2 Tickets For Home
About 2 Tickets for Home. I recently watched a video by OSP on the concept of an unreliable narrator. I've heard about the concept before and considered it intriguing. Included in the video was discussion about narrative voice, too (1st person / 3rd person / etc.). Most stories I write are in 1st/2nd person. So this was my assignment: write a story in 3rd person as an unreliable narrator. And this is the story we get! 😆
You're not home yet. In fact, while I was on my way home I got a text from you saying you were getting groceries. Really, Jenna? I think you can have gotten groceries another time. I always get them in the morning. But apparently have had clients you have to see. Rich middle aged white couples with their 3 pomeraneans who turn their nose up at their 4-million dollar house because it's not close enough to their golf course; where you don't stick up for yourself like I would and say F off, and instead opt to put on a happy face and make a sale.
I'm sitting on the couch when you get home. I have the TV on, mindlessly starting one show, then moving on to another. Then I open up one of your shows, think it's dumb, then go back to a rerun that I like. Finally, I hear you open the door, and the two grocery bags your carrying crinkle beneath your heavy sigh.
Still seating, I look toward you. “Thanks, babe,” I say.
“Yeah, sure,” you say as you set the bags down on our small dining table with a thud.
Normally I'd help you out. But today, Jenna, I was a hero. You see, today it was in the high eighties. Most of my crew called out sick. Not me. I stuck with my crew digging the ditch today so that the telephone company can lay a fiber-optic cable—or something like that. Proof that I'm not the wimp you think I am. I lie in wait for the opportunity to tell you to tell you.
But then I remember something. I remember I asked you to get boxers, since I already threw out the holey ones, and I went commando today. I get up from the couch and rifle past the lettuce and trail mix to get to them. As I pull them out I see they're the wrong brand.
You don't seem to notice my frown, but instead say, “Could you put the sugar in the top shelf? I can't reach it,” as you continue to put away a couple spices.
Sugar? Really? Did you really think I wouldn't notice? “These are the wrong brand.”
You pause, your face is flushed, and you take the package in your sudden trembling hands. “Really? Oh, my gosh, I'm sorry. I checked.”
I take it back and slam it down on the counter. “They're Ben's favorite, aren't they?” I ask.
You make an exasperated sigh and don't say anything. You continue putting away groceries.
“Stop seeing him.”
“Can we talk about this later?”
“Make sure of it,” I say, while at the same time, you said something like, “We have already talked about it a thousand times.”
I let you cool off from blowing up at me. After all, we still have The Office to get through. Once I think you've calmed down, I tell you news that would make you want to tackle me to the ground and make out with my naked body. “I dug a ditch today,” I announce. “In the hot sun.”
“Oh, wow, cool.”
“You mean...hot,” I say, smirking.
You barely notice as you fold up the 2 paper bags. I sit down. I then realize the sugar is still out. I get up again, and make a huge point of grabbing the sugar. Then—as you rudely demand I do—I put it away on the top shelf. Nothing but silence from you as you rearrange the fridge.
“I put the sugar away,” I announce as you throw the spaghetti in the cupboard.
“Thank you,” you say.
“Now, about Ben.” I had toyed with the idea of waiting until later, but I want you to talk with me now.
I stand up straight and confront you in the small kitchen area. you brace yourself steady against the dining table. “What about him?” you ask, and you must be reading my face, because then you say, “I just can't stop seeing him, Carl. He just got divorced.”
“Are you just gonna go with the brother lie again?”
You are about to say something, then wisely shut your mouth, looking aside. Then, you say something else. “Me getting you the wrong boxers had nothing to do with Ben.”
“What did it have to do with then?”
“I don't have a photographic memory, Carl.”
I know you enough to know that if I badger you, you're not gonna budge. Instead, I move back to the sofa. “My coworkers even remember my underwear. We talk about our favorite brands all the time at lunch. What? You and your girlfriends don't share your favorite bra?”
You don't respond. You've learned to know when I won an argument. A couple minutes later you came back into the living room, holding the long receipt next to the unopened package. “Look, I'll return them,” you say in a soft voice. “That better?”
I pause slightly, then nod. “Yeah.”
Your shoulders relax. “Thank you, Carl. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you angry.”
“You'll get better. Say, you wanna continue The Office?”
“I think I've had enough of the real Office,” you groan, making your way back to the bedroom. “But sure. Give me a minute to get changed into something more comfortable.”
You always changed when I wasn't around, I realize then. What were you doing? Fantasizing about Ben as you were looking at yourself naked in the mirror? A shame. Soon you'll see that I'm your man, Jenna. You'll find Ben isn't an alpha like me. Then Ben's going to be out of the picture and it's going to be me.
