The bad gives you lessons, the good gives you happiness, and the best gives you memories.
I couldn’t believe I was witnessing what I once thought of as a dream, a fantasy, as impossible, to become a reality. Opening week at RepubliK nightclub was a complete success! The multitude of people walking out, would express nothing but excitement about what they called the “best day ever.” Not only was the club a success, the Tapas bar attached to it sold out every night and the dance classes were packed daily! Part of me couldn’t believe it yet, but I had to snap back into reality and tell myself “it is real.” People from all over the surrounding areas were coming to our town for the fun, the music, the delicious food, and the memorable experience! The smile I once shared with my angel, was now a smile I could share with everyone. The best part about this moment was that I could live it with my feet planted on the ground. RepubliK was nothing but a vague dream I had since middle school. A simple dream that a simple man could not make possible. Or so I thought. Let me tell you how my angel in disguise made me realize the importance of a smile and kindness to others, as well as the way he helped this ordinary man turn his life around.
My story begins when I thought I had it all. At 24 years old I had my dream job, the brand-new convertible, and the “perfect” relationship. Everyone knew my name in town, and I felt like I was on top of the world. However, all of that got to my head. I forgot who I was, the humble person my parents brought up was not there anymore. I became an arrogant and selfish person. Little by little I was forgetting that I once came from a country where it was a privilege to go to school and having a comfortable bed to sleep on was only for the wealthy. A monster was forming inside me and it needed to stop.
One day, as if the universe was telling me “wake up, you’re human!” I hit rock bottom. Just like that I lost everything, and if you’re wondering what everything was at that moment, I really mean everything, including my sanity. I went from having my apartment to having to move back to my old tiny room at my parents. The perfect job I once had let me go, and without it I could no longer afford the luxury of a car, a phone, or anything of materialistic value. The person I called “my soul mate” walked away without hesitation and just like that I was alone. I cried, screamed and blamed everyone and everything for all the unfortunate things that were happening to me. Little did I know this was not the end. As a matter of fact, it was just the end of a cycle. Like a caterpillar, I needed to crawl and fight to the real destination. I needed to feel every struggle so at the end, when my wings would spread, everything I went through would be worth it.
Six months went by and I couldn’t see the end of this. Nothing could cheer me up and no one seemed to get me out of that depression. My parents finally sat me down one morning in the heat of mid-June and said:
“Enough! we love you and will always love you no matter what, but we didn’t raise a quitter. You will not be in the dark for things that have no true value. You’re healthy, you have a smile that brightens everyone up the minute they see it, and you have our love.”
Mom and dad had a way with their words and chocked up in tears, I hugged them expressing how much I loved them. I had to set my feet down and remember who I was, where I came from and the values I was brought up with. My two best friends were absolutely right! I lost everything but it was time to rebuild it all back. I wasn’t a quitter and now with my feet back on the ground I was seeing things for what they really are. So, it was time for me to get back out there, start from square one and give it my all.
I began applying for jobs and going for interviews. Another two months went by and I couldn’t land anything. As I was getting discouraged a sign at our local gym went up! “Now hiring,” the sign said. I was excited because out of all the things I had a passion for fitness was a big one and personal training had been calling my name. When I was filing out the application, I was told that the position was for a janitor. I was taken back because that was not what I had in mind. That day, something in my gut was telling me that at this point I had no option. At the end of the day, I told myself that beggars can’t be choosers, and this was better than nothing. I was hired and after a few months I learned that it wasn’t bad at all. I enjoyed seeing everyone at this place, made new meaningful friendships and met people who would become super important in my life.
A year went by working and saving up. I learned that my favorite shift to work was the early morning one, when all the seniors would come in. One specific gentleman would always walk the track and after his laps, he would come find me to talk about anything and everything. Marvin and I bonded as if he knew me all his life. He once told me I was like the son he never had. Marvin would listen to my dreams, the struggles I had been through, and with his age and wisdom he would give me the best advice. Sometimes during my break, Marvin would come in with a cup of coffee and sit with me and enjoy conversations that always ended in good laughs. Marvin quickly turned from a friend, to becoming family. That whole year I saw my old friend reply to my smile with an even bigger one. I would give him a hard time just as much as he would give it right back. For his seventy plus years he sure knew how to have a good time. One day, Marvin came in and didn’t seem like himself. His eyes were full of sadness and he seemed to have aged almost overnight.
