I feel bad because I don't know how long it was there and I only noticed it when I stepped on it with bare feet, but somebody left a yellow flower at my door a few days ago. Such a vague little gesture that I can't even guess at its meaning, and yet it must have one because its placement was clearly premeditated because my door is separated from the sidewalk by at least two meters and a fence. Nobody could have dropped the flower there by accident. They could have flung it, perhaps, if they were walking by with it and something startled them, but that seems contrived. Only like five people still in Logan are supposed to know where I live, and I can rule out three of them, leaving one or both of my next-door neighbors who hate me as the most plausible candidates. Maybe I have a stalker, but I couldn't begin to guess who that would be when there isn't currently a single woman at work or church that I've ever had a conversation with. If someone is stalking me based on my looks alone she's in for quite a disappointment.
Of course, I'm not assuming any romantic intent behind it since I don't know what intent was behind it but that would still be weird if a guy did it so I'm assuming a guy didn't do it. I looked up the symbolism of yellow flowers specifically: joy, sunshine, friendship, new beginnings. But was that level of thought put into the color scheme, or does all the intended symbolism rest in the plant genitals themselves regardless of detail? Anyway, I put the flower in a bottle of water and left it outside but it died quickly. I laid it to rest on the concrete lip around my doorway. It disappeared. Either an animal that eats dead yellow flowers but not grass wandered through, or whoever gave it to me took it back. I've kept a casual eye out for that type of flower growing anywhere around here with no success so far. It was either purchased somewhere or plucked a considerable distance away. Since I didn't have the foresight to get a picture of it, you'll have to take a leap of faith and trust me.
A few days later, someone left me cookies, and I reached a logical conclusion and got all excited that my stalker was stepping up her game. But then one of the five people still in Logan who are supposed to know where I live admitted to leaving them just as a random nice gesture. How was I supposed to know? Who does that? So the mystery of the flower remains. Dear flower giver, if you read this, I was just kidding when I called you a stalker. Don't be hurt by my lack of reaction or response, as there was really nothing I could do when I have no idea who you are or what the little yellow flower was supposed to mean. Please feel free to keep leaving stuff or doing whatever else you have in mind, unless you're a guy. It's fine if you just want to be friends but it would still be weird if you're a guy.
An even more surprising but more easily explained surprise came in the form of an email from Debbie, whom long-time readers of this blog will remember from a long time ago. I've been thinking about her periodically since she is in large measure responsible for the direction my life has taken and it just makes me wax philosophical about how events build on each other and how God brings things about and so on. During the summer of '16 she often texted me in the evenings to say I could come over, so I dropped everything and rushed over and we sat on the balcony outside her apartment and talked. Then her neighbor Steve usually came home from work while we were talking and she invited him to join us. I kept my feet propped up on the third chair hoping he would take a hint, but he wouldn't. As things turned out I remained friends with Steve long after Debbie and I parted ways, and he stayed in the same apartment complex, and last year when I found out someone was selling his contract here I jumped at the chance to be his neighbor, changing wards for the first time in seven years and embarking on a fresh start that so far has been an epic disaster. But I know God wanted me here for some reason.
Anyway, the email was full of feedback that I had long ago accepted I would never receive for the book manuscript I sent her fifty-six months ago, back when I used to send it out to people who said they would read it and then didn't. I hadn't actually asked for any feedback but she gave me some for the first chapter and it was so brilliant that I knew I needed her to critique the whole thing before I dared try to publish it. And then she just got busy and stopped. And then almost a year later when she broke my heart she tried to cheer me up by telling me she'd started reading it again, and that was the last I heard of it until just the other day. My first reaction to the email was "Holy crap" and my second reaction was embarrassment that she read such an old draft. I've learned a lot and done plenty of revising since then and compared to my current draft, the one she has in her possession is garbage. I'm not even sure how much of the feedback is still applicable. Do you see, Debbie? I moved on. I got stronger. I don't need you anymore. In all seriousness though, it was great to hear from her.