I already made a lot of sacrifices for you. When I lost my shift job at Amazon you were able to hold down two jobs for the bills, all the while I was discovering my passion, and was writing a book. Well, I was going to get to writing the book, but your nagging was getting in my way, interrupting my creative flow. I had a great idea about a great king, except that nobody knew he was great. The king was...I don't know...I don't remember his name. But it was good enough that I emailed a publisher about the idea and then the publisher sent an email back asking me to finish the novel as soon as I could. Not just one email, either, but a few, asking me to hurry it up. I told them good art takes time, and I'd start writing soon. But then we got in the huge fight. You accused me of just sitting on my ass doing nothing.
So I got a job like you kept nagging me to. And I had to email the publisher to tell them the bad news. They said that people you love can often get in the way of a great opportunity, which is exactly what happened. This is all your fault, Jenna. You could have been living with a famous best-selling author. Instead, you're stuck with a sweaty ditch digger.
Even as a ditch-digger, though, people recognize greatness when the see it. Like my boss, for instance. The first day on the job my boss and I sat down with me for lunch (I was told the boss never sat down for one-on-ones). Even so, we ate our lunch, talked, and laughed, and talked some more about our lives. Stuff that would never interest you. Finally, as we neared our lunch break, my boss put a firm hand on my shoulder, just as a father would. “Carl,” he said to me, “Nobody believes in you. And that's a shame. But I see you. I see you have potential, you're going somewhere. You are truly special, Carl.”
Tears welled up in my eyes and I and thanked him. I explained how even you—my partner—didn't believe in me, and he nodded. “That's a shame for your girlfriend,” he said. “But I'm here for you—whatever you need,” he said, or something like that. It was such an emotional bonding moment it's hard to remember exact details.
It wasn't just the utility job. Every every boss I had for each job had the same amount of respect for me, including Amazon. It was almost instantaneous, too. A stark contrast to how you treat me. But I hold my tongue. I'm a better man for it. I think you should try that sometime.
Finally you come out of your bedroom in pajamas. Your makeup is off, though hints of your professional mascara lingered. I'm still in my work clothes. I'm too tired to take them off. Sorry about the couch, the grease. I'll clean it off later. I promise.
“You always promise,” you say incredulously. “You mean it this time?”
“Here, if it'll make you feel better I'll put out a rag.”
I always did clean up. You never noticed when I did, even when I did it when you were in the same room; only noticed the times I didn't.
Later that night—once I clean the grime off the couch as best I can, and take a shower—I try to cuddle with you, but you say you're not feeling it.
Fine, Jenna. I try to get close to you and you push me away.
I start to think you've given up on me. But then the next day when I arrive home, a table is prepared. Candles are lit. spaghetti smelling of garlic and tomatoes have been dished out onto large plates. You're standing above the table in an evening gown, looking at me expectantly.
I'm confused. “Um, what's this for?”
“For yesterday,” you say sheepishly. “For blowing up at you.”
I takes me a second to take it all in. I didn't think you had the humility to apologize. “Wow, Jenna, thank you,” I say. Despite all the extravagant preparations, you still hesitate, bouncing your leg, looking over the table. I reassure you. “Come here. It's alright.” I approach you, and you lean onto my chest.
You sigh. “I just know you've been so stressed and you try to do so much,” you say. “It's the least I could do.” You pause, then say, “I also exchanged your underwear for the right brand.”
We both chuckle. Then, we have dinner. I'd even forgotten when you blew up at me the other night. In fact, I feel things have settled down; and—I hate to admit it—but it's starting to feel like you want to get close to me again.
Later that same week I see a travel ad for Kenya. Shots of street vendors in Nairobi, the beach in Mombasa, and wild Animals—the kind people are used to seeing on Nat Geo. You kept saying you wanted to take a trip, so I bring it up.
You walk in the door. “I'm done working with these clients!” you groan coming in the door. “They don't like anything I show them!”
“What's stressing you?”
“My clients,” you proclaim loudly. “I mean, come on! We don't have the most exciting housing market right now. I can't give you everything you're wanting”
“You want to take a vacation?”
“Tell me about it!”
“No, Jenna...” I pull out my tablet that shows a vacation special. A happy smiling American couple holding out their hands to feed a giraffe.
You sputter. “You've got to be kidding me.”
“We are not going to Kenya,” you say with finality as you walk toward your bedroom.
Once you close your door I wonder if you're going out again. The other night I saw you with your “going out” clothes on. Nothing necessarily to attract another guy's attention, but I know you have your way of going undercover. Only when I took a peak out the window did I see you on the street corner waiting for a car. The driver...none other than Ben.
I'm more than patient, Jenna. I play the long game.
