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“Hi there. What‘s your name?”
“Hi. It‘s Jasmine.”
I smiled. I seen plenty of pretty girls in my days, but this girl, Jasmine, just takes the cake. She was beautiful! A slim blonde with oceanic blue eyes…I’ve got to be the luckiest man in the world to be able to witness such a beauty like her, I thought.
“Hey, Jasmine,” I placed my right arm--ever so lightly--on the back of the wooden park bench and slid a little closer near her. “Do you come here often?”
“To the park?” She laughed.
“Yeah,” I shrugged playfully, “to the park.”
“Well, yeah. I do come here often. Every chance I get.”
“Good. That’s very good.” I looked out in front of me at some kids playing soccer, some flying a kite. It was a beautiful day and everyone was outside enjoying it.
I had just gotten off of work about an hour ago and had went home to my cozy apartment to shower, change, and check my answering machine for any missed messages. I had none. But that didn’t kill my spirit. I hopped into a white short-sleeve buttoned-up shirt and slid into some jeans. It was a nice day and I wasn’t about to fall into my usual pattern of hanging around my apartment working all night, sulking while doing so, wondering why I was alone and couldn’t land a date with anyone. I made my mind up while driving home from work that I was going to go out that evening, going out to find a date.
And then, I figured, while trying to find a spot to pick up a chick at, what better place to go than to the park. It was beautiful day. A sensitive, beautiful, nature-loving woman was bound to be at the park.
I was right.
I parked some distance away from the entrance of the park and then walked on in. I witnessed the joyful children playing and enjoying their youth. I spotted women, but those women were taken; they were moms. Then out of nowhere, placed there just for me, I spotted a blonde in a pink day dress sitting on a wooden bench. I just had to make my move and advance on her. It was then or never. So I made my move.
Jasmine smiled, a pearly white smile. “Bobby Wintermore. Do you come to the park often to pick up girls?”
I was thrown by the question and slid away from her a little. “To pick up what?”
She shifted on the bench to face me, crossing her arms while doing so. “To pick up women?”
“No, of course not,” I laughed, trying to play it off.
It didn’t work. Jasmine sawed through my response.
“Well, good. Because I wouldn’t want to pick you up if you weren’t trying to get picked up yourself. Same way I didn’t come to the park to get picked up, I wouldn‘t want to be picked up. I didn‘t come here for that.”
She stood up and walked off.
I sprang up and began my pursuit. “What?”
“Exactly,” Jasmine said without looking back.
I caught up to her and placed my left hand on her shoulder. Lightly. “Please, Jasmine, wait.”
Her beautiful face was curled up in anger.
“Wait for what? Huh, Bobby?”
“Wait and let me explain,” I said, trying to sound caring--and I was caring at the time about her. “I wasn’t trying to pick you up, so don’t get the wrong idea. I was just casually walking in the park when I sawed you, a beautiful woman sitting all alone on a park bench on a perfect day. I then came over to fulfill my curiosity and find out more about you. I wasn’t trying to pick you up.”
The whole, “I wasn’t trying to pick you up,” part was a boldface lie.
Jasmine’s face settled, but then her face became unreadable. After a few birds flown by, she came back from out of her thoughts and asked if I liked her. That was when my stomach did a back flip.
“I-I do,” I stuttered. “I think you’re beautiful.”
Jasmine started to blush. Yes! “It’s just heartwarming every time I hear it coming from a man. But, Bobby, I’m sad to say you’re wasting your time. I don’t want to screw with your heart. I can‘t be with you.”
“I’m not telling you to be with me,” I pleaded. “I’m just asking if you would give me a chance; give me another chance to start over again. Let us start this whole meeting-each-other-for-the-first-time thing all over again.”
“I’m sorry, Bobby.” Jasmine’s shoulder slipped out of my hand.
I watched her walk away. The further she got with every step, the lonelier I became. My eyes began to water and I couldn’t take it anymore, so I turned my separate way and headed home.
The next day came around with the rising of the sun. I woke up alone--as usual--and sat up in bed. The digital clock on my nightstand read 12:30 P.M. Waking up earlier that day at 6:37 A.M. in the morning with red, irritated eyes, I got some eye drops for my eyes and went back into bed. I didn’t feel like going in to work, nor did I feel like calling them to tell them I wasn’t coming in. I know of the thing called “principle” but I didn’t want to associate with it that morning.
