An Open Ear (Short Story)

David looked over his shoulder for a second while he moved through the outlet mall. The sky above the glass roof was a grey sea of lifelessness that gave David the impression that the soul of the world had been sucked dry. Despite the hustle and bustle of the crowds walking in and out of the various shops, David felt as if the mall were empty. As far as David was concerned, the people inhabiting the mall were simply occupying space.

He saw empty faces everywhere, but worse than their emptiness was their disgust towards him when he passed by. They would try to hide the fact that as he moved through, they were disgusted by what they saw. David knew. David knew how people felt about him as they whispered to one another as he rode through the mall in his motorized wheelchair. David was used to being mocked in this manner. The part that bothered him was that it didn’t hurt any less no matter how many times he silently caught someone commenting on his appearance.

“I’m going to get what I need and I’m going to leave. Fuck these people. Fuck what they think of me. They’re not going to get in my way.,” David muttered to himself as he rode into the mall’s Gamestop.

————————————————————————

Dana had no idea what she was still doing in Gamestop. Her boyfriend had stood her up yet again. There was no doubt in Dana’s mind that he was off sleeping with that other girl again. Dana stared at the Super Mario plushies with a tinge of disappointment in her eyes. The stuffed Toad plushie’s smile felt as if it were mocking Dana for being stupid enough to wait on the man she knew would stand her up for another one of the many women in his life. Dana should’ve known better than to wait, but she loved him. She didn’t even know why she loved him. There were a million reasons why she shouldn’t. Despite knowing he was a womanizer whose only concern was making women into another notch on his belt, she still loved him.

Dana knew she couldn’t stay. There was no reason to. The only problem was that Dana didn’t want to go home either. She knew her time would be devoted to trying to text her boyfriend on the phone. At least while she was out of the house, she could leave that out of her mind for a while. Dana thought that she could probably walk around the mall a little while longer. Dana headed out but then thought to text her boyfriend anyway. She wanted to let him know she was leaving the mall despite knowing he wouldn’t even bother to reply. At least not until he was done with whatever other girls he was messing around with. Dana wanted him to know how much she missed and needed him. It hurt her to know that he would rather spend time with other women. She just wanted him to be near her today.

Dana walked towards the Gamestop’s entrance, her eyes fixated on the text she was about to send to her boyfriend. As Dana was about to hit the send button, she felt a hard bump on her knee and accidentally deleted the whole conversation. Dana was furious as she looked down to see an overweight man in a motorized wheelchair. Dana lost it as he passed by. Instead of just walking away, Dana walked right in front of the man, preventing him from proceeding forward.

“You fat piece of shit! Do you know what you just did? Why don’t you watch where the hell you’re going,” Dana yelled to his face.

___________________________________________________

She was right in front of him and wasn’t going to move. David knew this girl was going to be trouble. All he wanted to do was get his game and go home. It was one thing for people to give him dirty looks and talk behind his back. He could deal with that since all he had to do was keep to himself. This woman, on the other hand, decided to invade his space and wasn’t letting him go anywhere.

“Lady, you need to move. I don’t have time for this,” David told her in an impatient tone. “I’m sorry I bumped into you, but that doesn’t mean you have the right to keep me from moving along.”

“I don’t care about your personal space. Not after you bumped me and deleted my message. Now my boyfriend won’t know how much I miss him because of you,” the woman informed him.

“Why don’t you just text him again?” David asked, feeling like his time was being wasted.

“I lost my train of thought. You ruined everything,” she yelled at David.

The woman stormed out of the mall. David thought she might have been crazy. She clearly overreacted to a situation that could easily be fixed by texting him again. It wasn’t his problem anyhow. David bought the games he needed and proceeded to leave the mall. He wanted to be home before the sun was down.

As David proceeded to leave the mall, he saw the woman who got in his face earlier sitting by herself on a wooden bench near the fountain square. David didn’t want to care and just leave, but something in the way she looked reminded him of the way he felt earlier in the morning. The look of melancholy was written all over her face as she sat down looking at her phone. She clutched it pathetically as if she had lost something dear to her. Against his better judgment knowing he would risk humiliation, David drove himself next to the edge where she sat and started to talk to the lonely woman.