The next morning is my day off; but I'm in the mood to watch online videos early. So I pop on a documentary of interior design in Kenya. It's narrated by a woman with a smooth, sultry Swahili accent. I'm paying little attention to what's actually on the screen. I just wait until you walk by and say, “Oh, that's gorgeous? What's that?”
You're so easy, Jenna. “Oh, just some lady who specializes in Kenyan interior design in. Apparently the government is loosening restrictions for housing developments so developers and designers are getting more creative.”
“That's...cool,” you say with a vexed expression. You move on, but I can tell the seed has already been planted.
And soon enough, a few nights later, you say, “Okay, I might be interested in Kenya.”
“Yeah, I mean, it looks like a beautiful place. And, yes, most people in Nairobi speak English. But just think—what if we get stuck in a rural part of Kenya where people don't know English. I don't know Swahili and don't have time to learn.”
“Babe, it's fine. Kenya's a tourist country. Plus, you have a translator on your phone.”
You sigh. “I guess. I mean, it's such a different culture. I don't know if I can.”
But then you come around. And buy the plane tickets. I tell my boss I'll be off on vacation. He gives me a great bear hug. I hear him give a heavy, heart-felt sigh. “You've done so good around here, Carl. But don't worry, we'll manage without you for a bit. Have fun.” He even hands me a paycheck early to tide us over.
We plan our trip. Overnight flight, spend a few days in Nairobi, checking out some of the cool sights, buying some of the cheap avocados, and experiencing all Kenya has to offer. Then, once settled, we'll take a train out to Mombasa, spend a night out on a boat, splashing in the luminescent water online influencers teased us about.
On the day of our flight we arrive at the airport, get our tickets, and board our flight. It's a night flight. I hope that you cuddle with me, but you instead spend your time with headphones on, staring out at the blue Atlantic ocean until the sun sets and you fall asleep.
We soon land in Nairobi. We pick the first Kenyan restaurant we see on Google maps; this place would be crazy expensive back home, but only stretches the budget a little over here. When our meal arrives, your eyes go wide and you whisper to me, “Oh, my God, this is amazing!”
The night's only getting started!
But still, you keep to yourself. You don't trust me yet. And honestly, Jenna, I don't think you ever will. But we'll take this one step at a time.
But before dark—at the urging of our guide and locals—we check in to our rented home, breathe a sigh of relief, and go to sleep—in the same bed, but separated by that same unbreakable wall that's been between us for the longest time.
After adjusting to the people, the culture and (more so) the climate, we took the long train to Mombasa. It had a sleeper car, dining, and most amenities that a long-distance train had.
At one point we sit by an elderly couple. You talk with them. I just want to be left alone. They seem way too happy about life and way to old to have a right to be that happy, but they talk; the talk about where they grew up, the kids they had, their church friends. They ask about you—what brought you on a trip dragging me along (I react with a slight bitter nod at this comment). While you say you are currently a realtor, you also mentioned you wanted to eventually become an interior designer. And, once they raise their eyebrows with interest, you offer to show them pictures from your phone.
Realizing I couldn't pull you away from the annoyingly cheerful couple, I leave and sit by myself on another section of the car. I see a mother sitting with her kids. She's excitedly pointing out the window and her two kids are shouting, “Lion!” Looking to where she's pointing, I spot a lioness leading her pride through the shrubs, open mouths tasting the air. How stupid that the lioness hunted the prey. Females don't have the tenacity to hunt. Only males have the strength and capability to (1) travel great distances and (2) survive in the Savannah sun before pouncing on a kill that everyone thought would get away.
By the time I come back, you're still talking with the old couple, but they're teaching you Swahili. All three of you are laughing your heads off at your own pronunciation.
“Jenna, dinner,” I say. “I'm getting hungry.”
You whine toward the couple and throw in a simple, “I'm so sorry; thank you,” and they do as well.
We mostly eat in silence. At one point you burst out laughing.
“What's so funny?”
“Oh, just something Mary said,” you say.
“The wife of the couple I was talking to.”
I pretend that I'm not bothered by that. I don't know why it even bothers me, but it does. But I'm patient. Like the lion on the hunt I saw earlier.
We finally get off the train the next morning, and take a rideshare to our rental home. The guy taking us doesn't speak a lot of English, but talks to himself in Swahili, while blasting his radio with the latest Kenyan hits, also, mostly in Swahili.
We finally arrive at our rental; we thank the driver (you in terrible Swahili) and gather our bags. While the places around here aren't a garage dump, they're certainly not Beverly Hills, either. Our place has keyless entry. We figured that would be better since the site said the host's language was Swahili.
That's not to say there weren't English speakers in Mombasa. In fact, that night we went to a local bar and ran into another couple from Scotland. We drank some with them, chatted about differences between America and Scotland, then went back to our vacation rental.
For one of the days, we skipped the rental and opted for one of the “floating hotels” that are available for tourists in Mombasa bay.
