It was just an ordinary day on the city bus until suddenly…nothing.
Nothing happened because nothing ever happens because life is boring and predictable.
Every single day it seems I go on the same bus, whisked off to whatever part of campus I need to be on that day. Usually my friend Jake sits next to me—or stands if life decides to mix things up by stuffing a few more bodies aboard. That day though, we were sitting.
“What do you think God is like?”
Jake didn’t reply. He was mouthing out the words to whatever rap song he was obsessing over that particular day.
“Jake. I asked you a question.”
Jake kept bobbing his head to and fro for a few moments until he finally decided he felt like talking. He reluctantly reached under the hood atop his head to pull out an ear bud, “Yeah? What’s that? Question?”
“Yeah. God. What. Do you think. He’s like.”
Jake made a slow blink at me as if to ask “Are you serious?” I don’t think he appreciates my level of conversation as much as he should.
“God? I dunno. I think of Him as like this white-bearded, big guy, I guess. Like an older Jesus. Or maybe a skinnier Santa. Whatever one.”
“I mean what He’s like. Not His physical appearance. Like, do you think He gets bored? Because I was thinking, if He exists, and we were made in His image, He could have emotions like us. So is it a stretch to think that He gets bored sometimes?”
Again, he gave that look of his. He sighed, saying, “I guess the big guy could get bored. Maybe when it’s not Sunday He has like a dry run of people to listen to or something.”
“Listen, what I’m getting at is a theory I’ve come up with: what if God made matter and started the Big Bang and all that because He was bored? And then when all this stuff was getting old for Him, He made sure humans evolved so they could make trouble. I mean, we tend to make lots of excitement ourselves so He doesn’t even have to intervene all that much. Just like us, He’s probably lazy like that.”
Jake raised his eyebrow in skepticism. “You’re sayin’ God made humans so He can watch us like some kind of TV show? So He doesn’t get bored?”
“More or less.”
Jake was cracking up. He found this humorous somehow. “Mal, my man, you have way too much time on your hands if this is the kinda stuff you think up. But I mean, I love this crazy shit, so don’t you ever stop.” He snickered and went back to listening to his beats.
I never even told him my whole theory.
I think God stopped being lazy one day.
That day, He intervened to make me.
Not much later, I was in Anatomy with Jake. Of course, he wasn’t supposed to be there. While my morning had been spent studying alone and his “learning” in Music Theory, he somehow found me when we had respectively finished. I don’t remember doing as much, but we had apparently made plans to hang out later. So, for whatever reason, he decided the best way to pass the time was to attend my Anatomy lecture. Terrific. Anatomy with Jake. On Reproductive System Day.
I swear, for every second testicles were mentioned or projected on the screen, there was at least a minute of sniggering or even outright laughter. Not just from Jake, but from just about everybody.
Come on, people. It’s the sex organs. Everybody has one and probably joked about them before. Why did they continue to laugh and enjoy them when they know what’s coming? A penis, how hilarious. It’s not as if half the population isn’t bumbling about every day with one.
Jake looked away from the vagina-filled screen to me for a second. “Hey Mal,” he half-whispered with tears of laughter pooling in his eyes. “Why you gotta look that way? This is some good shit.”
I just looked at him with my eyebrows furrowed. He looked a bit taken aback, but seemed to still be stifling some laughter.
“I stopped thinking this was funny right about graduation…from elementary school.”
“Well, at least I don’t think we’re God’s little TV show. You think-” he gave a little chuckle. “You think we’re gonna get renewed next season?” He gave a bigger laugh but fortunately for him, everyone else’s rowdiness covered it up. Personally, I had had enough of him and the lecture and left without another word.
“Malcolm! Over here!”
A girl with vibrant orange-red hair called me over inside the campus Starbucks. She stuck out clearly from the crowd of Wayfarer-spectacled, scarf-wearing adolescents congregated inside.
As I approached her table, I said, “Evangeline, I need to talk to you.” My girlfriend sometimes went by Eve, but I insisted on calling her by her full name; I had never met an Evangeline before and hoped her incidental uniqueness in name and hair would prove her unique as well in personality. I was right to an extent.
With a smile she said, “You aren’t going to go on a rant about hipsters or, heck, maybe life again, are you?”
“No,” I said sitting down. “Something more serious.”
“Serious? Wait a minute, where’s Jake? I know you didn’t like him, but if we have to talk about hiding the body, count me out,” she joked (I hope).
“Jake? No, he’s being a bigger idiot than usual so he’s no longer invited.”
“Well, that’s a relief. But still, you said serious. Serious in that we need to rush out of here for an emergency, or serious in that you’ll need a few hours to ramble? Because I’d rather we go back to my place if this’ll be another rambling of yours.” She darted her eyes about and whispered slowly while leaning in, “I can only handle this hipster atmosphere for so long.”
“I think we should break up.”
She froze and her eyes darted back and forth as if to look for the camera crew in on the joke. “What, are you kidding?”
“No, I’m very serious.”
She laughed, “Mal, you are such a bullshitter. You were just saying the other day how perfect your life is. You specifically mentioned me.”
“My life is so normal. So perfect. I have no real financial worries. I have my health. I go to a good college. I have a beautiful girlfriend that just happened to go to that very same college.”
“…yeah, all I’m hearing is good so far. Where on Earth are you pulling out the break-up card? I’m thinking you should just sit down. I’m feeling a rant long-gone from reality coming.”
“No,” I said. “Listen to me. My life is too good. Almost as if on purpose.”
“You mind telling me what’s the problem with that?”
“It’s so perfect. So perfect it’s quite boring, actually. And I think it’s a test. I think I was made this way for a reason by God. I think God wants to know what would happen if someone had a life where nothing bad ever happened. Would they truly enjoy it? Or are humans destined to be perpetually imperfect beings?”
