Chapter 36:

Countdown

Would You Paint My Dunk


After spending a lot of time in the mall, we are returning to our respective dens. I dropped her first before going my way.

Arriving at home, I took a quick bath and spent a heartwarming dinner with my parents. As fatigue accumulated in my body, I dropped myself into the bed and quickly dozed off.

Time passed, and now it’s Sunday, 31 December 2023. For a change, our family went to church altogether.

Well, I felt bad that I spent all day having a date with her on Christmas, where I should have celebrated Him instead, so I decided to make amends with the following Sunday.

He will forgive me, right?

At the church, a pastor was standing before the altar. He made such a long sermon, and the duration almost made me fall asleep. Still, even in the middle of my drowsiness, I tried my best to remember the essence of his long explanation.

After he finished his preaching, he told us to begin the new year with a new resolve. He said that he would pray for our resolution to come true, and God will guide us through the following year.

The church crew are busy handing out a piece of blank paper and a wooden pencil. After I got mine, my parents started to write on the paper.

As people were busy writing, my paper remained blank. I have no new resolution for the new year, and neither does my 1366 x 768 pixels monitor. I have no need for such changes.

I mean, goals don’t count for a new year's resolution, right? It’s about what you do differently than last year, so I don’t have to do something new. I just have to do what I’m doing right now: pursuing a spot on the basketball team, and, if possible, her heart.

After a while, the pastor told people to come to him one by one so he can pray for our resolutions.

When it came to my turn, he was surprised to see that mine was blank. He asked for my reason, and I told him that I don’t need to change my ways, and I just have to work hard toward my goal instead.

He asked if I had something that I needed to pray on, and I told him to pray for my university romance and my basketball career, especially to get a spot in my team.

Soon, he prayed for me, and I came back to my seat. After everyone had taken their turn and back to their seat, the pastor went to the altar once more and raised his hands wide upward.

“May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. From today, until maranatha. Amen.”

After finishing the prayer of blessing, the pastor waved his hands.

“The church service is now over. Happy Sunday, God bless you.”

Soon, he left the altar and people started to leave the church.

“Hoahm.”

I closed my mouth as I yawned. If I stayed for a few more minutes, I would have fallen asleep. Well, I could only hope that I won’t fall asleep later.

And sure enough, what came up next made me wide awake. It was enough to wash away my drowsiness.

What is it, you ask? Okay, for context, my parents stopped taking me to a fast-food outlet for five months already. The last time they brought me was when I celebrated my birthday on 31st July.

As an athlete, I shouldn’t eat these often. I know this is not healthy for my body, but how could I hold myself back? I’m drooling just looking at the menu.

In the end, I gave in to my own desires. I ended up ordering a beefy, juicy burger. The lunch menu was complete with French fries and iced tea. We enjoyed our meal, chatting and laughing around before we headed home.

Home at last, I spent my evening with my dad, practicing basketball until it’s quite late. Drenched in sweat, both of us took the bath in turns.

As the sun sunk into the horizon, I celebrated a heartwarming dinner with my parents. We are having happy family time as the new year approaches. This time, I’m planning to sleep late. Why not? I want to see the fireworks.

Thinking that she would appreciate company in the new year, I decided to call her.

Duut! Duut!

“Hello Keith. What’s up?”

“Ah... I just want to chat with you while waiting for the countdown. Speaking of which, am I bothering you?”

“Nah. I’m happy you called, Keith. Like you, I’m looking forward to the firework show. I heard that the budget this time is quite big, unlike past years where we had covid-19 and everyone stays at home. I can’t wait for it to start…”

Suddenly, a brilliant idea struck my mind.

Why don’t I invite her to watch the fireworks together?

Thinking that she won’t refuse, I decided to ask her.

“Jess, why don't we go to an open space to watch it together? The view from the Oakland Bay Bridge would be great, and it’s such a perfect scene to paint.

“Nyeh…”

I was surprised to hear her response. Of all the times I talked to her, this is the first time she uttered that word. And no, she didn’t stop there. She continued to surprise me as she went on.

