She was sitting across from me at a table in a corner of the café. We were surrounded on three sides by windows and hot bright sun.
We talk about ideas. This is what I love about her, this friend of mine whose name is Alyssa. Her eyes become bright and her hands dance across the table while the ideas come flying out. We cannot stop them. Our plans for the future in hundreds of variations, countless lives to be lived and the sheer possibility of it.
This time she’s thinking of a Master’s degree in Engineering. We’ve been through this before, the seven, eight, nine majors she’s switched between in her college career. Everything from Architecture to Anthropology and even Mathematics. I’m the opposite. I’ve always known that I wanted to write. Which is sort of like saying that I want to breathe. The question is, having inhaled, what to do next and how?
“Heaven,” she says, quoting another friend of ours, “is infinite learning.” And yes, the moment she said it something opened up, like coming up for a gulp of air and I knew that it was true. Or at least that I believed in it.
“When I was a kid,” she continues, “I remember that I wasn’t scared of dying. But I hated the idea of living forever, of an eternity where things were always the same.” And I wonder what it means to live in a world where we worship the idea of paradise ad infinitum, everyone safe all of the time and knowing what to expect.
It’s one of the first warm afternoons of almost-summer. I’m wearing a dress and the backs of my knees are wet, the sun through the windows behind me blurring a computer screen full of half-answered emails. Alyssa is designing a poster for a presentation at the campus lab she works at, where they are trying to turn algae into bio-fuels. We are both drinking iced coffee.
If heaven is infinite learning, then the most valuable virtue must be curiosity. Which requires courage. To look. Always with the risk of staring heartbreak in the face, never closing our eyes or turning away. To handle life by the fistful, always asking questions of it.