Fifty-six months. I had to check the math again because I couldn't believe it.
This is a nostalgic time of year already, even more so than usual for me, because today I've been in Utah for nine years. Nine years is almost ten years which is a sacred number to humans. Usually 7-Eleven celebrates the anniversary of my arrival by giving out free Slurpees but it's canceled this year because I've written one too many controversial things. As ridiculous as this will sound coming from one who just turned twenty-seven, the passage of almost a decade makes me feel very old. Because in human terms, not getting into the geological timescale where our existence as a species represents only a couple minutes, a decade is a freaking long time. For the overwhelming majority of us it's more than a tenth of the time we have on this planet. Often much more. In my case, I've felt for a long time like I'm going to die in my early forties, and that may just be wishful thinking on my part but I do know I haven't got a chance in hell of making it to ninety unless medical science advances sufficiently to replace every organ in my body. Which it probably will, but I won't be able to afford it because I live in a country that thinks healthcare is a privilege.
Barely out of high school, I embarked on the nightmare, I mean adventure that is adult life. I wasn't nearly as afraid as I ought to have been. As year after year has gone by I've experienced more pain than I could have imagined, much of it caused by my own mistakes that I still get to suffer from long after I've learned from them. I've grown into a different person and all that jazz. If I could go back and speak to that naive little boy, I would offer the following advice:
- Don't procrastinate.
- Don't stay up until two in the morning just because you can.
- Don't seek unhealthy coping mechanisms when you feel isolated.
- Don't isolate yourself by withdrawing from the people who actually care about you.
- Pay attention to your bank balance and email inbox.
- Don't be so dogmatic and inflexible about politics.
- Don't fall in love.
- Always pay rent on time.
- Talk to your academic advisor regularly.
- Avail yourself of the counseling services on campus that you already paid for.
- Don't be afraid to talk to the registrar's office, professors etc. when you screw up and need help. That's their job. They're not going to yell at you.
- Don't be afraid to stand up for what you believe in.
- Don't be so dogmatic and inflexible about religion.
- Seriously, don't fall in love.
- Participate in as many clubs and activities as you can before, I don't know, a global pandemic cancels all of them. Hypothetically.
- Communicate with people who are pissing you off instead of harboring silent resentment.
- Don't work at a call center in a misguided attempt to boost your confidence.
- Don't eat too much candy.
- White privilege is real, and racism in the United States is much worse than you think it is.
- Be patient with yourself even when it seems like nobody else is.
- I'm not kidding. No matter how hard it is, don't fall in love.
Wow. I can't believe I just wrote something like that without being sarcastic. But the real treasure was the friends I made along the way. And lost. I've lost a lot of them, too. Most of the Facebook friends I met in the dorms my freshman year have unfriended me by now. But the random girl who politely declined to be kissed by me at True Aggie Night has stuck with me for all these years, and that counts for something. The girl I actually did kiss unfriended me after a few years though.
Nine years from today, I hope to be typing away at my latest upcoming bestseller, watching my dogs play in the surf beneath the glorious sunset over Bora Bora, Tahiti, a smile on my face as I think of all the money in my bank account. My wife Felicity Jones is half a world away making another Star Wars anthology spinoff prequel Disney+ exclusive series, but that's okay because one of the few things I love more than her is Star Wars. Though admittedly it's been a little less interesting ever since we made contact with actual aliens and learned the secrets of interstellar travel. At first they tried to annihilate us, but it was just a relief to finally face enemies we could actually see instead of another global pandemic, and then they apologized and we let it go because we were screwed if we kept fighting anyway. Felicity's and my adopted alien children have all grown up (they have a short life cycle) and dispersed to three far-flung solar systems which we rotate between for Easter, Christmas and St. Zarquon's Day. Most of Earth's tourism is now siphoned off to the improbable single-biome tropical planets, which is how I got this prime piece of real estate in Tahiti for so cheap, even though I could have paid a lot more because I'm loaded.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.