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Knight

There’s this bitch I know, and she’s not half as pretty or as smart as she thinks she is (you know the type). Every Friday at 8 am, I have to spend my time listening to her tell me about her greatest latest adventure, which usually is a stupid fucking waste of my time, and an invitation to doze for another hour.

But not today. Today, like a blue moon or a shooting star or a once in a lifetime kind of miracle, she keeps my attention from the minute she walks in the door and doesn’t ever release it. Because she finally tells me a true story.

Her other stories are happy endings kind of things, like losing a phone only to find it in the back pocket of your ex-boyfriend’s sister who took it because you broke his goddamn heart. Turning up to a club and meeting a hot guy who only has eyes for you, even though he could probably get any damn chick in the club. Calling your brother who you haven’t talked to in 5 years by mistake and he misses you as much as you miss him. Little things that life is made out of.

I get to know her life, these Friday mornings, and in my head I call her a bitch and a whore and the kind of degrading terms my WASP-y ass could never have the balls to actually say to anyone. She’s my white trash escape.

But this Friday in September, I listen for the first time and I mean really listen. Not just in the way that guys pretend to listen to girls when they don’t give a fuck but are too high-class to say anything. In the way that a guy listens to the girl he loves. I don’t love her, don’t even really like her, and Christ knows why I tolerate her, but we can pretend for one day.

Today she tells me a story and there’s a look on her face like she’s already given up. Maybe that’s why I listen.

All the inconsequential things she told me about before seem to be much more important than the premise of this one. It’s about a flash drive and a lot of hope with a dash of luck and then the wrecking ball that is a reality.

And it goes like this. There’s a house she used to live in before everything went black. With a family and stuff. This is before the Cove, before the fallout, and before the radiation made it impossible to reconnect. This is when she was still innocent enough to get carded at R-rated movies, all right, this is the time when she goes on her first date with a boy and he’s just as nervous as her. He doesn’t know if he should hold her hand or not, and when he drops her off at night and kisses her, their noses smack and it’s awkward but sweet. This is adolescence. This is high school. This is the virtue of innocence.

But it isn’t all kittens and roses because even though her life isn’t shit yet it doesn’t mean she can’t feel it looming on the horizon. And boy-toy isn’t so awkward anymore, and now he wants more than she can give him. So she takes a razor and wants a story written in blood but something about it doesn’t sit right with her.

So she takes an old-school PC, I’m talking like a dinosaur Microsoft 1990s dream machine, and a flash drive and writes a real story in pixels. The best goddamn story she’s ever written.

And I’m thinking this is gonna be another happy ending type of bullshit. She’s gonna plug the drive into her skinny MacBook Pro and it’s gonna pop up like a Jack in the Box, and it’s gonna have all her 15-year-old secrets in it. That’s gonna somehow make her 25-year-old self feel more grounded. Because ten years is an eternity when you’re just a kid trying to make it work in the world. And you want to make it fucking work.

“So what was on the drive?”

She smiles here in a sad sort of distant way and I’m thinking, shit man I said something wrong and now she’s gonna be pissed. Damage control better start now. But I didn’t.

“Nothing, Ralph,” she says. “It was a fucking SIM card reader.”

And for a moment I’m like, the fuck, that wasn’t even a goddamn story. I just wasted another 60 minutes of my time, like, hell, I have shit to do.

But then I wait and think and I’m like, yeah, that was a story. That was a fucking brilliant story. It’s the best goddamn story she’s ever told me, all right, it’s probably the best story I’ve ever heard. Cause it’s true.

Even if it never happened.

Because stories can happen and not be true and stories can never happen and be truer than true. Take the story of a boy and girl who get into a car accident together. He’s the driver, she’s the passenger, and some douchebag hopped up on one too many beers T-bones them at an intersection. The boy knows he’s going to die. Before the car even hits, he knows, so he swerves so he takes the full impact of the hit and she isn’t even injured. And when she realizes what he has done for her, she cries for the love she has lost and he dies in her arms. A life for a life. Love, for life. A lifetime of mistakes that he redeems with one jerk of the steering wheel.

That may be a story that happened, but it’s not true. It’s too perfect, too Hollywood. That fact you have to ask if it’s true tells you that it’s not. The only thing that grounds it is the harsh reality of that black and white answer. Without a severe “yes,” it’s just a piece of trite fluff that doesn’t mean anything.

But take the story of a boy and a girl who get T-boned at an intersection. He swerves, so he takes the full impact of the hit. Then she says, “The fuck you do that for?” And he says, “Story of my life, babe.” And then the gas tank explodes and they both die anyways.

That’s a true story that never happened.

And the chick’s story who you listen to at 8 AM on Fridays, maybe it never happened either. But it means something because you know what it feels like to have expectations and then have them totally shattered.

You tell her that, straight up. You’re like; that was the best story I ever heard. It means something to her. For a minute, you are her knight in shining armor.

Then reality slips back over like a veil and you’re just a guy in a too big hoodie with dark circles and a drinking problem. You’re nobody’s knight. And you never will be.

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