The boy woke up in a waiting room. The walls were blank and there were no old issues of People or Time that he could pretend to read as he sat. Just two chairs, one of which was filled by his skinny, teenage body, four white walls, and a door at the far corner of the room. He sat there, beads of sweat crawling on the undersides of his arms, nervous that this was what the rest of his existence held in store.
“So this is hell,” he muttered to himself. He expected to arrive at a vast plain of magma, sprinkled with geysers spraying fire and tar that covered sinful souls who were stuck in their tracks, condemned to endure the pain. He expected to see demons with venomous fangs and scaly skin. He expected to see a red man with a pointy tale and a pointier pitchfork. But he didn’t. “A damn waiting room. I’ve gotta say, I couldn’t have picked a better place to suffer.”
No sooner than the words left his lips, the door in the corner of the room cracked open. Three and a half feet from the floor, peering through the crack, was one, blue eyeball. It looked the boy up and down slowly, as if trying to glean some hidden piece of information, then fixated on his face. After a few moments of what seemed like a toddler cyclops surveying potential prey, the door opened further to show the eyeball’s owner.
It was a small child.
“Hello!” the child yelped.
Confused by not only his new company, but by the entirety of this strange circumstance, the boy looked around to make sure the hello was meant for him.
“What? Don’t you know how to talk?” blurted the small child.
“Yes, I do.”
The child flung the door open, bashing it against one of the white walls. It ran into the room and jumped into the empty chair across from the boy who had been waiting for some time.
The child let out a sharp exhale and smiled. “So, what are you doing here?”
“Well, I…” It was harder to say than he thought it would be. “I killed myself,” answered the boy. The words lingered in his throat like lead phlegm.
“Neat! How’d you do it?”
Neat? What he’d done was many things. Dreadful, sad, selfish even, but not neat. He was so thrown that his answer sounded like a question.
“I swallowed a handful of sleeping pills.”
“Sleepy pills. Well that doesn’t sound so bad.”
The boy squinted and furled his eyebrows. He looked around the room as if there might be something to indicate what was going on. But there were only white walls, a door, a lack of mediocre magazines, and the small child.
“If you don’t mind me asking, who are you?”
The child giggled and wiggled its butt in the chair. With a grin as wide as a truck tire, it answered, “I’m God.”
“That’s me.” it said, flashing tiny teeth
“But I thought you were big and old. Shouldn’t you have white hair or something? A beard? I mean, you’re just a kid. A really little kid,” he said, examining the miniature body that sat in front of him.
The child continued to grin and looked down at its feet as they swayed back and forth like fleshy pendulums.
“The way of the guilty man is crooked. But as for the pure, his conduct is upright,” said the child.
“And what does that mean?”
“It means that I’m God you big dummy!” said the child gleefully.
“What the hell,” the boy thought to himself. Was this real? He’d never really believed in God at all, but if there was a God, he didn’t think it was a child. God would be wise. Children can’t be wise. God would be powerful. Children can’t be powerful. It just couldn’t be true. It just couldn’t.
But, the boy never thought he’d end up in a waiting room after what he’d done. He’d expected something much different. Maybe he thought wrong about God, too. Maybe He was real, and maybe He was a child.
The boy sat in silence for a while and thought. Then, he sat some more and thought some more. After sufficient sitting and thinking (which, unfortunately, provided him with insufficient insight), he decided that, whether this child was God or not, there was nothing he could do about it. So, he decided to play along.
“I didn’t think you were real.”
“I’m real! See?” The little child beat it’s chest like a baby guerrilla that ate too much sugary cereal for breakfast.
The boy laughed. “Yeah, I see that. So, uh, God,” he said, not really knowing how to address this tiny person who claimed to be the Almighty. “Can I ask you something?”
“Where are we?”
The child scoffed. “Stupid question. Try again.”
More confused, and slightly offended to be insulted by such a small person, the boy thought. He supposed that it didn’t really matter where he was now, because if this was God, he wasn’t in hell. But he was also quite certain that heaven wasn’t a dull waiting room either. If heaven was a waiting room, there would certainly be magazines to read. And if the child wasn’t God and this was hell, then that was that.
He tried again.
“Where am I going?”
“Yes! You got it! That’s the million dollar question! Where are you going?” shouted the child, jumping up as if its chair was electrified. “Where are you going? That’s the one you needed to ask.” It calmed a bit. “But, there isn’t really an answer. At least not yet.”
“Nope,” it said, crossing its arms. “That’s for you to decide.”
“That’s right,” said the child, completely calm now. “Only you can decide where you’re going.” It sat perfectly still. Its face drooped. Its body stiffened. “Only you can decide where you’re going,” it repeated.
Silence filled the room as the boy tried to interpret what the child said. “May I ask you a question?” the child asked.
“You may,” answered the boy, his voice sounding a bit like a weak breeze.
The little child shuffled its body, straightening up. It coughed lightly to clear its throat.
“Now that you’re here, and now that you’ve done what you’ve done, what’s the truest life lesson that you have learned?” Their eyes met. “Think hard. This decides where you go from here. Think hard.”
The boy stared into the child’s eyes. His truest life lesson? But there were so many. How could he pick just one? And the truest of all of them? What does that even mean?
He pondered the child’s question, trying to arrive at an answer, but he never stopped staring at those true blue eyes.
They were so blue that he began to drown in them.
Suddenly, he couldn’t breathe. He tried to look away but he couldn’t. The undercurrent had trapped him. He was sucked into those deep blue pools. Falling faster and faster, losing any awareness that he had left. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what to think. He was gasping, breathless.
Then, instantly, the child’s eyes became perfectly clear.
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
“Now that I’m here, and now that I’ve done what I’ve done, the truest life lesson that I have learned is that we are always alone. And in that loneliness, our destinies are defined by whether or not we chose to embrace or reject that solitude. Our lives are built on seclusion, on loneliness. And it’s ours to make a part of us or throw away.”
The child stood and held out its hand. “Come with me.”
Taking its hand, the boy felt his lungs fill with air and his shoulders relax. His gaze grew soft and his heart was at ease. They walked to the door.
Though the boy did not keep His word, and though the boy denied His name, there was an open door before him. And through the door they walked.
Together, and alone, through a door that never closes.