Words of Affirmation – A Short Story

“Let this day change your life” was the first thought that ran through my mind as I slowly opened my eyes that morning. I closed my eyes again trying to adjust to the light pouring in through the windows. I anxiously grabbed my clock to check the time. A glaring 8:30AM blinked back at me. I was late for work. I could feel my pulse quickening and a headache coming on. No. Wait a minute. Today was Saturday. No work today. My pulse slowed down enough for me to take a deep breath.

I didn’t feel much like moving. The icy metal springs digging into my back reminded me yet again that it was well past due to buy a mattress. Oh god. I just wanted to go back to sleep. But the bed apparently had other ideas. No matter how I tossed or turned, the cardboard makeshift mattress would shift as well leaving my back or face suddenly exposed to the cold coils. My nightshirt clung to my skin like a wet rag as I stared up at the ceiling fan above me twirling around circulating the steaming hot air around in circles, providing little to no relief.

I rolled off the bed with a sense of determination that the least I could do was get dressed. I walked to the bathroom and peeled off my nightshirt and stood under the cool water for some time. I needed to come up with a plan. Something had to give. I closed my eyes to let my brain cool down and ground myself.

I simply had to do something worthwhile today. But after the dozens of job applications for a better job, which I had so eagerly submitted, and then received no response, I needed a day to do something else. Something useful, but something that didn’t require me to socialize or cramp my hands filling out forms. I needed inspiration.

It has always been the case that if I want to be inspired, I always seek out music or books. But with nothing of an inspirational nature to listen to, I decided that today I would go to the library. The library has always felt like a safe haven to me. It’s quiet and filled with endless inspiration. This trip would be no small feat for me, however, with no car and little knowledge of where the nearest library was. But at least I had a goal and basic Internet access.

I got myself presentable to step outside and started to walk. The sun seemed to follow me no matter what street I was on. The insoles in my shoes had long wore away and my feet were aching. I started to wonder if I had even taken a shower as my clothes slowly melted onto me again. But I was on a mission.

The streets were cluttered with cars and garbage and the sidewalks were swarming with people. I was not used to living in the heart of any city and especially not one of the most dangerous parts of Los Angeles. The sounds, the lights, and crowds were all new to me and very overwhelming. I stared at ground as I walked. I winced every few steps as the back of my sneakers slowly scraped the back of my ankles.

This is probably why mothers are always telling their children to wear socks and “For goodness sakes not to walk on the heels of the shoes” and to fully put the shoes on. I was so hyper-focused on comparing my disgust of wearing socks with the disgust of the feeling of my feet swimming around in my shoes that I almost walked right past the library.

I stood there on the sidewalk for a moment suddenly filled with an incredible sense of relief. This quickly faded as I looked back down the street and realized I would also have to walk all the way back home. Home? I looked back up at the stone building before me silently as people pushed past me for a moment. This was home. This giant air conditioned, quiet, and somewhat dark place with comfortable chairs and endless adventures lined neatly on rows. Yes, this felt more like home.

The moment I pulled the heavy door open and stepped inside my muse awoke. I felt like a child in a candy store. Books of every color and every genre lay before me. After the initial awkwardness of obtaining a library card at the front desk, I headed straight for the mystery section. I was partial to a specific author and quickly headed for that isle.

I knelt down to get a look at the selection of books in front of me. I had read the majority of them and this little splash of color caught my attention. I could see it out of the corner my eye and I finally turned to see what it was- a book was out of place. The other books were neatly lined up in perfect rows. But not this book. Clearly someone had pulled it off the shelf and then just stuck it haphazardly half way back on the shelf. I turned back to the books in front of me but something about that book kept bothering me.

I stood up, irritated and stomped over to the book determined not to even look at it. My plan was to just slide it into its place and go back to the other end of the isle. But once I reached the book, instead of pushing it back in, I slid it into my hands. The front cover didn’t give me any clues. Nothing stood out to me. Nothing that is, until I flipped the book over:

“Dear Gretchen,

You’re rich and famous now. You’ve been all over the world, seen things I’ll never see, met people I’ll never know…And there you were in The Times. The headline said: Around the World…by G.G. Gilman […]”

Letter From Home by Carolyn Hart (Excerpt from Back Cover)

I read the back of the book repeatedly. Each time, my eyes grew wider and wider in complete awe. That was all the inspiration I needed. I cradled the book under my arm, as I dusted my pants off, and headed to the check-out area.

I do not believe in coincidences and at that moment I knew exactly what I needed to do to. And I’ll tell you, I don’t even remember the walk back to my apartment that hot summer day but I’m pretty sure I was running.

Note: This short story is a a little mix of fiction and non-fiction but I assure you, that book and that moment of realization of my dream to be a writer were nothing short of the truth. And to comfort the readers who may be rubbing their lower backs right now, I now own not only a mattress but a car, an air conditioner, and curtains and I defintely don’t take them for granted. Needless to say that my one and only summer in Los Angeles was a true test of humility for me.

About Gretchen McIntire (formerly Leary)

I am 34 years old, I live in the Raleigh area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
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9 Responses to Words of Affirmation – A Short Story

  1. Beautiful story. I think a little editing might further improve it.

  2. platypushaiku says:

    Hi Gretchen
    I am nominating you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Please see my post titled One Lovely Blog Award for more details. Thank you for your wonderful blog!

  3. Your imagery is beautiful, I can see that you do deserve that nomination mentioned above. The way the character’s life is felt is just amazing.

  4. Talicha J. says:

    Nice job with this story Gretchen, I really enjoy your style 🙂

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