When Jasmine walked away from me in the park the day before, she left me feeling a way I’ve never felt before. A deep, deep sadness is what I felt. A sadness brought on after hearing that a love one of yours has passed away. It was a horrible feeling, a feeling that stuck with me. I didn’t know if it was the feeling of love--which I seriously doubted. As I’ve heard love being described as the feeling of not being able to live without someone.
This feeling was…it was the feeling of…being unable to live without her.
I guess it was love. I guess I did love her.
Whatever I felt for her, I knew I had to see her again. I had to express how I felt for her and get her to at least give me another chance. Maybe asking for a date would be pushing it, but that was just something I was going to have to find out myself.
I jumped off my bed and stretched. After my lively stretch, I ran into the bathroom--with new hope--and took a nice shower. Coming out shortly, feeling cheery, I dried off and checked my answering machine, seeing that I had one missed message. It was my boss--boss lady to be more precise. She, along with my mother, were the only women to ever call my house to check on me. And she loved calling me up on days like these, the ones where I played hooky. I deleted the message.
That was just what I needed though to boost my confidence that day. I went back into the bathroom, freshened up, got dressed, and ate a small but meaningful breakfast before leaving the house.
Sitting on the same park bench I sat on with Jasmine the day before, I checked the time on my gold watch. It read 1:05 P.M.
I sat on that bench for little over thirty minutes without any sign of Jasmine. I was starting to get desperate but kept my cool, when I sawed Jasmine walking towards my direction from a distance.
She approached me and sat down on the bench, looking out in front of her at a small group of kids playing football.
“What are you doing here,” she asked without taking her eyes off the energetic kids playing football.
“I came to see you, Jasmine.” I looked her over, admiring her ever-growing beauty. “I’ve developed deep feelings for you, Jasmine. I think I love you.”
Jasmine turned to face me. Looking into my eyes, she asked, “You love me?”
“Yes, I do,” I said sincerely. “I’m feeling feelings that I’ve never felt before with anyone. I know I love you.”
Her eyes welled up as she turned away to rub the tears out of them. “I don’t know what to say. I really don’t.”
I moved closer to her and grabbed her shoulders, pulling her to face me. “Just don’t say anything then, Jasmine. It’s OK. We can slowly try to work this out, letting our hearts do all the talking. Soon enough you’ll know what to say.”
She sniffed and glanced over at my gold watch. “What time is it, Bobby?”
I looked at her dumbfound, but I still checked my watch. “It’s 1:05. Why?”
“I’ve been sitting here with you now for about four minutes. Do you remember what time it was before I came here to sit with you?”
“Yeah, of course. It was…” I trailed off realizing what Jasmine was talking about. “Uhm, yeah, I think my watch must be broken. How did you catch that?”
Jasmine pulled away from me, shaking her head. Sitting back, crossing her arms angrily, she said, “I thought this time would be different. I thought I would finally have found a man that fell in love with me for real. I can’t believe this is happening again. This is like the twenty-fifth time.”
At that moment I became seriously puzzled. “Jasmine, what are you talking about? I said I love you. I fell in love with you yesterday, the first moment I sawed you. What do you mean--”
A man, who I hadn’t seen walking up behind the bench that Jasmine and I sat on, placed a hand on my left shoulder while I spoke to Jasmine. “Pardon me, Bobby.”
I grinded my teeth. There I was trying to tell the love of my life, Jasmine, that I really did love her, when some dude decides to come and ruin my moment. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”
“No,” the man said flatly. “But I know a bit about you.” He then looked over at Jasmine. “Jasmine, I think I can help you with this one…if you would let me?”
Sniffling, Jasmine said, “Yeah, go ahead. I can’t deal with this anymore. I really can’t.”
I could feel my blood rushing to my face in anger. “Jasmine? I’m trying to tell you that I love you.”
Starting to grip my left shoulder, the man said, “Please. Can I speak with you for a moment?”
“I’m sorry, buck. But I don’t want to speak with you.”
“I’m not going to go away and I can tell how much you want to tell Jasmine, here, how much you love her. I promise, sir, I will leave you alone with Jasmine if you will just let me have a quick word with you.” He stopped, then added, “A very quick word.”
Furious, I jerked out of his grip and stood up. “OK. Here, you have my attention. Have your quick word and leave us alone.”
He stepped back from the bench and backed up, gesturing with his hand. “Over here.”
