Friday, December 14, 2007

Hope



She wraps her fingers around the mug. Enjoys the way the warmth spreads through her arms. She hasn't slept a lot lately, not with her exams and outings and the things that come with college life. But this is her last year, so the parties have slowed down. She hasn't thought about much because you don't think it about it much when you're in university.
University is about doing. And agreeing.
She hadn't always thought that way. Not her first year, when the boys and the freedom led her to believe all things were possible. Not in her second year when she worked as a residence counselor, when her experience and quick wit made her the envy of most of the young freshmen. And not even last year, when her profs began to make a little more sense, when she realized just how bright and intelligent they were, and actually started listening.

This year has been different.

He slides into the chair in front of her, and doesn't notice that she's been thinking about serious ideas, or that she's been thinking at all. She watches as he flicks his cell phone open and makes a call. He still hasn't said hello. At the table next to her is a couple of other women slightly older than her. Both of them are on the phone. Music plays in the background. It's jazz, but she doesn't know that. Nor does she know the hundreds of hours of research that have gone into selecting the perfect music to create the perfect ambience for the cafe. She doesn't notice the exact spacing between the tables that allow it to feel like home or that the standard greeting by the people working there has been taught during a rigorous training program.

She's waiting for him to get off the phone.

He's good looking, with his floppy blond hair and chiseled cheeks. Malevolence plays around the corner of his lips. It's not an act but she pretends that it is and calls it cute. He treats her poorly, but occasionally smiles. She calls that "cute", too. In fact, she calls nearly everything she wants "cute".

Nobody listens anyway.

He's off the phone now, and he slides his hand up the inside of her arm. He doesn't say anything, and she doesn't pull away. She likes it. Expects it. She smiles at him, and she gives her sex away when she does, letting him know that he's chosen wisely. He smirks, nods, and than pulls his arm away. He's on the phone again.

They talk for two hours about nothing. He's in politics. When they're done agreeing that they're right, about everything, he slides his hand up her arm and this time sticks his tongue in her mouth. She expects this too, and responds. He leaves, but she'll call him later. And she will.

They met two nights ago.

Her coffee is cold now, and she brings the cup back to the counter. She can't remember drinking it. It doesn't matter. She has beer in the fridge. And vodka. The night will pass.
The air is cold, but she doesn't mind. It's good to walk. The stars are covered tonight, in part at least, by a gray mist. She wishes she could see them. Sometimes she thinks about God. She wonders about the possibility, but has never really explored the idea. Her parents don't go to church. Her mom believes in something. But she doesn't see the point. Why? And why God?
There is a layer of snow on the sidewalk, and it puffs away from her leather boots with every stride. Tomorrow is not really tomorrow. It is simply another today. And it will be filled with the same distractions, the same calls, the same sex (even when it's another boy), the same arguments, the same happiness. She thinks that there is an insanity to life, and than tries to stop thinking about it. Doesn't that make her insane?

The evergreens on the corner of her street are heavy with snow, and she reaches out and knocks the snow off, thrilled when the branch swings upward as if free. She spends the next thirty minutes freeing the branches she can reach. The snow flops into her hair and face and neck and she squeals in delight as the cold and ice trickle down her neck. She examines the tree branches. They have two long slick needles on the end of each bud, and in the darkness, they look like long fingernails. Once, when she was young, she thought about helping animals. Now, she worries about her paycheck on Fridays. Not as a student. But in the future. The number of zeroes will indicate her success or failure in life.

A cat squirts out from under a parked car as she walks past her neighbour's house. Instead of running away however, it stops and looks at her. She bends down, and it slowly approaches her. She holds out her finger. The cat looks at her with its unblinking eyes, and than licks her finger.

She starts to cry.

When did life become so meaningless? Is life only one distraction after another. Her professors, these wise and learned men and women, have told her to live for today. But tomorrow is today and today is absurd. Why do anything? She wished she knew more about God, but she doesn't. She wished that she didn't need boys to like her, but she does. She's not afraid to tell the truth about herself, but she's not sure which truth to tell, because it all seems true.

She pets the cat for a while, enjoys the warmth of the fur beneath her fingers. She looks up at the sky, where the mist has cleared. The stars sparkle like diamonds against the black. They are too far to touch, to smell, to hear, and yet, they are strangely comforting.

She has met so many smart people in her life, but no one has ever really explained the stars. Not really. She's standing outside her house. She can hear the music from inside, her housemates are having a party. She doesn't want to go in. She doesn't want to have the same conversation she just had.

Isn't there more?

She's been told all the reasons why not to believe in God. In truth, she's met some pretty stupid and mean Christians. But still, it isn't the silliness of people she's thinking about. She's thinking about the possibility. About the probability. There are so many distractions in life. We don't call them that, but she knows it to be true. Most of her life is built on distraction -- on TV, on sex, on drama, on school, on work, on money, on clothes, on stuff, on feeling good -- and she's suddenly tired of it all.

"Hey, you coming inside?"

Her friend is calling her.

"No."

"You okay."

"Yup."

The door closes as she sits in the snow bank. They think she's drunk. Maybe she is. She's decided to wait, and see if she can find God. If she can find hope. because if she can't, well, what's the point?

Tomorrow is today.