Northfire's Best: Chapter 1

Chapter 1: The Seminar

by zuena

written: 4th may, 2022

Sighing for the third time in the last six minutes, Abrar leaned on his chair. Sitting in the same position for five hours was not for anybody, or so I had thought before coming here. I quickly developed a newfound interest in sitting—albeit sitting was not the fun part, staring at the people on stage, however, definitely was.

I felt the tension rising in the room as yet another person went up on stage, but it did not, even slightly, match the tension which stayed for a good while five long hours ago; perhaps people did not find this seminar all that interesting after all. By the time this new character sat down on stage, the audience had almost halved, from a hundred five hours ago to fifty-three now. Fifty-two counting the person who left just now.

The seminar was organised by a group of two students from my Eastern Philosophy class, Naomi Burt and John Kercher.

The topic was surrounding Existentialism, a subject that certainly piqued my interest. I watched as the people on stage argued, constantly altering my vision from one speaker to the other.

“Do you want to leave?” asked Abrar, who had already risen from his chair. “In a bit maybe,” I said. He looked at me for a second before nodding, smiling, and handing me my bag which had been on his lap. “Thanks,” I said and fixed my gaze on the stage.

“Ms. Burt’s theory could only be true if we consider an omnipresent being.” said one voice on stage which I recognised to be Dr. Franklin’s. What was Ms. Burt’s theory? I had no clue. I did not pay attention to it in the midst of my conversation with Abrar. Over the next few minutes, the conversation on stage became entirely about Ms. Burt’s theory, one which I could not figure out with any effort whatsoever. This made me annoyed. They argued about ontology and theology but I still could not piece together her initial theory.

Kercher stood in one corner watching the conversation, occasionally sitting by the stage. One would think he liked to debate since he so badly wanted to organise this event but apparently not.

According to the watch on my wrist, it was five twenty-eight pm, two minutes earlier to the daily check-in with my friend Madison. We sent each other a picture of something—anything—once a day. I did it at five-thirty every day because it helped to remember.

I dug my hand inside the bag to locate my phone. My hand spun in all the degrees of three-sixty and my phone was nowhere to be found. I checked under my chair and David’s ex-chair, nope, not there too. It did not take me long to figure out what was up.

I walked carefully so as to not bother those still attentively listening to—or dozing off—the on-stage conversation. I had intended to stay the full seven hours but returning would only make me more annoyed, because as I left the room they had already switched to another topic which, although piqued my interest, would be hard to follow through if I came back randomly.

As I walked out of the room, I was greeted with the bright lights and a mischievous grin playing on Abrar’s face. Without saying a word, he handed me my phone and after I clicked a picture of my shoes and sent it to Madison, he started laughing.

“What’s the matter, champ?” I asked as we started walking. “How did you endure that?” he asked. I almost fell on the floor because it was slippery. I laughed.

“What do you mean? I found it interesting.” I answered. “Do you wanna hang out later tonight? I’m going to a concert in Northfire.” He said. “Ah, I’m kinda tired now. Maybe we can hang out tomorrow?” I asked. My stomach rumbled. He said that was okay and that we could not, under any circumstances, go to a seminar the next time we hung out. I said I could not promise him that.

Heating the soup was a bad idea because now it tasted like warm salt water. I don’t like salt water. The burrito still tasted fantastic–though a little stale–so that helped my stomach. The lack of energy in my body was surprising as all I really did was attend a five-hour seminar and walk a bit. Perhaps the amount of information I was playing around with during those five hours had something to do with it. I needed a glass of cold lemonade. The bitter kind.

The thought of taking a nap crossed my mind before the silent buzzing of my phone shamelessly vibrated the table. Checking my phone while eating was something I tried to avoid to the best of my abilities but my willpower had seemed to have run out because what I had in front of my face now was a rectangular screen showing an email notification advertising vacuum cleaners.

I woke up three hours later. The only light I could see was from the moon and the dim yellow lights in front of my room. The half-eaten burrito stared at me from the other room. I cracked my knuckles. The index of my left hand did not crack much to my annoyance. I grabbed my poetry notebook and flipped through the many pages of scribbled out poems.

I placed the pen in between the pages of the notebook and read the lines over and over again of a haiku I had written months ago. I had thirty dollars in my wallet. A few cents too maybe. There were four days before I could get my paycheck.