“Marvin, what’s going on today? Is everything ok?”
“My boy, I’m good, I’m just a bit tired. Couldn’t sleep last night”
“Well at least you made it here for your walk. I’ll be going on break soon, sit down I’ll get us some coffee.”
“I’m afraid not today my boy. I think I’m going to take a little siesta instead, next time I’ll take that coffee. Come here son.”
Marvin had never given me a hug so tight and full of love like he did that morning. He told me with his voice almost breaking
“I’m so proud of you! I remember when you started here you seemed to hate this place. But you were the first person to care about this old man in a very long time. You didn’t hesitate to smile at me or show me kindness. You didn’t care giving up your free time just to listen to this old man ramble about nonsense for the last year. Your Christmas card was the first one I received in many years and for that I thank you my boy.”
I never felt so much love in a hug and chocked up from holding back my tears I said:
“Ok Marvin enough with this, you’re going to make me cry during work hours and I don’t get paid enough for this.”
With one last good laugh, we ended the conversation just like we were used to. Marvin walked away with a big smile as a tear rolled down his cheek.
That weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about Marvin’s words. It was as if he saw the real me. That Monday I arrived to work ready to see this old man and give him a hard time, but I walked into the news that my old friend had passed away the night before. I was speechless, for a moment, my world went dark, and I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or awake. I didn’t want to believe what I heard. I was walking away with tears rolling down my face when the front desk clerk walked up and said:
“Last Friday, Marvin left this for you. He was very specific to give it to you in person.”
It was a small box wrapped in worn brown leather with a string tie. I took the string off and unwrapped the leather to reveal a small soft cover black book with rounded corners and an elastic closure. Attached was an envelope that said, “Time to spread your wings.”
I went to the janitor’s closet to cry because I realized that losing “everything” almost two years ago was nothing compared to losing a good person, a friend, and someone who showed me a true friendship regardless of the age difference. Wiping the tears off my face I opened the little black book to see its content. In it, I found the words, “The secret to your happy life is YOU, the authentic you, my boy.” The following pages were dedicated to a well thought out business plan along with contact numbers to his attorneys, investors he had arranged, and a step-by-step blueprint of “RepubliK.”
Marvin once asked about my dream company. I remember I said with enthusiasm, “A night club! But not just any night club, a club where everyone can come and have fun! Young, old, men, women and even children! This club will have a 24/7 Tapas bar attached to serve costumers after hours and each day of the week will be dedicated to something like: Latin night, urban night, pride night, etc. I want to offer dance classes during the day for all ages and different genres of music. This place will be the best attraction in the area, and everyone will remember the name RepubliK.”
With a serious voice Marvin looked at me that day and said, you have to believe your words and know that if you can get this old man interested and excited for what you just described, you can make it come true. You speak of this place and your eyes sparkle son.”
I laughed and jokingly said, “I don’t even own my own place right now Marvin, maybe in my next life.”
That old man had everything in that little black book. From financial aspects, the building location, and a plan for the food court. He had developed a map for my vision to come to life. But that wasn’t everything! Marvin had left everything taken care of with his only condition being to go through with the project and give back to someone. The last thing I needed to open was the envelop attached. In it, was a check written out to my name for twenty thousand dollars. His message in the check was “Now, you can get your own place.”
I don’t know what I did to deserve a person like Marvin, but I knew at this point that everything I was receiving was not going to be in vain. I would make this dream come true and help others just like I was helped by this angel in disguise.
It has now been a successful year with the business running and as promised, it’s time to give back. I am now starting a scholarship program for any student dreamer out there who has a vision or a plan they want to make reality. It’s time to honor his gift!
About the author
Hello, my name is Mario and I’ve always enjoyed writing. Whether it’s creating stories, or using my own life to inspire me. I've collected many drafts over the years. Come along, I think it’s time to share with you all.