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Empathize

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The clock ticked quarter past six and the thick blackened clouds swallowed the faint tangerine sun before it could sink lower in the horizon. The icy grey sky restlessly grumbled and the distended dark clouds, struggling to withstand the burden of the heavy rain in its delicate frame, soon gave in. The rain poured down over the city with a roar and the sound of emptiness was disrupted by the loud reverberating boom of thunder. The streets and roads were instantly covered by a thick layer of water and the wipers of the vehicles could not keep up with the harsh rain, reducing the visibility to less than ten feet. Traffic slowed down to an almost standstill with the highway turning into a giant parking lot.

      Alex Cooper was a 26year old man with warm blonde hair, earthy brown eyes, and had a chiseled jawline that complemented his square-shaped face. He was on his way back home from the office and got stuck in the bottleneck traffic jam caused due to the rain. He was downright exhausted with his tiring day at the office and the disgusting traffic added fuel to his vexation. The procession of vehicles, moving at snail’s pace with blurred headlights grew Alex’s impatience. The unceasing honking of cars and exhaust fumes blenching out made him sick. Getting stuck in an awful traffic jam was the worst he had never expected, especially when he had to rush home to hit his holiday trip, the next morning.

      Alex Cooper was a 26year old man with warm blonde hair, earthy brown eyes, and had a chiseled jawline that complemented his square-shaped face. He was on his way back home from the office and got stuck in the bottleneck traffic jam caused due to the rain. He was downright exhausted with his tiring day at the office and the disgusting traffic added fuel to his vexation. The procession of vehicles, moving at snail’s pace with blurred headlights grew Alex’s impatience. The unceasing honking of cars and exhaust fumes blenching out made him sick. Getting stuck in an awful traffic jam was the worst he had never expected, especially when he had to rush home to hit his holiday trip, the next morning.

      Alex Cooper was a 26year old man with warm blonde hair, earthy brown eyes, and had a chiseled jawline that complemented his square-shaped face. He was on his way back home from the office and got stuck in the bottleneck traffic jam caused due to the rain. He was downright exhausted with his tiring day at the office and the disgusting traffic added fuel to his vexation. The procession of vehicles, moving at snail’s pace with blurred headlights grew Alex’s impatience. The unceasing honking of cars and exhaust fumes blenching out made him sick. Getting stuck in an awful traffic jam was the worst he had never expected, especially when he had to rush home to hit his holiday trip, the next morning.

      Alex Cooper was a 26year old man with warm blonde hair, earthy brown eyes, and had a chiseled jawline that complemented his square-shaped face. He was on his way back home from the office and got stuck in the bottleneck traffic jam caused due to the rain. He was downright exhausted with his tiring day at the office and the disgusting traffic added fuel to his vexation. The procession of vehicles, moving at snail’s pace with blurred headlights grew Alex’s impatience. The unceasing honking of cars and exhaust fumes blenching out made him sick. Getting stuck in an awful traffic jam was the worst he had never expected, especially when he had to rush home to hit his holiday trip, the next morning.

      The rain gradually dwindled and the traffic which was wound like a snake down the road, started pacing up with tires hissing over the wet road. Alex swiftly made his way through the traffic with every aperture he found, just like the water seeping into a rock’s crevice. He finally reached home, parked his car, and rushed into the house. He yelled “Amelia, where are you?” and she showed up in no time. Amelia Cooper, the wife of Alex, was a 24year old woman with a slender body, jet black hair, and ocean blue eyes. As she arrived, Alex handed his office files to her and sank into a chair in enervation. He threw his head back, stretched legs outward, and sighed in relief. He then said, “This rain Amelia! All hell broke loose because of it. Roads turned chaotic with obnoxious heavy traffic, and believe me; it squeezed out my life till I reached home”. Amelia stood standstill without replying or even responding to his words. For a while, the house was dead silent with the only sound of a faucet dripping in the kitchen, reverberating the house like a cymbal. Alex then requested Amelia to get him a cup of coffee and still, she neither moved nor replied to him. Alex was baffled by Amelia’s queer silence and asked her “Amelia! Are you okay?” And still there wasn’t any response from her.

Alex’s impatience grew and he yelled “Amelia!! Do you hear me?”

