"Exhibiting You" - Story

The Ordinary Life of Dalia G.

By: Ola Eliwat
Submitted: 01/16/2009

Dalia G. has always been an ordinary girl, equally in life as in death. She had no exquisite beauty, neither has she ever been an honor student. She didn’t have the wittiest sense of humor nor has she done anything that would make a good story for her children, had they ever materialized. Her biggest achievement was a college degree and, as most people, she spoke two languages, the second of which she has never been anywhere where she needed to use. Truly, Dalia G. was an ordinary girl in every sense of the word. Nonetheless, in her heart she always believed that something extraordinary was in store for her.

Every morning, Dalia would wake up at the same time, dress up in the same drab colors of her uniform and take the same route to her workplace. Occasionally, this daily routine would be broken by a flat tire or a malfunctioning gear. But all in all, Dalia loved the commute. She like to dodge her way through the heavy traffic of the city, switching gracefully between lanes and coming to a slow stop at the traffic lights, leaving the drivers behind her in a horn-honking frenzy as she never crossed a yellow light. Yet, the thing she enjoyed the most was the way the car jerked as she left her foot slowly of the clutch before touching down on the fuel pedal, one reason why she never used an automatic car. Her car, Dulcinea, was a poorly maintained 1989 Toyota. Yet in her mind she managed to convince herself that she was driving a finely restored 1967 Mustang.

Every morning as a part of her routine she would grab the newspaper on her way to work from a nearby supermarket in which worked a middle-aged man whose genuine smile gave her a certain assuredness. She loved the familiarity of his face as she dropped by to exchange the same morning greetings and buy the same newspaper for 7 years.

That was pretty much the life of Dalia, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing to make a good piece of news to share with her mother when she got home. She knew that her mother, like most mothers, always waited for her to come home with some happy shy news of a potential suitor. Her father had passed away several years ago and all her sisters and brothers were going about their lives, each having a family to keep them busy. Dalia wanted to make her mother happy, but she wouldn’t take any chances in that matter; because although life was getting tough for her, she resented the idea of committing her life to someone just because she’s tired of it.

Several years passed like this. The last time she had a change in her daily agenda occurred one rainy Tuesday afternoon a few weeks before her 27th birthday. It was the dullest thing ever; she was stuck at work with the heating system down, all cuddled up in her wool coat, breathing in and out through the old coarse threads. She was bored out of her mind, there wasn’t much work to do and she’d been observing the downpour from the window for a while. She had already read the newspaper, but she thought that she’d take another look anyway, and that was when she found it. It was a column somewhere in the middle, for someone who calls themself A.F. From then on, that unexpected change of routine became part of the routine itself.

Every morning since that afternoon she would grab the paper and go directly for the column. She would fix herself a nice cup of coffee to go along with it. Many times she wondered about that person. The way they wrote, the things they talked about and all the tiny details made her feel like she knew that person. Sometimes she would imagine herself sitting across from him, sipping coffee and discussing whatever the article was about. She even laughed and frowned at times when no one was around, but every now and then someone would catch her talking to herself. She would shun the embarrassment by pretending she was doing the math for something or trying to pronounce a strange client’s name.

One of those days as she was doing the mandatory task of checking her email, the one she wished she could cancel along with her cell phone and go live in an exotic island, she had no idea that this very mundane task would lead her where she’s never gone before, and change that way came. Just as she was typing in a reply to one of her most annoying clients, she figured it would help if she imagined herself typing in an intellectual argument in reply to someone interesting. It didn’t take her imagination much effort to fill in the blank with a name. All of a sudden she found herself grabbing the newspaper looking for any email address through which she might be able to contact that who has become her main imaginary discussion mate. Luckily, like most columnists A.F always left an email address at the bottom of the article, which was never noticed by Dalia as she used to block out anything that is technology related when she read the paper.

She started typing eagerly, taking sometime figuring out how to start and deleting the first line several times before settling on an opening statement. After getting past that awkward beginning, the ideas literally flowed. She felt so comfortable expressing herself without any fear or hesitation. However, the hesitation kicked in as she moved the cursor to the “Send” button, her finger tapping on the left mouse button a few times before finally pressing down on it. Message sent.

