The Understudy



It must have been his fourth cup. At this point, he was beginning to feel the weight in his chest for not being able to hear from his mother. She has not sent a word for months. If hope was ever a commodity, it sure did not deliver as advertised. He would have chosen to stay at the cafe longer, but he was conserving the little money he had left. Midway through his letter, he began to notice that his hands looked tired, older, it was as if they were no longer his. What is worse, the sun was preparing to set and his eyes hardly kept up with the impending gloom. Then, at some stroke of luck, the only lamppost on that street was lit. Under its light was the woman he often sees working nights. A sudden change of heart, he unpocketed some loose change and bought another cup of coffee and stared behind the window. “How lucky is the man who could afford her.” he sang to himself. He would have spent all his money on her companionship only it would still fall short to make up her rate. Instead, he created a world in his mind about how he and she made a happy life together. No more cheap coffee, no more working late nights, only a warm and cozy embrace under a scrap blanket his mother had handsewn. It would have been a good narrative to end his letter.



Stamina was even a tougher obstacle to get the scholarship. Apart from his apparent physical disadvantage, the determination to overcome this feat was nowhere to be found. But the fear of starvation offered a far more sinister kind of motivation. It was not long before the coaching staff posted the results of the tryouts. Of course, he did not make the cut. But he was not at the bottom either. He will have to find another way to afford the semester. He took whatever good he could find though. It was not all too bad, he thought — no matter how few, he still ranked over those names on the list. He would celebrate that evening and got some laughs from it down at the bar.



It was his first formal invitation since his arrival in the city. He intended to land an impression on the faculty members to showcase his attributes or at least to get acquainted. The professors spoke of Foucault, Voltaire, Nietzsche, and others whose names he couldn’t remember. Those names he had managed to capture resonated with him but regarded no friendly affirmations to his personal pursuits. He was an outsider, after all. A tourist from far away, desperately latching onto the cliffs of their summits. But no matter what, no matter how perilous the traverse, he decided to stay on the climb.