TaJuan is an aspiring writer hoping to gain experience and growth through publishing passionate works, like this one, online for the world.
It was a muggy day outside. The sun was on vacation while the clouds dimmed the land. The remains of the rain from the previous nights lingered around the town. The atmosphere was abnormally dense, making each breath a struggle for even the fittest of people. The tone of Gaia’s latest art piece projected onto the people, for the overall spirits were low. Seemingly all except Da’Quan.
“Good morning,” Da’Quan exclaimed with a bright, cheery smile.
“Good morning,” replied the customer, infected by the gloomy virus spreading outside.
It was another day at work for Da’Quan. He’s been working at the grocery store for nearly a year, and he is already regarded as one of the best workers. It was not for his work ethic, his timeliness, or his overall performance at the job, even though all were spectacular. No, it was a skill beyond anything that can simply be taught; it was his people’s skills.
“How are you doing today?” Da’Quan asked with an unwavering smile.
“I’ve been better,” the customer muttered while she unloaded her groceries onto the belt.
“I am so sorry to hear that. Is there anything I could do? If there is, I’d be more than happy to do it.” The genuine concern reflected by Da’Quan’s voice somewhat broke the customer out of their funk. Powerful what little acts of kindness can do.
“No, no,” the customer replied, but now, with a slight smile, “thank you though. You’re really sweet.”
“I try, ma’am,” Da’Quan chuckled as he rang in the order at an impressive speed.
The customer took note of Da’Quan’s name tag. “Is it… Da’Quan?” the customer said in an unsure tone.
“Yes, that’s right,” Da’Quan says whilst finishing the order. “That’ll be $109.12. Cash or card?”
“Card. That’s a beautiful name. So, what does it mean?”
Da’Quan’s smile twitched. “What?”
“What does your name mean? My parents named me Daffodil because it’s their favorite flower, and it represents new beginnings, which I was in their lives. How about you?”
Da’Quan closed his eyes and tried to focus. Have to keep calm, he thinks to himself.
“Um, I am not too sure. All I know is that my father named me, so I will have to ask him. Here’s your receipt.”
“Well you definitely should. Names are powerful. Who would you be without your name?” Daffodil grabbed the receipt, and with a full smile for the first time that day, she exclaimed, “I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day, Da’Quan.”
“You too ma’am. You too.” Da’Quan begins to tap his finger. Slow at first, but then it increased in speed, faster and faster. Accelerating rapidly until finally coming to a sudden stop. He took a deep breath, and regained his composure.
Okay, I’ll call him.
Somewhere a couple miles out, atop a sturdy tree, resided a family of bluebirds. With the somber grays that overtook the land, the blue of their feathers shone vibrantly as they soared through the sky. Not all, however, were soaring. At least, not yet, for on that day, one young bird was to soar like the rest of her flock. She was to fly. The date was continuously postponed due to the rain, but the downpours have finally subsided. There were no more excuses for her, it was now or never, and how she prayed for the never.
She was the youngest of all of her siblings. She watched as their day of flight approached. Some were filled to the brim with confidence, eager to travel to wherever their hearts led them. Others felt the opposite. Fear became their best friends, and their guiding hand. No matter their emotions towards flying, for in the battle between them versus gravity: gravity won.
As the last of the offspring, the young bird was expected to be the outlier, to do what her siblings weren’t able to do. As a bird designed for flight, she needed to fly. Imagine the pressure upon this young bird. Like some of her brothers and sisters before her, fear was hugging her tightly. Anxiety in its strongest form constrained her to the nest. She was a statue. Yet, even with all of the forces working to keep her stationary, the overwhelming amount of pressure pushed her off. The battle had begun.
As Da’Quan drove home from work, he began to twitch again. That unwavering smile has effortlessly disappeared. Let’s just get this over with, he thinks in a tone best described as defeated.
If one were to describe Da’Quan’s relationship with his father in one word, that word would have to be strained. As a child, Da’Quan witnessed his father abuse his mother multiple times, forever scarring him. Now divorced, Da’Quan’s parents coexist to be there for him, but he was not willing to forgive nor forget. Da’Quan continuously tried to keep his father at a distance, no matter how hard his father attempted to right his wrongs. Trauma is a powerful thing.
But Da’Quan’s curiosity was riled up. The aspect of knowing the origins of his name, and as a result, the origins of him, was something worth closing the gap between him and his father, even ever so slightly. The importance of this means more when you dive deeper into who Da’Quan is, which to him, is a question yet to be answered.
Da’Quan is water. As water can mold its form into whatever container it happens to be in, so does Da’Quan. However, instead of his literal form, Da’Quan would just shift his personality given his situation. For example, at work, he masks a smile that illuminates the days of even the saddest people.
To an extent, all people act like this, but it's different for Da’Quan. His whole identity is dependent on people. He has shifted so much for other people, he does not know who he is. So, with knowledge of the meaning of his name, he could find some foundation in himself, to truly discover himself. The answer was just one phone call away.
