Monday, January 15, 2018

I Didn’t by Mary Kaye Valdez

Mary Kaye Valdez's flash about a schoolboy's regret.

When you’re sitting next to your Emilio Mercado for the first time on Monday morning, make sure you pay attention to him. I didn’t. I was too upset about separating from my friends to care about him. The last thing I wanted was to sit next to someone I didn’t know, but you shouldn’t ignore your Emilio Mercado. Don’t only think about yourself, and start a proper conversation with him.

“Mr. Santos really separated everyone,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied.

“My friends are all the way on the other side of the room.”

“Oh.”

“I think it’s the same for everyone. Everyone is yelling across the room just to talk to their friends now. I hate this.”

“Yeah,” he said as he yawned.

“It sucks. Did he separate you too?”

“Yeah,” he said even though his gaze didn’t point at anyone in the room.

I was then midway through my class and everyone was taking notes on the lesson. If you haven’t been paying attention to your Emilio, pay attention to him now. Don’t neglect him.

“Hey, did you get to write down the explanation of this formula?” I asked before turning my head over to his way.

I wasn’t completely sure that he would have it, but I was at least sure he would have something. After all, we had a two-hundred point test on Friday, so everybody was focused on taking notes. I looked at him and he didn’t even have a paper or a pencil out. He just had his head down on the desk sleeping the class away. Wake him up or nudge him. Just do something. I didn’t and I allowed our teacher to yell at him every day to wake up.

When you’re eating lunch at the same table as your Emilio Mercado on Tuesday, make sure you care for him. I didn’t. I was only trying to occupy myself while I waited for my actual friends to come over and eat lunch with me. I only wanted to kill some time by talking to someone. If you’re going to talk to him at least show some care. Don’t take his responses lightly, and don’t give him such uncaring responses in return, either.

“You skip out on school lunch, too?” I said as I sat near him to save the other half of the table for my friends.

“I’m not hungry,” he replied.

“Yeah, I say the same thing when I see what they prepared for us. You should just pack your own lunch. That’s what I do now.”

“There’s no point if I don’t eat lunch.”

“Do you not get hungry?”

“No.”

“You do look like you don’t eat much. You’re really skinny,” I last said before I scooted away to join my friends who finally arrived.

Don’t end your interaction there with your Emilio Mercado. Invite him to eat with your group, talk to him longer, or even share your lunch with him. Just don’t leave him be.

When you end up standing next to your Emilio Mercado in line on Wednesday, make sure you take note of his words. I didn’t. I took almost everything he said as a joke and dismissed all his words. Don’t do that. His words might mean a whole lot more than just a casual conversation. Listen to him. Try and understand what he’s truly saying. It’s only those certain things that can allow you to help him in the end.

“Hey, do you know Joseph in our class?” I asked him.

“No,” he replied.

“He sits near us! Well anyway, he likes the band that’s on your t-shirt. He went to their concert last year but didn’t get a chance to buy some merch. Did you go?”

“Yeah, I really liked the band. I even bought front row tickets to see them.”

“Seriously? You guys might get along, then! He really loves that band, too. It’s all he listens to, really. You should be friends with him.”

“Doesn’t he hang around with that group who thinks they’re funny by messing with Mr. Santos all the time?”

“Oh, you mean those guys? Yeah.”

“They’re annoying. Everyone in this school annoys me.”

“Yeah, I think Mr. Santos feels the same way, too. But is that why you just sleep in class all the time? Just to tune them out?”

“Yeah, I just want to disappear from everyone.”

“Well, it’s a long school year. You’re going to be sleeping for a long time.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Same.”

When you see your Emilio Mercado waiting for you at your locker on Thursday, make sure you stay with him. I didn’t. I let him leave without knowing what he might do after. Don’t do what I did and let him get away. Don’t think you’ll have other chances. Stop him before he leaves. Stop him now before he does something else.

“Oh, hey! What’s up?” I greeted him.

“Here,” he said as he handed me a familiar t-shirt.

“Wait, why are you giving me this?”

“I’m not. Your friend Joseph likes this band, right? Give it to him.”

“Are you serious? But this is your favorite band.”

“They are, but I don’t need it anymore. Tell him he can have it.”

“Okay, but what’s with you? Why are you suddenly being nice to Joseph? I thought you didn’t like him.”

“It doesn’t matter. There’s no point to a t-shirt that I won’t use anymore.”

“I guess.”

“Well anyway, that’s all. I’ll get going now.”

“Alright, I’ll give it to him. See you tomorrow in class!”

I didn’t.

When you don’t see your Emilio Mercado next to you in class on Friday, make sure you find him before school ends. I didn’t. I just thought maybe he wanted to ditch the test that day or he overslept. I didn’t really bother to think much about his absence. That was until I ended up watching him jump down from the top of the school building right after school. By the time I realized what had been happening with Emilio, it was too late. This is why it’s important you should do everything that I didn’t, now.

When you meet your Emilio Mercado, make sure you save him while he’s still within your reach.

8 comments:

  1. Excellent and poignant story. I wondered what was meant by “your” Emilio Mercado. The answer to that is moving to say the least.

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  2. A stunningly affecting story, well written and almost poetic with its repetitions. Tank you so much,
    Ceinwen

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  3. a telling, moving story with a lesson.
    well crafted
    Mike McC

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  4. Mary Kaye, a poignant story that makes the reader sit up and take notice. We're all so busy with our own lives that we don't give enough thought to others. Thank you for reminding us to do so.
    Beryl

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  5. This is a really thought provoking and moving story.
    The dialogue is realistic and excellent.
    I really enjoyed it.
    Robert

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  6. A beautiful and well-crafted story, with real meaning and a message we all need to read. Thank you.

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  7. So well done. At first I thought the "your Emilio Mercado" meant the narrator was telling herself she should have done more to hang onto a boyfriend - but as the story progressed, I realized that wasn't it - and my sense of dread began to build. Excellent.

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  8. I loved the way you steered us to the devastating conclusion and the heavy sense of guilt in the narrator's tone. A sad story but a strong message for us all to show more empathy.

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