This is an ongoing, ever-evolving piece of fiction. There is no John or Jane. We are all John. We are all Jane. Did you miss part one John’s story? or part two Jane’s story? There’s also an episode list at the bottom of this post.
Hoping for some spiritual food, good time with friends, and yes, maybe the girl of his dreams to materialize, John drags his sister with him to Convention.
They arrive late the night before, check in, put their bags into their respective rooms, and head down to the activity room at about 9 or 10 p.m. People are milling about, grabbing snacks and burnt coffee, hugging old friends, awkwardly introducing themselves to new ones.
Eventually, John sits at a table with a large group–young men and women.
He looks around at all the faces. Some he grew up with; others are new. Many are missing–at least four or five, married and gone. One to the convent.
A good portion of those sitting are girls, two-thirds of the crowd, many laughing and animated. A few are a little more withdrawn, just watching, the way John is now.
John’s learned the hard way that everything can be perfect on paper, and a relationship can still falter before it even starts. She might be pretty, educated, from a nice family from the right neighborhood in Egypt, and still there’s failure to launch.
He gets up for a soda, the scrape of his chair on the floor draws everyone’s eyes to him.
“Anybody else want a drink?”
All the hands go up. One girl gets up to help him.
Her hair is pulled back in a messy bun, and she moves through the world with ease. Her face is pleasant, but John can’t read the expression.
As they set the cans on a tray, she makes a joke. John smiles politely.
God doesn’t promise joy in this life, a voice whispers in his ear. It’s only in the afterlife that you can be happy, and what good is that.
But his heart says, That’s not true. His yoke is light and easy to bear.
Despite the group having started a rousing game, he doesn’t feel like sitting back down. He sets the tray in the middle of the table with a pasted-on grin, and starts to head out for some fresh air. A voice calls to him.
“Aight, tomorrow, John, you on my team, right? I’m counting on you.”
“Yeah, bro, we got this! No worries. That team’s got no chance!” he says with a lopsided grin and a wave of his hand.
His friend George turns back to the others at the table and gestures with his thumb to John’s gangly figure walking away, “This guy’s the best striker I’ve ever seen.”
Where had his sister run off to?
He finds her standing outside in the dark talking to someone on the phone.
“Hey. I gotta go. I’ll call back later,” Jane says turning away from him, “Yeah, me too.”
“Who was that, Jane?”
“Just a friend. What’s up, bro? Having any success in there?”
“Of course! They’re falling all over themselves,” John says wryly. “Where were you? After all that lecturing about how I shouldn’t drag you to Convention to keep me company and then abandon you, you’re the one who keeps running off!”
Jane laughs, “You know these things aren’t my scene. Too much makeup and hairspray and thinly veiled flirting.”
“You know that’s not fair, Jane. There are all kinds of people here. And I wish the flirting was a little less veiled!” John chuckles and sits on the sidewalk watching a light in the parking lot flicker.
“Scoot over, John, there’s some gunk on this spot.” She plops down next to him, nudging him with her shoulder.
“What about you, little sis? Any nice guys catch your eye?”
Jane keeps her face blank and stares into the darkness.
She’s silent just a little too long.
“I’m seeing someone.”
The smile widens across his face. “That’s amazing Jane! Who is it? Is it someone I know?”
“It’s an American guy, John,” Jane looks down at her fingernails, picking at the cuticles.
“An American guy?!” John’s eyes narrow. “What are you getting yourself into?”
“What! Like you can talk? What about Barbara?”
“What about Barbara! You saw exactly how that turned out. Who is this guy?!”
“He’s great! He’s kind and respectful and a lot of fun! He’s nice to me. He’s nice to everybody,” Jane strings her sentences together anxiously.
“What does he do for a living? What’s his family like? Do mom and dad know?”
“Stop it, John! You know I don’t care about any of that stuff! What does it matter what he does for a living! Since when do I judge people on their family!” Jane stands up.
John reaches his hand up and tugs on hers. “Sit down, Jane. Talk to me.”
Jane drops back next to him and bursts into tears. “I don’t know what I’m doing. He’s an amazing person. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to know if this is God’s will?”
“Does he think it’s God’s will?”
“He doesn’t really… talk about God.”
John’s eyebrow is too much accusation for Jane. She moves to get up again.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Sit down. Tell me from the beginning.”
(to be continued)
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