“These eyes of mine have seen infinity, Joe.” I repeated Vic’s last words to Carlos. I thought talking it out would help, but every syllable was a sucker punch. Carlos must’ve noticed. He has a knack for that. He saw me sink deeper into his recliner and handed me a beer. The glass was cold and wet.
“He’s been through—shit, all three of us have been through Hell,” Carlos said. He sat on his couch and put his feet up on the coffee table. He shrugged. “We came back, though.”
“But what did we bring with us?” I stood up and went over to his patio door. The city lights scratched at the vast darkness of the universe. Humanity’s refuge was sparkling universe itself, a clump of lit buildings that we call a city. Nine billion people in the world and a little over half live in cities.
“God,” Carlos said definitively. Before we got lost up there in the Blackness, Carlos wasn’t much for the traditions of Catholicism. He only played lip-service to the religion, occasionally going to meet with family or for baptisms. Never heard him pray until the three of us were jettisoned out of the airlock. It was like a painful sigh and then we were sent tumbling through the Blackness for just a little over half an hour. Not a long time, but long enough to think about your place in this universe and what it all meant. For Carlos, it meant, “—we were blessed that day. We were given a purpose, Joe. True meaning comes from Him.”
I listened to his words. They pierced me, but I was wind while he was rock. I’d last forever while he’ll be reduced to sand. I nursed my beer again. “And Vic?”
“Some people see the void and just can’t take it,” Carlos said. “Us, though, we saw the light. It’s not dark out there, you know. Not completely. The light’s only been redshifted, we just can’t see it. It’s there, though. Always there. Radiant. Beautiful. Just like Him.”
“You know I’m not subscribing to that philosophy, right?”
Surprise was scrawled on Carlos’ face. “You saw it. If you didn’t, you’d be in the morgue right now. You know that all of this means something. We’re not here by accident. We were made for a purpose. You just have to see the Light.”
My finger circled the rim of the bottle. “But this, this is all meaningless. All three of us were out there and all we saw was just an infinite universe. An uncaring universe. This universe doesn’t exist for us. It existed long before us and will continue to exist long after we’re gone. We’re inconsequential to it. It’s not going to give us meaning.”
“I found my meaning.”
“You found religion and you think it gives you meaning, but you’re in denial. It’s like you’re watching static on a shitty TV set and thinking you’re watching the best show ever when it’s just indecipherable noise. There’s no meaning in it. It’s not going to come from God. It’s going to come from within. We make our own meaning.”
Carlos pondered on that. He did that thing where he closed his eyes to make sense of everything. As he opened his eyes, he raised his bottle and smiled. “To Vic.”
I raised mine and then we both finished our beers. I looked out to the city’s skyline again searching for what it all means and knowing that I’ll never find it.
Photo credit: Jamie MacPherson