“Ah?…what?…what did you….say?” stammered Amelia with the crinkling of the forehead between her eyes

Her lack of attention annoyed Alex and he asked her in fury “it’s been quite a while I entered the house and you weren’t responding to anything I said”

“So what??” replied Amelia indignantly in response to his anger

Her ambiguous response added fuel to his exasperation and he fumed “Have you gone nuts?”

“Yes! I’m crazy Alex….I’m crazy….it’s always me right!” said Amelia in vexation with a sarcastic tone.

Alex then took a deep breath in an attempt to control his anger and then asked in a deep tone “Let’s just forget this! Did you pack the things?”

“No! I haven’t” replied Amelia with her upper lip curled in disdain

Listening to her reply, Alex roared out of rage “What the fuck?? Do you even remember that we have a flight in the morning to Paris?”

“To hell with your Paris holiday trip” fumed Amelia

Alex’s anger boiled up and he said “I knew it! This is all because Paris was my choice and you disliked it right from the beginning. If you wanted to drop the plan, you should have told me before. Why pretend??”

“Seriously Alex??”, nodding her head sideways in vexation, Amelia left the hallway to her room, saying “Fuck you, Alex!”

Alex in resentment fumed “Fuck YOU!! Amelia” and left the house to a nearby barroom.

      Alex walked into Joe’s Barroom, which was a stone’s throw away from his house. The barroom was hundreds of conversations told in incessant loud voices and the crowd was young, students from the university for the most part. People were smoking, puffing artistic curls, and boozing in giddiness. Joe, the bartender was re-stuffing the pint glasses with amber liquid for the assortment of people perched on bar stools before him. A man drowns his sorrow in the elixir at one end of the bar and a young couple flirts shamelessly at the other end with the nectar in hand. Alex then, headed to Joe, whom he knew since he moved to Texas.

Joe, looking at Alex,  greeted him “hey buddy! What’s up? How was your day man?

“It sucked!” replied Alex, upset over Amelia and her peculiar behavior

Joe, raising his eyebrows said “That’s bad! Wanna have a drink?”

“Sure!” replied Alex

Joe served him his favorite Algonquin cocktail with mini-sized ice cubes and salted peanuts. Alex slurped the cocktail slowly. Soon, an old man walked in and took the seat beside him. The old man was a 52year old person with grey-white hair around his bald scalp and a silver-white thick mustache. He had a map of wrinkles on his face that told his incredible journey. His twinkling eyes were framed by thick white eyebrows and the cheerful smile on his face complemented his warm personality. He ordered a beer and started slurping it, enjoying every sip. He saw Alex and gave a gentle smile and Alex in response, threw a forced smile. Alex took a cigar from the pack of smokes in his pocket and placed it in his mouth to light it. As he was searching for his lighter, the old man lit it with the one he had. Alex thanked him.

The old man with a gentle smile on his face, extended his hand and introduced himself “Hi! I’m Richard Coleman”

“I’m Alex…Alex Cooper” replied Alex with a cold impassive face and shook hands with him

Richard asked, “Do you come here often?”

“Yes Sir” replied Alex in an apathetic manner

Richard then said “I come here every year on my wedding anniversary with my wife and son”

“To a barroom?” asked Alex in bewilderment

Richard with a gleeful chuckle replied “This was the place where I first met my beloved wife” and pointed to his wife dancing with their son

Alex looked at Richard’s wife. She was a 50year old woman with a slender body and short grey hair, likely styled with old fashioned rollers. She was full of energy and danced with her son in exhilaration.

Alex then turned to Richard and said “You both look like a happy couple”

“Yes! We are” replied Richard smiling

Alex asked, “How long have you been married?”

“More than 30 years” replied Richard

Alex raised his eyebrows and said “well, that’s been a long time”

“Yes it is and I love every moment of it” replied Richard with joy in his voice

Alex with a gloomy face said “I wish, I and Amelia were like you people”

“Alex! If you’d like to share something, trust me, I’m a very good listener” replied Richard benevolently, understanding Alex’s depressed face

Alex then narrated the entire fight that he had with Amelia an hour ago and ended up saying “I always keep things simple but Amelia complicates every damn thing! Women are complicated!”

“It’s not always black and white Alex! There’s grey too” replied Richard after listening to Alex’s narration

Alex baffled, asked, “What do you mean by that?”

