understood.
“I think you just have to go for it sometimes, even if it scares you.”
Peter thought about this while he took a good long drink. He set his glass down on the driftwood coffee table and looked at Franklin straight on. Peter slid closer to Franklin and asked,
“You just have to go for it?”
“You just have to go for it.” Franklin confirmed.
Peter edged his face closer to Franklins and reached out to touch his neck. Franklin responded in kind and moved his face closer to Peter’s. They looked at each other for a moment and then Peter kissed Franklin. Their kiss lasted for an undetermined amount of time, neither of them really knew how long.
And that’s when Peter knew that this was no predestination and that this was not simply “in his cards.” He’d chosen this on his own, making a fool of the fate he’d always so heavily relied upon.
This was a choice and he’d chosen well.