“Keith, no matter how breathtaking the view it is, I don’t want to go into a crowded place just to please my eyes. I’m tired, and I don’t wish to exhaust myself by going there. Watching the fireworks from here is more than enough.”

Well, right… It’s so like her. And there goes my plan to watch fireworks together with her.

But again, I got another idea. If she doesn't go outside, then we can just make our memorable moments ourselves. All I need to do is to light this conversation ablaze.

“I see, you have turned on your power-saver mode. Ha-ha.”

I could hear her chuckling sound from the call.

“Lol, Keith. I’m not a smartphone.”

Thinking that the conversation is going my way, I decided to sneer further.

“Bet you are. You’re low on battery and need a recharge.”

After I finished my sentence, she started laughing.

“Ha-ha. Then what are you? A walking power bank?”

“Bingo. If you want, I can come over and recharge you real quick.”

We continued to talk and laugh under the gaze of the moonlight. Time passes, and now the countdown for the new year has come. Both of us began our countdown together.

“Ten.”

“Nine.”

“Eight”

“Seven.”

“Six.”

“Five.”

“Four.”

“Three.”

“Two.”

“One.”

Ciuuuuu… Dor!

Numerous fireworks are launching up into the sky in turns. The fire flowers are blooming beautifully as they explode in the sky, before briefly vanishing into smokes and ashes.

While they only bloomed for a fleeting moment, they managed to captivate people that laid their gaze at them. Short-lived as they are, they held a spectacle to behold.

Watching them popping left and right, we celebrated the new year altogether.

“Happy new year, Keith!”

“Yeah! Happy new year as well, Jess.”

Even though we are miles apart, we are connected by the invisible wireless signal between our phones, trading our voices as the night goes by. Under the same sky, we are looking at the same place: Where the explosions take place under the twilight.

Slowly, the fireworks show dries down. Soon, the scenery turned silent as the explosion sound vanished. Wilting quickly after blooming beautifully, the fire flowers were nowhere to be seen. It was just as if its existence served to enlighten people’s mood for a while.

With the noise now out of equation, I decided to attempt another confession. This moment won’t come twice, and the mood is quite right.

I think I will have a chance. It’s all or nothing.

I took a deep breath to prepare myself.

Okay, now I’m ready. Here we go.

“Jess…”

But before I could say anything more, she started talking as well.

“It’s getting late. Keith, Let’s call it a day and get some rest... Wait, did you say anything? I’m sorry to cut you…”

Crap, now what? It’s not like I can push forward and confess right now. The mood has gone. Oh well… I just have to try another time.

“Nah, it’s nothing. Well, good night, Jess.”

“Night. Sleep well, Keith!”

Beep!

The beeping sound marked the end of the long voice call with her. I laid myself on the bed and sighed.

“I guess today is not my lucky day. Still, this is not the first time I failed to confess. Did God get angry because I went shopping with her instead of celebrating His birth? Well, I guess I’ll change myself this year.”

I got up and sat on my bed. Just like other people, I clasped my hands and closed my eyes before praying.

“God, I know you hear my prayer and my plea. Please help me to build a further relationship with her. I promise, I’ll start attending the church from now on, so please, help me. Thank you, Lord. Amen.”

I stood up and walked to my desk. I took a pencil and a piece of paper and started writing.

-----------------------------------------------

New Year Resolution

- Attend church every Sunday

Goals/To-Do-List for the Year:

[ ] Turn the fake couple relationship with her into a real one

[ ] Moved out from reserve

[ ] Get assigned of 4-minute playing time or more

[ ] Help the team win the regional cup

-----------------------------------------------

Despite saying that I won’t have any new year resolutions earlier, I ended up writing one. It had one commitment and four goals. Somehow, I felt like I’m a greedy person, asking God to give me all what I asked and only attend church consistently in return.

Ah well, whatever. I'm just gonna sleep.

I opened my drawer and took a plaster and a scissor. Plastering the paper on the wall, I put everything back to where it was, and threw myself back into the bed.

A new year, a new start, a new commitment. Everything is new. But, all of that begins with a good night's sleep.

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon