Helio's Transit (A Short Story)
Even my shitty apartment on a rainy day made me feel completely content after spending a few hours locked up in a prison cell. You start to appreciate all those things you take for granted like; greasy fast food restaurants, and boring Business Ethics class lectures, and cliché television shows, and cheap cigarettes, and girls that don't smell like raw sewage and smoke meth out of the end of a broken light bulb. I start pacing around the mustard yellow haze of my little cube throwing away half full beer cans and emptying out coffee mugs full of cigar guts.
I thought about going to the library but I knew I’d just end up reading Student Health Center pamphlets on safe sex and taking smoke breaks every ten or fifteen minutes. It’s funny how even as an adult we still feel the need to punish ourselves. Going to the library was like sending myself to time out, even if I was caught up in my classes I’d still go. After sanitizing my living room with half of a bottle of air freshener, I didn’t know where to go so I just got on the bus.
So you’re on your way to heaven traveling a thousand miles per hour on a golden chariot drawn by two lightning fast solar steeds. You’re edging up on those big pearly rod iron gates and you look back down at the world for one last time, but there’s nothing there. When you finally meet this guy called God you ask him, “What did you do with the earth?”
“Earth?” God says, “You really cared about it didn’t you?”
Then, he chuckles and puts his giant, wrinkly hands on your shoulders and looks you dead in the eyes. Then god asks, “Do you miss it? Did it satisfy your imagination?” And you look confused and you’re trying to think of something clever to say, because after all it’s fucking God for Christ’s sake. So you look at him and take a deep breath and say no. You tell him, “Honestly, I can’t say that I was completely satisfied.”
So he takes his giant God fingers and pulls his silky-smooth grey curls out of his face and rubs the big gaping crease on his forehead. He turns back around and asks, “So what then? Was it too cruel? Was it too dull?” He’s moving around and doing these grand hand gestures saying, “What do you think? Seriously.” And you say, “Wait.” You tell him you need a moment to think. Then you say, “Are you asking me? You want my opinion? Really?”
He says yes.
So you tell him, but before you do you sit down on his great big knee and put your mouth right next to his hairy ear and say, “I’m still mad at you for killing John Hughes…and I hated the smell of Eucharistic incense burning in a Catholic church.” And then finally you say, “And one more thing.” You ask him, “Can I smoke in here?”
Just as I begin to light my cigarette, the bus comes to an abrupt rest at a cedar park bench in front of the stadium, causing my face to slam against the seat in front of me, knocking my cigarette on the floor. I lean down to pick up the butt and notice a pair of tiny suede moccasins creeping up towards the back of the bus. I look up and I'm staring up at this tall girl with jet-black hair and baby blue eyes. Suddenly I’m all choked up, like a fourteen-year-old boy seeing his first pair of tits, all awkward and curious at the same time. I knew this girl. I think her name was Cheyenne. I’d met her once before at a pub I was way too young for in midtown, but that was weeks ago. Like a creep I start to imagine she’s everything I want her to be, your orthodox buccaneer sex symbol.
For that moment, Cheyenne appears to be everything I’ve ever hoped for. One of those damaged free spirit types, loosely available to the concepts of modern technology, with a bohemian punk rock fashion sense. Cheyenne never ties her shoes instead she just loosens them up enough to where she isn’t tripping over her laces. She has a Japanese Koi fish tattooed on her left shoulder, and a hemp bracelet laced in seashells tied securely around her boney wrist. I’m almost completely positive that she has never owned anything resembling normal underwear, but you can see her thin, polyester drawstrings on her bikini popping out of her mesh tank top.
I could tell she loved mystery. If you were to turn your back on Cheyenne for a second, she would disappear into a cloud of black eye liner and cigarette ash. If she left, then she wouldn’t return. She wouldn’t even think about returning. She might change her name or dye her hair. She might get locked in jail or thrown in a mental institute. If she were to never see you again, she wouldn’t ever think about you.
The more you looked at her, the more real she felt. We’d fall in love for a fifteen minute bus ride on rainy day, but she’d give me up for an overseas career with some bullshit philanthropy organization. I’d send her elaborate and affectionate letters in the mail to a false address she gave me in Sierra Leone. Of course, she’d never write back. I’d tell myself I’d never find another girl like Cheyenne. Then, I’d settle down and marry a soccer mom that owns sixty pairs of sweat pants and only drinks red wine on occasion. I think to myself, one day I’ll grow up and I’ll never ever forgive myself for it.
So I reach in my pocket and pull out another cigarette, slide my sunglasses down to the tip of my nose, and walk over to Cheyenne. I sit next to her as I light a cigarette and before I can even think of something modestly romantic to say, Cheyenne gets up and quietly exits the bus.
After a few cocktails, God leans over holding a small, golden plate and you smash your cigarette out in it. You look at him and say, “You know what I just realized?” You tell him, “If you want to boost your approval rating you should just drop the average life span to twelve, maybe thirteen years old. Any time after that we start blaming you for everything.”
John G. Avent.