Da’Quan pulled into his driveway and just sat there for a minute. He slowly picked up his phone and dialed the numbers he can’t seem to forget. The phone hummed its notes once, twice, three times.
Don’t pick up, don’t pick up, Da’Quan wished to himself.
The phone stopped its song, but the voicemail did not play.
“Hello,” Da’Quan’s father said in a tone easily labeled as disbelief.
“Hello,” Da’Quan took a deep breath, “...father.”
No doubt about it, gravity was winning. She did not expect how fast she would plummet. The ground was like a magnet; her attraction to it seemed so natural, so effortless. Hope was all but lost. She questioned if it was even there in the first place.
She was supposed to be the one. The one to break the pattern. The one to break this hex that has led to the demise of those she held dear to her. But how could she? How could she do this when her brothers and sisters failed? Why did she have to be the one? Who was she but a statistic at this point? For the ground kept approaching, as too her fate.
It was at that point it clicked. Fate. Fate was not something for others to decide for you. Yes, her siblings were defeated in the battle, but that does not mean she has to be. With this realization, her fear and anxiety dissipated, and she let out her right wing.
Yes, her parents yearned for her to succeed, but their desires could not design her future, only she could. And with this realization, the pressure that has accompanied her throughout the ride had lost its grip, and she let out her left wing.
She now was lighter than ever before. Her mind was clear, intentions defined. She was her own bird, and she was ready to be free. The ground still approached, but she wasn’t afraid of it anymore, for she did not intend on meeting it. With closed eyes and wings out, she took a deep breath. She was to fly, not because of her siblings, and not for her parents, but for her.
“How have you been, son,” Da’Quan’s father said excitedly.
“I’ve been alright,” Da’Quan replies in a straightforward manner. “Look, I have a question.”
“A-alright, shoot. What's your question?”
“What does my name mean?”
“What does my name mean?” Da’Quan sternly repeated slower.
“I-I don’t know how to answer that, Da’Quan.” Da’Quan’s father nervously exerted.
“You’re the one that named me, right?” The irritation in Da’Quan’s voice is hardly inconspicuous.
“Yeah, I was the one that named you,” he replied proudly.
“So why? Why Da’Quan? That isn’t just a name that pops into your head. Poof! There it is. It has to have some sort of meaning behind it. Something more than just, ‘this sounds dope.’ Please tell me there’s more to me than that.”
The clouds covered the moon's light, so darkness encompassed the area, only broken up by some streetlights here and there. All you could hear was the light rustling of the leaves. How loud the wind was at that time compared to the silence of Da’Quan’s father. Nonetheless, the silence spoke for him.
“There is no meaning, huh?” Da’Quan whispered which barely pierced the ever present silence.
Da’Quan’s father finally mustered up some words. “Look, Da’Quan. Why does it even matter if there was reasoning behind the name or not? You know-”
“BECAUSE I DON’T KNOW WHO I AM?” Da’Quan yelled with an unrivaled passion.
“Wh-what do you mean?” his father stuttered
Choking through his words, Da’Quan answered, “I-I don’t have an identity. All I do is please people. Do and be whatever I can to help others. But somewhere along this road, I lost my way. I am an empty shell. I am nobody. So I thought I could get some direction on this path of finding myself. But… I guess I was expecting too much.”
The weight of everything hit Da’Quan’s father. Now picking his words carefully, he replied, “I didn’t know this meant so much to you… um…” he paused to recollect his thoughts. “You were my first born, Da’Quan. You were, and still are, so special to me. You gave my life purpose, and I try everyday to be a better person that can give you the world. No, not just the world, but planets, galaxies, and universes. I want to give you all that I can and then some. You were the one. I don’t know what else to say.”
The leaves and wind ceased their dance. Silence. Complete silence was all there was. Who knows how long they sat in it, letting it wrap around them, suffocating them. Seconds...minutes...hours? Funny how silence can distort perception of time. Eventually, something had to break the silence. Da’Quan opened his mouth.
“I think...I think I should go.”
“O-okay, son. I love you. I love you so, so much.”
“I love you too.”
They say their goodbyes and along with the silence, the twitching returns. Da'Quan inhaled deeply, but this time, peace did not manifest with the exhale, but rather a raucous scream which shattered the silence. Tears drowned his eyeballs, soaking his face. The emptiness he felt was insufferable.
“WHO AM I?” Da’Quan screamed into the night as a break in the clouds' form revealed a slimmer of the moon’s light. With that, Da’Quan noticed a reflection of himself from the rain’s remains. His father’s words echoed in his head.
“You were the one.”
I… am the one. Da’Quan sat on that thought for a second then said aloud:
“I am the one. No longer the one who works solely for others, but the one for me, whoever that is. And I will find him, for it’s not anyone else’s job to find but mine. Others will define me no more, for I am the one who will define me.”
Da’Quan looked up at the sky and saw that the clouds had finally released their stranglehold on the moon, and it now shone vividly across the town. There, he saw a small bird silhouetted by the moon’s light, cascading elegantly through the night sky. It was an empowering sight.