SHORT-STORY | C’est La Vie (This Is Life)


20º Fahrenheit. Epher sighed after she checked the temperature today. It was a cold .

She finished planning today’s activities for Greenboro’s poor and unemployed people and then went to bathroom to take a shower for work. She turned on the shower, and felt the cold water hitting her as if she were in a storm. For just a moment, she missed her lovely luxury apartment in California: the warm and tender water flowing from the spa shower and after that, laying down on her large soft sofa…

But that was long, long ago when she was an ambitious senior at Stanford University. Now, she was a volunteer social worker in Greensboro who lived in an old – maybe 1980s – house with another girl who was also a full-time volunteer.

She waited for ten minutes but the water was still colder than expected. Living in one of the poorest cities in USA, she had no choice but to accept this inconvenience.

Considering that she finished her bachelor degree at Stanford, Epher could be a popular future employee for many famous companies and thus have a more comfortable life. However after participating in a one-week volunteer job at the end of her senior year, she firmly decided to continue the volunteer job for at least a year. No one supported her decision, especially considering she had received offers from Microsoft and CNN.

“Epher! You have to consider carefully! We have devoted so much money and effort to you because we hope you will have a glorious life!” Epher’s parents said every time she called back home.

“Epher! Look at me! Do you remember our goal? Do you remember our promise? If you love me, don’t do that! Accept the offer and work with me! Then we can get enough money and live happily! We can be upper class! We will have a large and beautiful house. We will have smart kids who will have the best education resources because of our efforts! Epher!” Epher’s boyfriend – or it was better to call him her ex-boyfriend – Cimcial said.

But Epher had made up her mind. After she shared her decision and told everyone that she would never change it, Cimcial soon broke up with her. Last month, Epher heard Cimcial got a new girlfriend – another Ivy League graduate who now worked for Apple.

These thoughts passed through Epher’s mind while she prepared herself for today’s work. She left her small house in the countryside. Her three pet dogs came out to bid her good morning when she stepped into the yard.

“Bye guys.” She smiled to the three dogs and felt warmth.

Today’s job was to teach some cooking techniques to the poor and homeless people she worked with. Epher was bad at cooking when she first came to Greensboro – She and Cimcial always ate out in some fancy, overpriced restaurant. Now, after she learned and practiced for half a year, she now could teach others!

“Epher!” Epher heard the call of an attractive voice and knew it must have belonged to Navolssion.

Navolssion was the girl who lived with Epher in that small house. The other girl had been a volunteer for four years. She used to be something of a princess, a party queen who wore modern skirts and sunglasses. She used to look as delicate as a fairy, but now she only wore a cheap T-shirt and jeans.

“You were amazing. You’re a super great teacher!” Navolssion hugged Epher. She was Epher’s lead when Epher participated in the one-week project. At first sight, Navolssion, who was always so passionate with everything she did, inspired Epher.

“Helping people is such a good thing. Why not be happy?”

“Tired? You are kidding! Would you be tired doing something you love and you know is so meaningful?!”

Epher never saw Navolssion complaining about the terrible living conditions and the limited finances attached to their job. Epher and Navolssion’s house was small and without both heating and carpet. The wooden floor would be really cold during the winter. Moreover, they always ran out of the money. After all, few people wanted to help one of the poorest towns. Even potential investors only urged for more money.

“We’re almost going to get it!” Navolssion said with excitement. “Peter has been in contact with company GiAi for two months and GiAi showed great interest in our project. If we can get the money, we can build more affordable houses and a primary school near the new community!”

As the sun set, Epher went with Navolssion to where they planned to build a new living community and a new primary school. It was so muddy that Epher thought she would drown in that place. Several old empty houses shuddered in the wind. A few lone birds flew across the sky and shouted loudly and unpleasantly.

However, nothing would have impact Navolssion’s positivity. She was so excited and optimistic, as if she believed that nothing would stop her plans if she put her heart into them. Unconsciously, Epher was again inspired, just as she was one year ago. She felt that she could do something useful for those homeless people. She could feel the hope in her.

And HOPE! What a lovely word! No dark will exist because people hope for brightness. No sadness will last because people hope for happiness! Epher felt her tears coming down her cheeks. She wiped them away quickly, but Navolssion saw and smiled.

“It is amazing. Isn’t it?” Navolssion put her hand on her heart, deeply lost in her ideal world. “And we are the creators of all a new, lovely world! We will DO this! Epher, we will!”

“Yes. We will,” Epher whispered. “This is the life that I hope to create for all those people.”

Epher felt like she had come back to her childhood, when she believed that justice and love would always conquer everything terrible in the world.

Epher would never forget the day GiAi signed the contract with them, promising to give them large amounts of money to create affordable housing and for other activities. They were so excited that they cried during the party at Peter’s house.

Peter, their leader and a man in his early 30s, had been doing volunteer jobs since he was in middle school. He focused on non-profit organizations in community college, and he was also talented at persuading people and making plans. Their celebratory party was held in his small house, which had surprised Epher when she first stepped in. It was a 15 square foot, hand-made house, only containing a bed, a wardrobe, a table and several chairs. There was no heat and no carpet, like Epher and Nalvossion’s house.

But there was even no restroom!

“This house is my masterpiece!” Peter said with pride, “I built it all by myself! Isn’t it beautiful?”

Epher was embarrassed to ask about the restroom, but she was too curious to give in to her embarrassment. So, albeit shyly, she asked him.

“Hahahhahah” Peter laughed for a long long time, and then he pulled Epher close to him and asked secretively: “you sure you want to know?”

Epher nodded.

“That is because…I poop and shower outside!” Peter couldn’t stop laughing. He came to the window and pointed a small metal switch located on the wall next to Epher.

“That’s my shower!” He said proudly.

“And…po…poo…poop outside like…like an animal?” Epher stuttered out in a low voice.

“You got it, girl!” Peter laughed. At that time, an arm went around Peter’s neck –Nalvossion’s arm!

“Are you talking about your gross little secret to that innocent girl?” Nalvossion joked to him.

“Come on. This is a NEW model for housing! It should be a brilliant invention!” Peter said seriously. “Once someone notice how useful and natural this kind of restroom is, I’ll be the man who writes his own name in history!”

Epher knew Peter was joking, but she also knew that Peter’s house was a result of money shortage. She was moved by Peter’s humor and positivity. She saw the passion, the love and the liveliness in Peter.

“I know this is the life that I have always dream of.” The words came to her mind from nowhere. “I don’t want to live travelling a route that I already know – like Cimcial. This is the life I want! Only this kind of love towards life makes life worth living!”

She suddenly got three glasses and poured wine into them.

“Yes! It will be an amazing invention because it is natural! It is life! Let’s cheers!”

“Yes! Cheers!”

They shouted together.

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