A poker faced man was standing in a queue at Subway, waiting to order.
“Hello, sir! Would you like to try our new Chipotle sub?”
“Great! Would you like all vegetables?”
This man has been told what to do his whole life. He obeys without question. This is how his parents had raised him, always emphasizing the value of obedience.
In school, taking notes and scoring well in exams was never a big deal for him. The key was to obey, after all. The teachers had every reason to like him. The students did too, especially while playing cricket. He was always picked first, as he was the only one who didn’t create a fuss when asked to bat last and bowl last too.
This carried on into his college days, where he became a popular favorite in group assignments. They always asked him to do the projects by himself, which he was completely fine with.
His extraordinary behavior extended to social media as well. A friend once advised him to like any post he saw on Facebook to become popular. But the man had never distinguished between advice and instruction, and did as he was told. And sure enough, it was reciprocated by everyone. He was liked by everyone. And he felt nothing.
In his first job interview, he said his greatest strength was to be obedient. It was the shortest interview converted on campus.
His parents made him take guitar lessons for his wedding. The bride had been picked by his parents, and all he had to do was obey. He mastered the few songs he is taught, as imitation came easy to him.
He played some of these pieces on request at his wedding. His family applauded proudly, but he sits there blankly gazing at the guests. He felt nothing. His bride nudges him on the side and asks him to smile, and he switches on like a flashlight. From that moment forth, she had the controls.
When her friends asked what she saw in him, the wife said it was because they had a lot in common, and connected really well.
Of course she didn’t tell them she had no idea what he liked. But this didn’t seem to concern the man. That’s what she liked most about him; he never complained. Work was hard enough for her all day, where she had to be someone else. Where she had to laugh at silly and sometimes hurtful jokes, and do whatever she was told to.
But not at home.
His friends on the other hand exclaimed on how lucky he was to be with such a successful and beautiful wife. The man felt nothing, and said nothing. Then he felt an invisible nudge in his side, remembered the instructions, and smiled.
One day a colleague at work asked the man to have lunch with her. She knew everyone liked him, and wanted to see for herself what the fuss was about. This woman didn’t have many friends, and was used to hearing a plethora of creative excuses while seeking company. So a part of her thought it was incredibly stupid to ask the most popular man out for a friendly lunch.
But he agreed, as if it were the only option in the whole wide world.
The woman took him to a nearby sandwich joint. As the waiter handed them a couple of menus, she asked him what kind of sandwich he likes.
The man stared at her with utter bewilderment. In his thirty years of life, he didn’t remember being asked what kind of sandwich he likes. He said he’d never thought about it, and asked if she had any recommendation. She shook her head, saying only he can know his taste.
The man looked at the sincerity with which she stated this, and this gave him courage. He stuttered, and asked the waiter if he can get a sandwich with just tomatoes and mozzarella. The waiter said it wasn’t on the menu, but would be happy to make it for him. The man smiled, even though he didn’t feel that nudge in his side. It was an awkward smile, He even managed to order a vanilla milkshake, when his colleague asked him if he wanted a beer. He took a while again, and realized he didn’t want a beer.
The colleague tried a bit of the sandwich, and a sip of the shake. They were quite ordinary.
It was the best meal he’d ever had. His overwhelmed heart produced a silent tear, that quietly slipped by his cheek. A guy just leaving the joint saw the shake, laughed and called it a queer drink.
This was new to the man, and he considered that comment for a moment. It stung a little. He realized this was the first time something he had done wasn’t agreeable with everyone.
On his way back home, he walked by an M&S store, and his eye caught one of the shirts on sale. He’d walked by this store for two years, and had never walked in without his wife, who had picked out his entire wardrobe. Today however, he felt a new emotion, that drove him inside the trial room. It was a checked shirt, unlike all the solid shirts his wife got him.
When he wore it next morning, his wife was livid. She said he looked forty. The words stung this time too. But then he looked at himself in the mirror, and beamed. It felt like he was drinking that vanilla shake again, and the words didn’t matter that much anymore.
He felt good.