The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky, Part 1

 

YRD101: Intro to Johnny

 

The Past (Yesterday)

 

When Johnny stood on stage facing the thousands of spectators that had come to see him, he had no idea where he was going from there. His life had taken so many unpredictable turns that he thought making any decision could’ve led to heartbreak, and he didn’t want to make the wrong choice. With all of these witnesses sitting in the seats beside him, he felt somewhat obligated to fulfill the ideas they had about him, and about his future. But then, he didn’t really owe them anything. They would feel the same way about the next person to ascend the stage behind him. And the one after that. And the pattern would continue until the loved one they had actually come to support had his or her moment in the spotlight. From then on, they would think about him or her. Not Johnny. By the end of the day, only his family would care, and most of them were on holiday this week. They had to watch the ceremony online.

Johnny smiled at the chancellor for Oxford University as he took the diploma out of his hand. Then he continued toward the stairs leading off the stage. His fifteen seconds of fame were over. The graduate behind him was now the focus of thousands of people. Johnny’s university life at the New College campus had officially ended for the time being, maybe for good. Where he was headed next was anyone’s guess. His life and his future were up to fate. Any decision he made today and beyond would be left under the scrutiny of destiny, and his goals would be ultimately verified or rejected by factors outside of his control. Even as he headed back to his seat to await the end of the ceremony, he had no clear idea where life was taking him. He just sat down with a sigh. It had taken him too many turns already just to get here, and here felt like anywhere. One more “accomplishment” that added up to a bigger question: Does tomorrow even matter?

Once upon a time, Johnny believed that the answer was “yes.” Once upon a time.

 

***

 

That night, Johnny traveled to the café in Paris where he’d met the girl who got away, hoping that maybe he could somehow recreate the experience. When he got there, several hours after the graduation ceremony had ended, he asked the host to seat him at the same table where he’d sat the night he’d met her. Because another couple was already seated there, he offered to wait at the bar until it was vacant. A few minutes later, the man who sat at the table got down on one knee and asked his date to marry him. She said “yes.” After the couple hugged and kissed, the man ordered a round of drinks for everyone in the room to join in on their celebration—because Johnny was seated at the bar, he was not actually part of the celebration, and was thus out a free pint of beer. The café’s soundtrack then changed into something romantic. Johnny recognized the song as the current trendsetter in popular music—he thought he heard Katy Perry singing—but he didn’t know the title, and couldn’t place the reference completely. Something about kissing a girl, which Johnny assumed was relevant.

It became clear to Johnny after twenty minutes of watching the couple celebrate that he wasn’t getting his table, so he decided to stay at the bar. His first night as a university graduate and he was tempted to get pissed. But he needed a clear head. He had to figure out where he was going. The girl he had met at that table just a little over two months ago would’ve likely told him to pick a goal and run with it. He wished she could be here with him now. If only she hadn’t gotten away.

He needed something to echo that night, the night he’d met her. So, he ordered the same dish he had ordered when he was here with her. The bartender brought him the Grape Crepe Su-Steak fifteen minutes later. At the time, it was a brand new dish that the café’s owner and head chef had just acquired from a culinary student and aspiring chef and was eager for patrons to try. Even though he didn’t love it, Johnny recommended the chef keep it on the menu. He ordered it tonight for sentimental reasons. It was the only reason he looked forward to eating it. Like the first time he’d had it, it came with a note from the chef: “Try to enjoy.”

 

Read Part 2

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The stuff that keeps me awake at night.

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