General Fiction posted December 3, 2021

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Lend an ear, save a life.

The Voice and the Listener

by Aaqib Naeem

"Thank you..." said the low, shaky voice. As far as thank-yous go, there was no mistaking that this one stood out in terms of both sincerity and gratitude. The tremor in the voice could have given anyone goose bumps. Normally, no one starts a conversation with an old friend in such a manner when meeting after a few years gap. "Why...What for? I mean, are you alright?" came the slightly startled response.

"You don't remember, do you? No worries; I'll tell you. Oh, I've always wanted to tell you!" They were sitting at a small table in a crowded cafeteria and had to lean forward to hear each other properly. "You remember when I was going through The Thing and I finally shared it with the rest of you?" Oh! The Thing, right...that certainly rang a bell.

"You were all so kind to me and offered to help in whatever way possible. Made promises, encouraged and advised, introduced activities as distraction and provided opinions on how I must live my life. Some of that was helpful but the rest I couldn't relate with. But you didn't. I remember you offering little in terms of words. Yet, you were the kindest of them all. For one by one, they excused themselves and left. You stayed. And that is when you asked me if I had more to share still. That you would stay and listen because all you had to offer was your time. You would sit by my side a little longer, if I wanted to share a little more. And ohhh God, I did. For there were tons more from whence the rest had come..." The voice cracked several times. It's fragile, teary nature became as visibly real as the tears rolling down from behind the pained eyes.

"I spoke for hours. It was the keen, encouraging eye contact which kept me going. Whenever I thought I must be boring you, I would look over and find no trace of disinterest in your eyes. You barely spoke. Offered no advice, passed no judgment and never cut me off. My honesty didn't scare or push you away. At that moment in time, I was truly grateful to have one person who would just sit by my side and allow me to be me. That is the day you became my savior!" The flush of embarrassment this revelation brought was apparent on the listener's face. It began to hastily mumble a typically modest reply but the voice took hold of it's hands and shushed it. The voice was smiling through it's tears now.

"No...I need you to understand. I was in a dark place. The help you offered was what helped me navigate my way through it. Let me acknowledge you with reverence today. You're a lifesaver, a hero and the kindest of them all. With me, it was you who made the difference. Thank you..." repeated the low, shaky voice.

Making A Difference writing prompt entry
Writing Prompt
Write an inspirational story in 500 words or less. One character must make a positive difference of some kind in another character's life.


Author's Notes:

Word Count(excluding the title) is 490 according to MS Word.

This one is a dialogue-heavy story which I tried to write in a manner where I could transcend the idea of genders and identities. Instead, I have tried to make it about the roles we play for each other in our day to day lives. These roles are swappable as we can easily find ourselves at either end of this spectrum. It's also common that we might end up playing one of these roles for a person around us and at the same time, another person is also there playing the same role for our sake.

So, I thought it would be better to not assign the characters any names or genders if they are to become a part of the larger picture. It was done in a bid to hopefully make the story relatable for most readers. Terming the characters as the Voice and the Listener just made more sense. The issue(s) being faced by the sharer were purposefully kept vague for this very reason and I just referred to them as 'The Thing'.

Frankly, I could not delve into more detail with the word limit in place. When I first checked, the word count was already 551 words and had to cut and edit out a few relatively unnecessary details to stay within the limit.

We can make a difference for people in a number of ways. There is no one fixed way of helping out and we can often be at a loss in finding the method that will work best on a specific person. So here's a little advice...just try listening for once instead of regurgitating the usual BS. You never know what you might end up discovering while listening and therein may lie the key for the solution.

P.S. Image taken from google.
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