“I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability.”
“I feel like we need alcohol for this,” I sighed, rubbing my forehead. We were sitting on the hood of my car, looking out over the blank, empty field of some park that had closed at dusk. My heels rested on the front bumper, and I bent at the waist to bury my face in my arms.
“I don’t think we do.”
“You’re wrong,” I muttered into my arm.
“No, I’m not. Alcohol is an unnecessary complication most of the time,” Sebastian replied.
I stared straight ahead. Sometimes unnecessary complications were all that kept me from focusing on the necessary ones. “To each his own.”
“Ew, that’s cliche,” Sebastian replied, making a face. “Cliches are the devil.” There was silence for a minute. “What is ‘this,’ anyway?” Sebastian asked.
I straightened, looking out at the darkness. What was this? What was I doing? I had only known Sebastian for a few weeks and had only attempted to be his friend for less. We weren’t friends. That was some expression of desperate optimism. We were only a step up from strangers; I had no reason to tell him anything, and he had no reason to care.
Sharing emotions in the night wasn’t me.
“You’re right,” I said. “You should just take me home, this was stupid.” I moved to push myself off the car, but he stopped me with a hand on my arm. It fell away.
“I-“ Sebastian stopped, looked away from me. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stay. You don’t have to talk about anything.”
It wasn’t all the same to me, but I didn’t protest. I didn’t want to be alone then anyway. It was several minutes before either of us spoke, and the only sound was the occasional growl of a car’s engine in the distance before it faded out of earshot. There were a few stars in the sky, but it was cloudy. The moon wasn’t full.
“Do you ever wonder what would happen if you could pinpoint one single moment in your life where if you had made a different decision, you’d be a totally different person today?” I whispered.
“Hana, if you’d had orange juice rather than milk on your first day of second grade, it wouldn’t make you anyone else,” Sebastian replied. He was trying for a joke, but I didn’t laugh. In a more serious and far quieter voice, he added, “Yes.”
I gave a little shrug. “Or if you could change just one tiny gene or bit of DNA and be someone else?” I continued. “What if it’s one little base pair that’s keeping me from being a better person.”
Sebastian looked over. “Are you not a good person?”
I shrugged again. What if it’s one little base pair that’s keeping me from being a happy person?
“Even if you could find that little base pair and change it to something better, I don’t think you should,” Sebastian commented. He said it the same way he might tell someone he didn’t think it’d be a good idea for them to dangle by a thread over the edge of a cliff as they were already unwinding the spool- urgent, as if the loss of who I was would matter at all. As if becoming someone else at the drop of a base pair might be an imminent possibility.
“Because your DNA is what makes you you. You change it and you’ll be someone else.”
I was quiet. “What’s so bad about that?”
There was a brief moment of silence, then Sebastian laughed. My eyes snapped to him, and he raised a brow, asking, “Do all friendships start off this heavy?”
“Sorry,” I blurted.
“No, no. It’s okay,” Sebastian replied. “You strike me as one of those people who has to get a lot of things out in the open before you can loosen up.”
“You’re wrong,” I said, for the second time that night. Strike two. “I don’t like putting anything out in the open.”
Sebastian pushed himself off the hood of the car. “Maybe not, but that doesn’t stop you from needing to.” Padding across the grass, he sat down crosslegged a few feet away. It didn’t take long before I felt awkward enough to follow. “Then once you do, willingly or not, you can relax.”
“So I guess you’re just always well adjusted? You can click with anyone and trust them from the start, even if they don’t know a thing about you?” I demanded, my voice sharper than I intended.
“I think you start with the deep, dark stuff, and if people can get through that, they see the lighter side of you. Or I’m hoping, anyway. I tend to keep things light until I know I can trust you.”
“This doesn’t seem light.” I wished I could see his face better in the dark. As it was, all I could make out was the shiny glare off his glasses, angled towards the sky. “So you’ve got deep, dark shit too, then.”
Sebastian shrugged. “Who doesn’t?” With a sigh, I grabbed a handful of grass and began shredding it between my fingers. “I’m nineteen. You’re, what? Eighteen?” He nodded. “Why do either of us have dark shit in our lives? It’s not exactly encouraging for the other seventy or so years.”
“Maybe our lives are like you,” Sebastian offered.
“Get through the dark shit and then open up for the lighter things.”
I frowned and murdered another handful of grass. “Are you an optimist, Sebastian?”
“Seb. And no.”
“I like Sebastian,” I told him. “And why not?”
“It sounds like an old sailor’s name. And maybe one day I’ll find out.”
That was fair. That was fair.
For a while, we sat in silence. A gentle breeze kept the night on the verge of comfortable, and the low irregular passing of cars filled the silence. There were figures far away in the park, stumbling and laughing. I wondered what they were laughing about. Every now and then, I would glance over at Sebastian. Sometimes his eyes were on me, sometimes they were focused on something in the distance, and sometimes it was too dark to make out. Either way, he didn’t seem bothered by the strangeness of the night. He was tranquil, quiet and patient as if waiting for me to say something deep and meaningful. I didn’t plan on indulging him.
My back began to ache from slouching in a sitting position, so I leaned back on the grass, eyes tilted towards the sky. It was only a few seconds before he reclined beside me, saying, “I always took you for a star-gazer.”
I wanted to laugh. The stars were the worst thing about the night. They were so far away, so tiny and isolated from us, from one another. They were so infinitely far that distance no longer held any meaning, and there was something sad about that. There was something sad about all of it.
“You’re wrong,” I whispered. “You’re wrong.”