During the day it's a floating mass of food, sweat, people, and music. For the most part we keep to ourselves. You're on your phone. Occasionally your face lights up and you smiled after seeing something funny. I see you sending pictures to Ben.
I couldn't take it anymore. I turn and look at the ocean. Then look toward the shore. I see beach-goers in the distance.
Finally the sun set. You come to join me. I'm a bit startled and look at you funny.
“You said you like romance,” you say. I do. “I'm not very romantic with you and I want to start. You're too good of a man.” I smile. You're starting to come around. We fall asleep in each other's arms.
The next day our raft docks at shore. We return to our bed and breakfast in Mombasa. We spend the rest of the day in town, but mostly just taking it easy. Watching Kenyan soap operas. Using up the last of our food. We know that tomorrow we'll taking the train back to Nairobi, then rushing to the airport to take an evening flight to back home.
The next morning we eat leftovers we had for dinner the night before.
“What's been your favorite part of the trip,” I ask you.
“The boat trip was kind a cool,” you say. “I also liked talking with that elderly couple.”
That's because they have what you can never get! I think. But I smile.
“What about you?” she asks.
“I loved getting to know you more,” I say.
“Oh,” is all you respond with.
I had hopes that you'd come around by now. Then you say the stupidest thing I've ever heard from you: “I can't until we go back.”
Go back? To what? My dead-end job as ditch-digger? Your job as a crappy real estate agent? Keep in mind, this whole trip was my idea, Jenna. You just agreed to pay for it. What would we be going back to?
“Oh, don't get me wrong,” you continue. “This trip has been nice, but I'm ready to go back to normal.”
I let out the warmest smile I can manage. “Yeah, me too” I say, squeezing your hand.
You glance at your phone. “Ooh, we got 2 hours until the train leaves,” you suddenly say. “I'd better take a shower.”
“Alright. I'll start packing.”
You had already packed most of your things the night before. Mostly what I see are essentials—Keys, memorabilia, wallet, clothes, toiletries. I pack my own things first. Then, because I plan ahead, I hail a rideshare car.
Then, I take your wallet, passport, keys and phone. I put them in my bag.
Before you turn off the shower, I shut the door. The car pulls up.
“Where are you going, my friend?” the driver says in a thick accent, flashing a friendly smile.
“Mombasa train station,” I say, and shut the door. The car pulls away.
And later that evening later, I arrive back in Nairobi.
During the train trip I was imagining what it must have been like for you.
What it must have been like to get out of the shower, the towel wrapped around your body, when you would have called out for me, but heard no answer, then decided to just start packing. It must have been frustrating to pack your things, look for your phone, your wallet, and your passport, and not see them, and then call the landlord on the emergency landline phone, frantically trying to communicate across her broken English. Beyond that, my imagination goes blank. It doesn't matter. I'm on the flight, and can almost imagine you down below, perhaps stepping out of a car of a kind stranger who was just on his way to Nairobi, pointing your fists toward the sky and flipping the bird to the jetliner you know is mine.
But next to me is an empty seat. In front of me are two hot blonde girls, college age. They're bubbly, open, friendly.
“Hey, you,” one of them says. “What's a good-looking guy like you traveling to Kenya all by yourself?”
“I came with my girlfriend,” I say, “But I ditched her.”
The girl's eyes narrow and she grins. “Good,” she says, “She probably she deserved it!”
The two giggle to themselves, and then I get their numbers and save them in my phone.
And if you're wondering, no, I don't know what happened to your phone. It must have met the same dark fate as your passport and wallet, tumbling from a train window into the dark depths of a river somewhere between Mombasa and Nairobi.
And rest assured, my dear, I still wouldn't have any idea what happened to you. Not even when the plane lands, and I head back to our place. And I still wouldn't have any idea where you were, not even when your “brother” comes to the door, tears in his eyes, begging me, that if I know anything... Of course, I'll be feigning shock (you wouldn't need to worry about that) covering my mouth to complete the performance, and I'll respond with trembling lips that I had no idea, that we had decided to take separate flights back and you must have gotten lost.
And don't worry about your stuff, Jenna. That will all be sold on Craigslist. The stuff I couldn't sell on Craigslist I'll sell at an estate sale, bringing up “my late girlfriend” with an impregnated pause whenever someone asked about your computer or stack of books. And before the police ask too many questions, I have that planned, too. With the money I get from selling your stuff I'll move to another state, knowing full well it would probably be months before the American and Kenyan embassy can work together to bring you back. By then, I'll be gone.
But that's for later. For now, I'm sitting on a plane that's crossing over the Atlantic. and I'm making eyes at the two girls in front of me. You should be proud of me, Jenna. For once, I'm feeling like a man.