I looked down at Jasmine, who was no longer teary but just angry. I knelt down in front of her. “I will be right back, Jasmine. I promise. Just give me a minute. OK?”
She didn’t answer me.
I arose and followed a couple of paces behind the bench, where Jasmine sat, to the man. “What do you want to talk to me about, huh? I hope you know this had better be good. You’re interrupting me at a very precious time.”
He smiled and said, “I think you will find this quite good. You’re dead.”
I shook my head. “Excuse me?”
“I said you’re dead. Look at your watch. What time does it say?”
“Moron! If you were eavesdropping throughout Jasmine’s and I conversation, you’d hear that. She asking me the time, me telling her the wrong time, she getting upset, me coming to the conclusion that my watch is broken…” I looked the man over. “I mean, who are you to be telling me this nonsense right now after you interrupted Jasmine and I?”
The man walked up closer to me. He stood so close I could smell his breath. Strangely, it had no smell, even though I knew I was smelling his breath.
“Listen closely to me,” he said. “I know this is going to be hard to explain, but you have to try extremely hard to understand. You are dead. You died not too long ago, maybe an hour or two ago. I know you are dead because I’m dead, too. I died maybe about three years ago.”
I just stood there with a blank look on my face. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying you’re dead. And the reason why is because you fell in love with Jasmine. Jasmine is cursed. Anyone who falls in love with her dies.”
I swallowed hard and looked behind me over at Jasmine who sat lonely on the wooden bench. “What do you mean anyone? Is she alive?”
He shook his head. “Yes, of course she’s alive. And, I mean anyone.” In a quick motion, he placed his hands on my shoulders and spun me around. Now I was facing Jasmine who sat on the bench. “Look, my friend. Look at all the men in this park. Do you see them?”
“Yes, I do. So what? What does looking at them mean?”
“It means they are dead, too. I’m one of those men and I can tell you the name of everyone of them.”
I shook my head once more, not wanting to believe what I was hearing. “What about those kids playing football over there,” I pointed at the active kids that Jasmine stared at, “and those women over there with their children?”
He laughed. “What about them?”
I turned to face him. “You’re telling me they fell in love with Jasmine as well and are dead, too?”
“No, I’m not telling you no such thing. I’m telling you all of the men are dead.”
I turned back to face all of the people in the park and really focused on the men. There were about two dozen men in the park doing various things. Some were sitting around, some where walking around talking to each other like old friends, and some were just stand alone by themselves, observing the life in the park.
“So, you are telling me that all of them are…dead?”
“Yes, I am,” the man said, plainly.
“And I’m dead,” I asked.
I turned to face him. “How did I die?”
“I don’t know,” he shrugged. “We all--all the men here--died differently. Some had heart attacks, some got into car accidents on their way to the park to tell Jasmine that they loved her. We all died differently. But, I can tell you one thing. There are two things that all of our deaths had in common. We didn’t die until we realized that we really loved Jasmine nor did any of us die in this here park.”
I thought back long and hard, trying to figure out when I could have died. That’s when a thought hit me. “You said that none of the men died in this park. Could that mean that the men who died finding out that they loved her, only died because they fell in love with her in this here park?”
He laughed, and this fazed me. “Great to see that you have a good head on you.
Some of the men wondered about that same thing, came up with that same theory. But seeing as how once Jasmine finds out that we’re dead--the men who loved her--she won’t speak to us, so we weren‘t able to find truth in that theory. And I don’t blame her, she doesn’t want to seem crazy. Talking to us when we can’t be seen by the everyday, regular people out there.
“However, though, there was one man. One of whom while they fell for each other, before he died, did come to find out what was so special about this park and why none of the men who she fell in love with, no matter where the place, never did die here. He found out that she was conceived here is why.”
My jaw practically dropped open. “She was conceived here?”
“Yes, she was.”
I turned back to face the lively--or at least partially lively--people of the park. I looked at the men--men of all races and of all types--and I looked at Jasmine. Staring at her, I figured out instantly when I died. I died after I got dressed, when I sat down on my bed to put on my shoes, close to noon before I left the house. The time read 12:30 P.M. when I woke up. It took me about ten minutes to shower, another ten minutes to shave, a minute or two or three to dry off while checking the message from my boss on my answering machine, and about ten minutes to get dressed. That’s when it happened. I died putting on my shoes at 1:05 P.M.