“We men usually think in terms of either this or that, ending up with only two possibilities. But my friend! With women, there’s always something more that we men need to understand”

Alex didn’t expect this reply and said hastily, defending himself “I understand Amelia well”

“Sometimes women need more than understanding. You need to place yourself in her shoes and empathize with her”

A moment of silence passed by and Richard with a smile on his face said “Women aren’t complicated, my friend! They are just different from men”

Alex understood what Richard was trying to convey and nodded in agreement.

Richard then said, “And the best advice I’d give you is, when you love her, express it wholeheartedly”.

Richard then jumped to his feet, addressed the people in the barroom “Ladies and Gentlemen!” and all people in the barroom turned to him. He said, “Today is my 30th wedding anniversary and on this occasion, I’d like to thank my dearest wife for everything she has done and been for me”. He looked at his wife and showered his love saying “Meredith! You have been the one encounter in my life that can never be repeated. Thank you for everything darling. I love you, sweetheart”. Meredith’s face turned rose pink and a pair of happy tears raced down her cheeks. Richard then walked to her and kissed her with all the love he had for her. Meanwhile, a buzz of cheering, whooping, and clapping happened in the crowd for the loving couple. Alex, watching Richard and Meredith, portrayed himself and Amelia in them and thought how beautiful it’d be to be a happy couple like them. He then reminisced how he met Amelia, how they fell in love and ended up marrying each other. He remembered his wedding day and the vows they made for each other. Soon, there was a flash of Amelia’s picture in his mind, smiling exuberantly and this made him miss her like hell. He then left the barroom to return home, fix the things, and makeup with Amelia.

      Alex returned home and as he went to meet Amelia, he found a piece of paper in the hallway, lying on the table. He picked it up and started reading it. It was a medical report saying Amelia was pregnant. There was a surge of happiness in him and his heart leaped up for joy. He felt like his feet barely touched the ground and rushed to Amelia. He walked up to her, pulled her closer to him, and wrapped his arms around her. His embrace was warm, and his big, strong arms seemed very protective when wrapped around her slender body. Despite the heaviness in her stomach, it fluttered at the feeling of her body pressed against his, and she sunk into the warmth of his embrace.

Alex with exhilaration in his voice said “I love you, Amelia, I love you so much. Thank you for everything dear. I can’t put into words what I feel now, we gonna have a baby dear”

“Yes, Alex! We gonna have a baby” replied Amelia with a plain smile on her face

Alex understood that Amelia was still upset with him and said “I’m sorry Amelia, I shouldn’t have yelled at you”

“It’s okay Alex. Even I shouldn’t have annoyed you, I’m sorry too”, replied Amelia

Alex was baffled with Amelia still being apathetic even after his apology and asked “What happened Amelia? We are gonna have a baby, why aren’t you excited?”

“I’m excited Alex! But it’s just that..…..”, Amelia refrained from completing it

Alex, for a moment, thought whether Amelia was thinking about dropping the baby but soon the words of Richard “Not everything is black and white” flashed in his mind and he, with a gentle voice asked “Amelia! If there’s something you’d like to tell me, please say it, dear”

Amelia then said “Alex! I lied to you about my parents, they aren’t dead. All my childhood, they were never on good terms and quarreled every single day. Our home was filled with the war of words, disagreements, and arguments every now and then. They never loved me and treated me like a mistake. I couldn’t take that and fled the house when I was 15”

Alex understood her grief. He then placed himself in her shoes, tried to feel her pain that she went through as a child, and assured her saying “Amelia! Don’t you worry; we are going to be the best parents for our child. We will take good care of our baby and shower all the love in this world”

Amelia was speechless for a moment and then burst into tears, hugging him and said “Yes Alex! We’ll take good care of our baby and give her all the love in this world. Thank you, Alex….Thank you so much for understanding. You are the love of my life….I love you, Alex”

“I love you too Amelia” replied Alex embracing her.

He then rested his hand below her ear, his thumb caressed her cheek and their breaths mingled. She ran her fingers down his spine, pulled him closer until there was no space left between them and she felt the beating of his heart against her chest. They kissed passionately with all the love they had for each other. Alex then made a soft ardent peck on her neck which was like a gratifying cherry on the cake.

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