Kindness with Ego

I wrote a short story! I could speak about the themes I’m going for here, and the message I’m trying to get across, but instead, I’ll let my story speak for itself. But here’s a little hint:

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Hope you enjoy!

Kindness with Ego

It was a day like any spring day in Toronto, the streets were filling up with pedestrians who were happy to finally be able to walk; some in t-shirts and shorts, a custom that would make any Californian wince. One of these pedestrians, was Stephen Gumechian. Stephen had an apartment in Scarborough and worked two jobs in town. His apartment was more of a cubby than a living space, but that didn’t matter, for he rarely stepped foot in it other than to sleep. Home decor consisted of a mattress and a TV, a few posters and an Xbox he had only a few games for. Stephen would never have time to play many games anyways, as his days are far too busy, what with his rent increasing in price seemingly every month. Stephen was unremarkable in every way, from his modest appearance (he was not one for fashion) and almost handsome but off face, featuring brown eyes, a stubby nose, and patches of wrinkles that made it apparent he was in his mid-to-late forties, an average jaw line which he drew focus away from (albeit unintentionally) with a scruffy beard. It was clear that Stephen wasn’t maintaining a facial hair style, but made sure to shave here and there to not upset his bosses. It worked for him, oddly enough.

Another person among the pedestrians was Geoffrey Smalls. Geoffrey usually drove to work, but had decided to take advantage of the fresh spring air and opted to walk today. Geoffrey carried himself with typical businessmen swagger. That’s what he was, after all; an established and successful businessman. He had a tall athletic build which made clear he cared for his body. He wore a tailored suit, one of such quality that seemed fit for a king. He was clean shaven, and appeared quite attractive. In some ways, he looked like Stephen, but with all positive facial features exaggerated and the negatives eliminated. It could be how he naturally looks, but to deny his wealth being a factor in his appearance would be an injustice. He was groomed into his attractiveness. Nevertheless, he turned heads as he walked, and he knew this – for better or for worse. This brought Geoffrey a strong sense of self importance. It would be unfair to say he had a superiority complex, but he was undoubtedly walking close to the line.

Stephen was fully embracing the spring weather. It seemed to be destiny that the day was as beautiful as it was on one of the few days he didn’t have a shift. He walked with a spring in his step. He was cheerful. He felt care-free, all for an overwhelming worry that he had forgotten something at home. He paused for a moment, and started to check his pockets one by one. First, he checked his front right pocket for his cellphone. It was there. Then, his left front pocket for his keys and lighters. His keys were there, along with a single Bic lighter. That wasn’t normal for Stephan. He always opted to carry two with him, in case someone asked him for one. Stephen was mildly annoyed by his forgetfulness, but now that he knew what he had forgotten, the anxiety dissipated. Stephen continued to walk along the sidewalk; the spring in his step more obvious than before. He arrived at a bus terminal, and leaned against the bus shelter. There were several other people waiting for his bus, but not a single person sitting inside the shelter. It would be a shame to not embrace the lovely weather, even if it meant not sitting down for a rest. Stephen waited, comfortably, for his bus to arrive. There was no rush. He’d be happy to wait any reasonable amount of time, so long as the warm sun continued to softly beat down on him. Stephen continued to lean against the shelter, happily observing his surroundings. He saw taxi cabs weaving themselves through traffic, a tourist trolley bustling with onlookers, a couple of Teslas here and there, always nice to see those, Stephen thought, regardless of his lack of interest in the environment he could appreciate others doing their part. He continued to observe and relax. It couldn’t get much better than this.

“Stephen?” said a distant voice oddly familiar to him. He moved his gaze away from the street and towards the voice. Before him – much to his surprise – was his childhood friend, Glen. “I knew it was you, Stephen!” Glen exclaimed, “I haven’t seen you in years!” he added, with as much enthusiasm he could gather.

“Try decades,” joked Stephen, although he was most definitely being sincere. Stephen and Glen were close friends from early elementary until their final year of high school. They were completely inseparable from one another. Eventually though, their lives took them down separate paths. Stephen went directly into the workplace, and Glen had pursued his degree at the University of British Columbia. A day that couldn’t get any better just did, thought Stephen to himself before asking Glen, “where are you headed, anyway?”

“I’m just in town for a business trip, although I have the night off before the meetings commence tomorrow morning.” Glen continues, “We should have a guys night out with the boys. They still around?” he asks.

“Most of them have gone their own way since high school, but Mark is still in the city!” Stephen exclaims.