“So because you’re bored with your life, you seriously think it’s a good idea to go and ruin it by breaking up with me?”
“It’s more of a test. And if the predictability of my life continues, I already know what’s going to happen.”
“Say whatever you want about breaking up. I know you and your crazy theories. You just want me to say whatever it is I’m supposed to say. All I know is you don’t really mean it since you’d be miserable without me.”
“Exactly! I knew you could never give me a straight answer since no answer would satisfy me. You know me too well and you know what makes me happy. See? Again with my life being perfect. I probably couldn’t break up with you if I tried.”
“So can we move on with life then?”
“No, I’m not done with this yet. Let’s go to your place.”
We were outside her door on the twelfth floor. She was about to put her key in the lock when I put my hand atop hers. She gave me a questioning look.
“No, we’re not going in. Follow me,” I said, running down the hall.
“I thought we were going to talk about this?” she yelled after me. She sighed and followed.
I ran through a door and up one flight of stairs. I pulled down a cobweb-covered, black ladder. Evangeline had caught up after I took a few steps onto the ladder.
“What the hell are you doing?”
I pushed open the hatch leading to the roof. There was a chilly wind blowing across this pebble-covered landscape.
“If you’re trying to climb to God, you’re going to need to get a lot higher than this,” Evangeline said as she stepped out.
“That’s not what I’m getting at,” I said as I stepped closer to the edge and looked out at the city glowing before the sunset. Evangeline stepped next to me and looked out as well.
“Doesn’t beauty like this make you appreciate being your supposedly boring and pointless life?”
“I never said it was pointless. There’s definitely a point to it,” I said. “And the sunset…well, it’s not like I haven’t seen one before.”
“It’s not the same every time.”
“It might as well be.”
Evangeline looked at me. She seemed to see my face for the first time; to take in every feature as though perhaps they had changed.
“Evangeline, I seriously believe God made me different. He wants me to live as his little experiment. He wants me to live that perfect life that no human has lived. And he doesn’t want it to end before it’s supposed to.”
She looked out at the city again. “What are you saying, Malcolm? Why do you keep saying these things?”
“I seriously don’t think I could even kill myself. God wouldn’t let me die. He’d rather intervene to save me than try to make another one like me.”
I turned my back to the city. Without looking behind me, I took a step onto the ledge.
Evangeline’s eyes grew wide. “What are you doing?”
“My life is so perfectly predictable. What happens if I throw a wrench in His plan and try to make it imperfect in the most permanent way possible?”
“No…” she started. “No, you don’t need to try doing anything. Plenty of people have lives about as good as yours. You aren’t unique. Your life isn’t perfect.”
“Isn’t it? What more could I need? I’m so content, I feel no need to do much else with this life.”
“You’re not done with this life, Malcolm! You want to know why? You’re insane! There, I said it! Nobody’s perfect, including you. Maybe your life isn’t as flawless as you think. ”
“God will be the judge of that.”
I looked at her and grinned. Slowly, I began to tip backwards. It’s almost unexplainable to just put your arms ahead of you, fall back, and let gravity do its work. No attempt at catching myself, just falling. Nothing to break my fall but the ground far below. Sure, I thought for a little bit on if people like Jake would miss me, would be sorry they didn’t give me respect. I knew at least Evangeline would be sad. But I didn’t linger on that for long as what mattered in the moment was the fall. A bit of a predictable place to land and way to go, but at least going backwards is more memorable than forward.
Unfortunately, a hand reached out and grabbed mine before I could even get my head below my feet.
“See, I told you.” I said in a monotone voice. “I can’t even die. Not yet at least.”
“Shut up. I’ll drop you. I’ll do it, you know. I’ll prove to you what an idiot you are and that you really can die.”
“No, you won’t! That’s the point! You would never do it and God would never let you do it!”
She stared at me with cold eyes and bit her lip, breathing hard through her nose.
“I can’t believe you.”
She was panting as she pulled me up. I stayed limp, not allowing myself to help in my success at failure. I laid on the pebbles atop the roof and stared at the sky.
“If I wasn’t in your life you would have died. I hope you realize that,” she said, sitting next to me.
“Of course. But you would have been there no matter what since my life is perfect and you have to be here to save me.” Although I had to admit to myself the possibility of hitting the ground seemed all too real.
Stars began to come out as the last remnants of sunset faded.
“What if you fell when I was asleep or you killed yourself in your apartment?”
“I can try if you’d like, but I’d live. I’m completely sure on that.”
“Please don’t. If not for your sake, for mine?”
I didn’t answer her. But the more I thought back on the attempted fall, the more I began to wonder if that was the right way to go about things.
Evangeline rested her head atop my chest and we watched the sky glow as the city’s towering buildings lit up. I felt my shirt get wet and noticed Evangeline had been crying.
“Maybe killing myself would just be proof to God that no human can handle a perfect life.”
Evangeline had stopped crying and sniffled a little.
“Maybe I can disprove him by truly being perfect. Living and being happy despite the fact that I already know everything will go my way.”
“You really still believe that, don’t you?”
We stared into the nothingness above us.
“If you want to still break up with me, I won’t let you, you know. I don’t know if just anybody would have saved you today.”
I said nothing. Instead I embraced her. It was predictable. And it was perfect.
And from that, came an unpredictable feeling.
This perfect moment was perhaps deteriorating my faith in my plan. I began to feel sad, almost as if I were her. Empathy, one might say.
I began to feel concern that my path to destroy my perfection was impacting the happiness of the one person who seemed to accept me. What was perfect about that?
And this meant…my life wasn’t perfect. Not if people like Evangeline are intertwined in it and aren’t happy.
In those final hours of the day, her sadness brought me the happiness I needed to continue my slightly pointless life.