___________________________________________________

Dana looked at her phone for what could’ve been an hour yet there was still no response from her boyfriend. She started to understand that even if she had sent him that text, he would’ve blown her off and continued doing whatever it is that was more important than seeing his girlfriend at the mall. Dana was about to put her phone down when she heard a voice next to her.

“Did you ever get that message sent?” the familiar voice of the overweight man in the wheelchair asked from her right side.

Dana looked over to see him sitting next to her bench. His eyes were looking at the Gamestop they both left earlier while she put her phone in her pocket. Dana was surprised this man even came over and reached out to her despite the way she treated him earlier. It was as if this was a second chance for her to think about the way she conducted herself around other people.

“No. No, I didn’t,” Dana replied.

“I really didn’t mean to bump into you like that. Are you going to call your boyfriend?” David asked her with a hint of concern in his voice, turning his head to her.

“I don’t think he’ll respond anyway. He stood me up again,” Dana told the man unconcerned with the fact that she was giving away personal information to a stranger. “He does this all the time. I don’t know what I ever did to him to deserve this.”

“Sometimes, you don’t have to do anything. What makes you think you deserve it anyway? Did you do anything to make him angry?” David asked.

“No. Honestly, I don’t have to do anything to make him angry with me these days. I just wish he could pick me up instead of talking to the other girls he’s been messing around with,” Dana confessed. “I don’t honestly even know why he bothered to tell me to be here if he wasn’t going to show up.”

“It just sounds like he doesn’t like you at all. I mean you’re here all by yourself while he’s with some other girl. It sounds like this is a one-sided romance with no good result for you. I know you might feel bad, but common sense tells me this dude isn’t worth the effort. I don’t have all the answers, but you need to regain your self-respect and walk the hell away. I’m David,” David replied.

“I’m Dana,” Dana said, returning the introduction. “I know what you’re saying makes sense, but we’ve been together for years. Why would he just throw that away? After everything I’ve done for him, you’d think the guy would start showing some gratitude.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to stop giving him your time. That’s the one thing you can’t get back. Things are never going to change unless you change them. I hate to say this, but this is entirely your fault. You obviously don’t like the situation you’re in. The only thing stopping you from changing is the fact that you’re refusing to. The guy doesn’t even care where you are right now. He’s fucking some other girl while you’re over here pining for him. Is this really the life you want?” David asked her.

“You don’t know him or me,” Dana yelled, feeling frustrated at David’s words.

“Of course I do. You’re just like me. Your boyfriend is just like all those people out there, ignoring or shaming me in some way, shape or form. The more things change, the more they stay the same. The guy treats you like you don’t matter. These people treat me the exact same way. The difference between you and I is that no matter how bad these people make me feel, I’m not letting them get in my way of living the life I want to live. Life’s too short to let anyone use your time if they don’t value it. I don’t want to sound like a Tony Robbins infomercial, but you seriously need to consider that you’re putting this guy on a pedestal. It’s not entirely wrong to put someone you love on a pedestal above other people. When you start putting that same person on a pedestal above yourself, then you start seeing the problem. Anyway, I have to go home. Have a good rest of your day, Dana,” David told her as he began to move towards the mall’s exit.

Dana was getting annoyed with David’s words not because they weren’t true, but because they were. She wanted him to stop talking. It was getting to her that his blunt approach was hitting her right where it hurt, but she knew she needed his tough love. The fact was David was right. He reached out to her when her boyfriend didn’t even bother to show up. David could’ve easily not given her his time, but he did anyway. Dana started to understand what it meant to give your time to the right people. She understood that David, who was a complete stranger, put more effort towards her time than her boyfriend who she had known almost all her life. David was worth his weight in gold compared to her boyfriend.

Dana felt the vibration of her phone. She read the new text from her boyfriend giving her an excuse as to why he didn’t show up. She knew her boyfriend was with another woman. She knew it every time he texted her with yet another excuse. Dana then looked over to David who sat in front of the moving doors to the mall’s entrance. Dana once again looked at her phone. She clicked on her boyfriend’s name, took one last look of admiration at David whose time and effort she was grateful for as the stranger in the wheelchair exited the mall, and hit the delete button…….

Until the next daydream……..

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