“Markster! Haven’t seen him since high school either! Well, we should definitely all get together tonight at the old place. You know the one.” says Glen, with a chuckle. “How about eight o’clock?” he asks.

“Sure thing. I’ll be there!” replies Stephen, glowing with excitement. Glen begins to walk away, giving Stephen a wave good-bye.

The ‘old place’ Glen was referring to was in Oakville. As for what they did there, well, it was illegal back then; fully legal now. Stephen checked his phone for the time. It was four-thirty. Stephen sent a quick text to Mark letting him know the situation. Stephen then had to check the route he would have to take. Luckily, the bus stop he was at was the correct line to get him to the GO Train terminal which he would take to Oakville.

Stephen’s bus pulls up to the stop. A few people exit while Stephen and others wait to board. As Stephen begins to walk up to the bus, following a few other passengers, he reaches for his wallet and bus pass. Stephen’s heart races. His pocket is empty. “Shit!” he exclaims, which draws eyes to him. “Sorry, sorry. I just forgot my bus pass.” he apologizes openly to those surrounding him.

“Sir, you’re holding up the bus.” says the driver, “If you can’t pay, I have to ask you to step off.” he adds.

“Absolutely. Sorry.” Stephen replies, as he shifts his body and turns to exit the bus. He steps off, bumping into a pedestrian.

“Hey!” says the man, “You could have gotten my suit dirty!” he adds, as he brushes himself off and adjusts his collar.

“My apologies, sir.” Stephen replies, “I had to step off the bus, I forgot my bus pass.”

Stephen begins to walk away as the man finishes adjusting his collar. “Missed the bus, eh?” the man calls out to Stephen, “where are you headed?” he adds.

“Just looking to get out of the city.” says Stephen before adding, “The name’s Stephen.”

“Geoffrey.” replies the man, “Geoffrey Smalls.” Stephen steps back towards Geoffrey and extends his hand. They shake hands.

“Out of the city, eh?” Geoffrey prods.

“Yeah, some things came up spontaneously and-” Stephen tries to explain before being interrupted.

“Tell me, Stephen was it?” Stephen nods, letting Geoffrey continue. “Where have you always wanted to go?” he asks.

This catches Stephen off guard for a moment, but it’s a harmless question. “Well, I’ve always wanted to go to London.” says Stephen, quickly joking that he is referring to the one in Europe, not Canada.

“What if I told you that I’m feeling generous today.” says Geoffrey.

“Well- I, uh, what does that mean, exactly?” asks Stephen, confused.

“What if I told you I would buy you a plane ticket to London, right now?” says Geoffrey, confidently.

“Well that’d be incredibly kind of you sir, but-”

“But, what?” Geoffrey interrupts, “Isn’t this what you’ve dreamed of for years?” he adds.

“Well, yes, it’s just that-”

“Just what? You can’t afford it?” prompts Geoffrey, before continuing, “I already said I’d cover all your expenses! Hell, I’ll even pay for your hotel stays and food.” adds Geoffrey, glowing strongly with confidence and arrogance.

“Geoffrey, that’s very kind of  you-”

“I know, thank you,” buts in Geoffrey.

Stephen continues, “But I can’t.”

Geoffrey looks heartbroken. Destroyed, even.

“But-” Geoffrey begins, as his sorrow quickly turns to anger, “How dare you decline my generosity.” Geoffrey says, sternly.

“What now?” Stephen says, flustered with confusion.

“I gave you the opportunity to have the vacation of your dreams, all expenses paid, by me, no less, and this is how you treat me?” says Geoffrey in a self-indulging panic of sorts.

“I have other things I need to do.” Stephen tries to convey to Geoffrey that he really just needs to go to Oakville and needs a few coins to make the fare, but it’s no use. Geoffrey is going into a panic, an offended panic.

“You’re an asshole, Stephen, you know that?” Geoffrey exclaims, a shaking heard in his voice from the emotion.

“Excuse me? How am I an asshole?” Stephen questions.

“You do know how much that trip would have cost me, right? I was paying it all. For you.” pleads Geoffrey.

“Probably a lot. I appreciate the offer, but I just can’t take you up on it. I gotta go somewhere, sorry.” Stephen explains, trying to lighten the situation.

“Get the fuck out of my face you ungrateful baffoon.” Geoffrey yells, shaking his arm out aggressively.

Stephen takes this chance and walks away as fast as he can. Now he definitely has a good story  to share with the boys in Oakville.

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