Unfulfilled

As I was walking along the beach one cool spring morning, I stumbled upon an old bottle sticking out of the sand. The glass, once clear, looked cloudy with a sickly green tint to it. I picked it up, curious as I am about strange artifacts. There was something inside, obscured by the grimy exterior. I pried the cork off the bottle and dropped it in surprise as smoke issued forth from it.

As I backed away from the billowing smoke, it formed itself into a vaguely human form.

“I am the genie of the bottle!” the smoke announced in a booming voice. “What is your wish?”

I didn’t respond right away. Several seconds went by as I blinked and tried to convince myself this was just a hallucination. But the smoke genie persisted. I thought I could detect a little impatience in the way it billowed.

“A genie..” I managed at last, masterfully stating the obvious. “So…uhh..does that mean I get three wishes?”

I scratched at my scruffy beard, still trying to determine if what I was looking at was real.

The genie looked taken aback. “Three? Wherever did you get that idea?”

I shrugged. “That’s how it always is in stories.”

“This is no child’s tale,” the genie bellowed indignantly. “You only get one wish. That is all I can grant you. Now, what is your wish?”

Again, I didn’t respond right away. Only one wish to get whatever I wanted? That was tricky. What did I want? A better job would always be nice. Maybe just a ton of money without the job. A girlfriend. Maybe a wife? No, that’d be weird without the girlfriend part first. Peace on Earth? To be honest, that’s a bit broad, and would that really help me? Not to sound selfish, but it was my wish, after all. I hated having to think about big decisions like that. They always made me nervous, which just made me stressed. Any moment now, the panic attacks would start, and…wait, I knew just what I wanted.

“Happiness,” I said.

” Very well then. And what would make you happy?”

I blinked. “Well…I don’t know. Shouldn’t you know?”

The genie shook its smoky head. “I grant wishes. I don’t create them. If you know what can give you happiness, I can produce it for you. But I cannot predict what makes you happy.”

That was disappointing. What made me happy? There were all sorts of little things. Books and adventure films and good conversations. Chocolate chip cookies and dogs and the laughter of loved ones. But was that ‘happiness’? I didn’t know. I had no idea. What could make me truly, eternally happy was a mystery, as obscure and hard to define as the smoky spectre that floated in front of me.

I amended my wish and set the genie free. It was surprised. As it granted my wish, the smoke took on a more definite shape. An old man stood in front of me now, his face heavily lined, several eons of life etched onto it. The lines deepened as he broke into a smile. He thanked me for freeing him and walked away. He stopped for a few moments to admire the scenery around him, the pale sand strewn on the beach, the waves lazily approaching the shore before retreating. With a contented sigh, he kept walking until he disappeared into the horizon.

After a few moments, I resumed walking as well, feeling as empty as the bottle that lay half buried in the sand.

Moving On

I had to go to my old office a couple of days go to take care of a few final formalities; they’d been kind enough to give me the option of working with them again if, within a month, I changed my mind about the new job.

My old office is a little bit closer to home, so I actually got to sleep in an extra hour and only had a short train ride to get there. But, as I got off the train, I felt ill at ease. This was the exact same routine I’d been following for a year, but doing it again after a month felt kinda depressing. The familiar little office looked the same, but there was something different about it. Its wood paneled floor and glass-walled cabins like an alien landscape and me the explorer who’d landed here by mistake.

I spoke with our HR person and we discussed the few logistical matters that needed to be taken care of to completely end my association with the company. There was, again, a sense of unease and apprehension creeping over me. The same doubt I had before about leaving a boring but safe job for something new resurfaced in my mind. This was it. Once we were done here, I’d be walking out of that door forever, completely absorbed into a new life.

Looking around the office reminded me of lazy afternoons spent with no real work to do, and insane deadlines that more than compensated for those afternoons by pushing everyone to their limits. It wasn’t an atmosphere that suited me well, but it was the only atmosphere I’d known for the past year.

I left the office feeling bummed and depressed and lost in my own head. Time to go to work.

It was about a 40 minute ride to the new office, and over the course of that time, my day got brighter. I was looking forward to getting there in spite of the longer journey, something I never really felt at my old job. It was a place I went because I had to, but now I was actually excited. It made me realize that’s how I’ve felt this whole month. I’ve been excited about work, about new assignments coming my way, about getting my work published on the site.

I got off the train with a spring in my step. It was the start of a new week and a new month, and I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me.