The waiting for a reply started the very moment she sent the message. For the first time in her life she actually felt excited to check her email. To her disappointment, there was nothing of the sort in the inbox. She checked the junk mail folder, and checked the sent items time and again to make sure she typed in the right email address, all to no avail. Few weeks of the same, she started to induce a sense of despair to reduce the mounting feeling of disappointment. It wasn’t only about failing to make contact with that person; it was about having to go back to the dullness of her daily eventless life.

Just as she was losing all hope, something happened that suggested she shouldn’t. The reply came in early one fine Thursday morning, first apologizing for the delay and then appreciating the smart observations and arguments included in the first message. Overwhelmed with excitement, it took Dalia a few minutes to compose herself and organize her thought as to what her reply should be. She wrote with the same excitement with which she wrote the first message, the only difference is that this time she didn’t have to wait long for the reply.

Those emails have become an inseparable part of her daily life. They even started to take the place of the daily skimming through the newspaper and acquired a higher importance than the morning coffee. Something surreal was happening. It was unbelievable what they had in common and how they seemed to be stealing each other’s mind. She has never believed in soul mates until then. At last, the long wait for the extraordinary has come to an end.

They proceeded this way, anonymous and happy, until one only normal request changed it all. “I want to meet you in person.” As simple as that line sounded, the impact on her was gigantic. All of a sudden everything turned gray, the world seemed like a low-quality version of a horror movie. Her hands were shaking, her heart beating like an African drum and her forehead breaking out into cold sweat. She didn’t consider or even give herself a chance to do so. The decision was final and decisive. She wasn’t going even to reply to that message, it was over.

For the rest of the day, Dalia couldn’t get her mind to think of something else. It’s very hard to think of anything when you’re trying not to think of something in particular. She decided that the best thing to do is to take a leave of her work since she couldn’t get any work done anyway. As she left the building, she walked to her car unconsciously and regained awareness only as she was turning the key in the door lock. At that, she took the key off and decided to take a short walk in an attempt to make neutralize all the puzzled emotions raging inside.

A thought led to another, nothing soothing, nothing to give her the peace of mind she sought. But at last, it hit her. The only thing that could end that ambivalence was resorting to her own world, her own techniques. She began picturing the opposite situation. She saw herself meeting up with him, a tall handsome man with hazel eyes, olive toned skin and the most charming smile. Once again they were talking and talking, and she was happy. She was happy again. Just then, it all came crashing at her, and for the first time in her life she realized that she’s the one who wanted her life to be nothing but ordinary, chickening out when it came to any change or anything out of that kind of ordinary.

Curiously enough, that wasn’t the thought that gripped her. In fact, she didn’t really mind it. So, rather than mourning her blown chances to happiness, she was taken by a whole other realization.

The thing no one knew about Dalia, and the thing she hasn’t realized until that moment, is that she had an imagination capable of turning the most mundane details of her life into a once in a lifetime extravaganza. She started to remember everything, from the extraordinary pleasure of manipulating the clutch in her car to her dreams of being thrown by the waves into a deserted island. It occurred to her just at that moment that the life she's always wanted has always existed in her head, and that was the only place where she wanted to live such a life. She began contemplating the possibilities that could come out of this. She started visualizing everything she's ever dreamed of, every single detail, and there she started to lay out the lines for a best seller novel, or perhaps a movie. She got so excited that she lost track of time and had no sense of her surroundings. She kept walking while visualizing and creating dialogues in her head. Everything was coming along nicely, until it all erupted in one major flash of light.

Dalia couldn't see what exactly had hit her. Was it a car or a bus, she had no idea, and there was no telling what happened next to her as she bid the world farewell. Eye witnesses to the accident confirmed that the driver wasn't to be blamed, since Dalia is the one who came out of no where and crossed the street without looking at any direction. Thus, the accident didn't make the news, and her death didn't provoke any outrage against reckless drivers or driving laws. A small funeral was held to put her where she will lie for a while. Her family and friends mourned for a few days before going back each to his life, and the page was turned on Dalia, an ordinary girl, who lived an extraordinary life, only in her mind.

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