I was not in the mood to reheat anything, and besides the burrito tasted amazing regardless so why would I bother? Taking two bites of it made it sure to me that I could not stomach a two-day-old burrito anymore.

I opened the window. It was always kept closed, especially when I slept. I lived on the first floor of the building so it was fairly easy to listen to the conversations being had on the streets through my open window. I watched as groups of people walked by the street. Many of them had on their hands pink bags from the evening fair right behind the building. Someone waved in my direction, I could not recognise them. Noticing the silence, the person shouted, “Hey!”

Abrar.

“Hi! What are you doing here?” I shouted back while motioning him to come upstairs. I thought he could not see me properly so I shouted for him to come upstairs.

Once in my apartment, he explained how he got kicked out of the concert because of something to do with a broken prop that he would not pay for but he was vague so I did not understand much and I figured it did not matter to me so I refrained from asking him anything.

“I’m also fucking hungry by the way,” he said, looking at the leftover burrito and the bowl of soup on the table. I pointed at the table and said, “You really want to eat that?”

“What else do you have here?” he said while walking towards the cabinet. I pulled out a packet of half-eaten biscuits from his bag and said, “Not this shit at least,”

“Oh shut up,” he waved his hand in front of his face, “But really, I’m hungry as hell. Do you wanna go out to grab something?”

“I’m broke,” I said, taking a quick glance at the clock above his head.

“My treat. Come on, let's go!” he elbowed me and walked swiftly towards his shoes.

The restaurant was rather chilly—not that I hated it—which Abrar found to be of great amusement. “You see,” he grabbed a chair, “this is why I fucking love this place. It’s like a whole new world,” he waved for a waiter, “It’s like magic dude, it’s so cold in here,”

Seeing him get excited over Garett’s Café was a weekly, if not every-two-days-y, occurrence. He could find even the littlest reasons why this place was better than any other place in Northfire and he would make a point to explain his reasons to any person that crossed his path.

“A fruit custard for me, and what will you have?”

“I’ll have the same.”

He raised his eyebrows and stared at me for a second before sending the waiter off with an order of two fruit custards and two small bottles of Sprite. “I thought you said you’re hungry?” I smiled.

“I am!” he said.

“You’re finally realising how amazing fruit custards are, aren’t you?” he chuckled. “Mhm, I sure am,” I smiled.

“So how have you been?” he asked. “Pretty good. The seminar made me groggy as hell though, I still haven’t recovered. How about you?”

“There’s a reason I didn’t want to spend five hundred hours in that damned seminar, it’s all your fault,” he smirked, “and me, well I am fantastic. I had a blast in that concert before they kicked me out.”

The waiter brought us our food. Abrar’s attack on the custard was delayed due to a notification on his phone.

“You never order this,” said Nathan, the waiter, followed by his infamous hearty giggle. “That’s correct, but he’s paying so I had to honour his taste buds.” I chuckled.

“That person,” he motioned to my right and whispered, “has been looking your way for a good second now. You know her?”

“Don’t look!” he hissed. I nodded quickly and brought my face closer to Nathan’s, who had brought his down to my ear level. “You do realise that you whispering in my ear looks mad suspicious, right?” I whispered.

“She looked away,” he whispered, ignoring what I said. “Okay,” I pulled my face away from Nathan’s, “I am going to eat now, go away!”

“You still haven’t given me Rebecca’s number by the way,” he said while walking away.

“Get it yourself!”

I looked over to my right and all there was, was an empty table.

“Nathan can be so weird,” I chuckled and picked up my spoon. “Mhm.” said Abrar as his thumbs typed on his phone. The custard here was basically milk and fruits. It was not the gooey texture custards usually have. I put a spoonful in my mouth—it tasted like what I think breast milk would taste like with a bunch of fruits. In my next few bites, I tried to have as little of this milk as possible.

It was already past ten and I could not bear the breast-milk taste. “I’ll get this packed,” I got up. Abrar nodded.

After having Nathan bicker about some non-existent person on the table to my right, I finally got the custard packed and made my way towards our table.

“You didn’t finish?”

“Nah, I’ll get mine packed too.” Abrar got up from his chair with his custard bowl in hand.

“Will you stay over tonight?” I asked as we walked out of the café. Abrar seemed to think for a second before saying “Yeah, why not?” and so we made our way towards my apartment.

zuena