This story is by Sahil Bharwani and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Give me all the money you have or I will shoot you” a guy in mask shouts at Nick pointing a gun at him. It was a long and tiring day for Nick. Nick just came from work and entered his living room. The digital clock on the opposite wall said 11:10 PM. A kind of frustration and disappointment was all over Nick’s face. He looked up and said “wow. Just wow.” As if submitting his complaints to god.
The thief looked furious and scared. His feet were not sticking to one spot on the ground. He repeated himself. He was sweating. His hands and legs were shaking. His hands shook more while saying “or I will shoot you”. One could see through his eyes and easily say he was feeling guilty. “Sir, please give me money. I don’t want to hurt you. I just need…” his voice broke.
“Do me a favor my friend, Take all the money and also shoot me,” Nick said and started to walk away from the main door in the living room loosening his tie. “I will probably never be able to kill myself” he looked away from the thief with a sad smile. The thief was still pointing the gun at Nick with clueless eyes. “Come on shoot me and take all the money you want. It’s there” Nick pointed at his bedroom. The thief lowered his gun and looked down.
Nick looked at him innocently and asked “What is your name?”
“I don’t want anything. I will just go away. I don’t want any trouble.” The thief replied.
Nick smiled at him and said “don’t worry. I will not cause any trouble. At least not for you.”
The thief felt a little safe for some reason. “Alex” he replied.
“Alex, you disappoint me like everyone else.” Nick said walked towards the fridge. “Alex, I hope you would like to have some beer.”
Alex was not sure what to do. Hundreds of neurons in his brain were trying to look for possibilities of getting out of there. But a voice from inside him was telling him to go with the flow. He decided to listen to that voice. After all he had nothing to lose.
Nick opened the fridge “come on. Don’t worry. Sit on the couch”.
Alex sat on the couch. Nick walked towards the couch with two bottles of beer in his hands. “Hope you are not planning to drink through that mask, are you?” and smiled. Alex removed the mask. “Man, you look rough” Nick said.
“Yup, life isn’t smooth either.” Alex replied.
“hmmm” Nick while handing over a bottle of beer to Alex.
“I am Nick by the way” Nick said holding his bottle in front Alex. Their bottles kissed and they took their first seeps.
They watched TV for some time without talking. Alex was still a little uncomfortable. “Let’s have one more.” Nick said as he noticed they both finished theirs. Nick walked up to the fridge and grabbed a couple of bottles. He noticed Alex staring at the guitar lying on the other corner. “My ex gifted me that. She thought it would be cool and all.” Nick said while handing over a bottle to Alex.
“You used to play for her?” Alex asked.
“No. I could never learn. Guess I was never good enough for her.” Nick said looking away from Alex.
Alex’s eyes went back to the guitar. “I love playing guitar. I always have. My parents and friends loved me playing. I could play for hours”
“Wow. I wish I were you.” Nick responded.
“sooo that’s why you are sad?” Alex looked at Nick.
“What?” Nick looked at him.
“Your ex. You miss her, don’t you?” Alex said.
“ohhh no dude. I moved on long back. You know we were not meant to be. I am happy alone.” Nick said trying to avoid eye contact.
“You kept her guitar in your living room even if you don’t know to play it and you wish you could play it like me. You are sad. Work till 11:00. You ask someone in mask to shoot you. Of course you are happy alone, Nick.” Alex smiled and shook his head.
Nick took a deep breath and smiled. “Let’s not…”
Alex nodded. “I understand.”
After 30 seconds of complete silence, Nick said “I always thought money and success are everything you need. I ran in the race made millions then looked at myself and realized I left behind a lot of things. Family, friends, my love everything. I had no one to share my happiness with no one to cry with, no one to cry for. No one likes me. I was busy counting the money I have earned but did not realize what I was
loosing. When realized the price I paid, I felt I was the poorest person. With all that money by my side. With ONLY that money by my side.”
Nick stopped and took a deep breath. Alex put his hand on Nick’s shoulder. Nick looked at the clock it said 1:11 AM. He pointed to the clock and said “You know when I got that clock it was 1:11 PM and the box said Happiness is not a struggle, it’s a choice. I wonder who doesn’t want to choose happiness. It’s a lie. Happiness is a daily struggle and it still gets away from you.”
Alex stared at the clock for a few seconds.
Nick looked at the guitar “It’s not her that makes me sad. I at least have memories with her. I don’t even remember having a good friend. I wish I had made friends. Gone out, played a game, watched a game, had some beer with them. I wish I could take care of her. Took her out sometimes or learned guitar at least.”
Alex was looking at the clock every few seconds. “Happiness is not a struggle, it’s a choice.” was stuck in his head.
Nick continued “I anyway lost most of my money during the economic crisis and here I am all alone, tired, full of regrets, powerless, waiting for someone in mask to shoot me or I would say to save me.” He looked at Alex and smiled holding back his tears.
Nick took a deep breath and recollected himself “so rough guy, tell me how did you learn guitar?”
Alex smiled “at school. I always loved it. Always wanted to be a professional.”
Nick asked “What happened then?”
Alex said looking away from Nick “Life. Life happened. My family was in constant need of money. My father was not able to support me and I had to start working at an early age. Paying bills and managing work took most me into it. But everything was good. After some time I was making decent money had some time play guitar also.”
“Then” Nick got curious.
“Then I lost my job one day. The economic crisis. No one was hiring new people. I lost my home and came down to the streets. I started playing guitar on the streets. At some restaurants also on weekends. I was getting enough to survive. Things were getting better slowly. But then…” Alex stopped. A tear escaped from his eye.
“A bunch of local kids one day came and beat me up. Abused me. They said I was making their neighborhood dirty. They took all my money. They broke my guitar.” Alex sobbed. Nick felt a huge wave of sadness.
Nick said in a heavy voice “that’s why you were trying to rob me?”
“I was left with no choice. I didn’t want to but…” and Alex starts crying.
Nick hugged him. Calmed him down. Alex looked at him and smiles “But I still know one day everything will be fine.”
Nick took out a few dollar bills from his pocket and offered to Alex. Alex refused to take it. Nick insisted. “I will play something for you if you like it I will take money.” Alex said. Nick agreed.
Alex played the most melodious.
“Rough guy, you have got some really awesome talent.” Nick clapped.
Nick handed over the guitar to him said “this is a gift from a friend.”
Alex said “I can’t take it. It’s a memory.”
“It’s regret and it deserves to be much more than that. Please take it. It will make me feel better” Nick said.
Alex cried. “You said you are powerless. You gave my world back to me.”
Nick felt better than he felt in a lifetime.
It was almost morning. Nick asked Alex to sleep at his place.
Nick woke up in the afternoon the next day. Looked for Alex but he was gone.
He found a note on his table.
“Sunday 5 PM. Baseball game than guitar class for you and beer will be on me.
Your friend, someone in mask. ”
Nick looked at the clock. It said 1:11 PM and he smiled.