Home > The Sun Is Also a Star(10)

The Sun Is Also a Star(10)
Author: Nicola Yoon

Unmoored and uncertain, he’s drifted from city to city, apartment to apartment, job to job, anchored to the world by almost nothing. He has trouble falling asleep. The only thing that helps is watching late-night TV with the sound muted. The endless cascade of images stills his mind and sends him off to sleep.

One night, as he’s performing this same ritual, a show he’s never seen catches his eye. A man is standing at a lectern in front of a huge audience. Behind him is an enormous screen with the same man’s face projected on it. He is weeping. The camera pans to show a rapt audience. Some of them are crying, but the conductor can tell it’s not from sadness.

That night he does not sleep. He unmutes the sound and stays up all night watching the show.

The next day, he does some research and finds Evangelical Christianity, and it takes him on a journey he did not know he needed. He finds that there are four main parts to becoming an Evangelical Christian. First, you must be born again. The conductor loves the notion that you can be made anew, free of sin and therefore worthy of love and salvation. Second and third, you must believe wholly in the Bible and that Christ died so we may all be forgiven of our sins. Finally you must become a kind of activist, sharing and spreading the gospel.

Which is why the conductor makes his announcement over the loudspeakers. How can he not share his newfound joy with his fellow man? And it is joy. There’s a pure kind of joy in the certainty of belief. The certainty that your life has purpose and meaning. That, though your earthly life may be hard, there’s a better place in your future, and God has a plan to get you there.

That all the things that have happened to him, even the bad, have happened for a reason.

SINCE I’M LETTING THE UNIVERSE dictate my life on this Final Day of Childhood, I don’t bother waiting for another train to take me to Thirty-Fourth Street. The conductor said to go find God. Maybe he (or she—but who are we kidding? God’s definitely a guy. How else to explain war, pestilence, and morning wood?) is right here in Times Square just waiting to be found. As soon as I’m on the street, though, I remember that Times Square is a kind of hell (a fiery pit of flickering neon signs advertising all seven deadly sins). God would never hang out here.

I walk down Seventh Avenue toward my barber, keeping my eye out for some kind of Sign. On Thirty-Seventh I spot a church. I climb the stairs and try the door, but it’s locked. God must be sleeping in. I look left and right. Still no Sign. I’m looking for something subtle, along the lines of a long-haired man turning water into wine and holding a placard proclaiming himself to be Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior.

Suit be damned, I sit down on the steps. Back across the street, people are making their way around a girl who is swaying slightly. She’s black with an enormous, curly Afro and almost-as-enormous pink headphones. The headphones are the kind that have giant ear pads for blocking out sound (also, the rest of the world). Her eyes are closed and she has one hand over her heart. She’s completely blissed out.

The whole thing lasts about five seconds before she opens her eyes. She looks around, hunches her shoulders like she’s embarrassed, and hurries away. Whatever she’s listening to must be amazing to cause her to lose herself right there in the middle of the sidewalk in New York City. The only thing I’ve ever felt that way about is writing poetry, and that can never go anywhere.

I’d give anything to really want the life my parents want for me. Life would be easier if I were passionate about wanting to be a doctor. Being a doctor seems like one of those things you’re supposed to be passionate about. Saving lives and all that. But all I feel is meh.

I watch as she walks away. She moves her backpack to one shoulder, and I see it: DEUS EX MACHINA is printed in big white letters on the back of her leather jacket. God from the machine. I hear the conductor’s voice in my head and wonder if it’s a Sign.

I’m not usually a stalker, and I’m not following her, exactly. I’m maintaining a noncreepy, half-block distance between us.

She goes into a store called Second Coming Records. I shit you not. I know now: it’s definitely a Sign, and I’m serious about blowing with the wind today. I want to know where it leads.

I DUCK INTO THE RECORD store, hoping to avoid the stares of anyone who saw me acting unbalanced on the sidewalk. I was having a moment with my music. Chris Cornell singing “Hunger Strike” gets me every time. He sings the chorus like he’s always been hungry.

Inside Second Coming, the lights are dim and the air smells like dust and lemon-scented air freshener, like it always does. They’ve changed the layout a little since the last time I was here. The records used to be arranged by decade, but now it’s by musical genre. Each section has its own era-defining poster: Nevermind by Nirvana for grunge. Blue Lines by Massive Attack for trip-hop. Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. for rap.

I could spend all day here. If today were not Today, I would spend all day here. But I don’t have the time or the money.

I’m headed to trip-hop when I notice a couple making out in the pop diva section in the far back corner. They’re lip-locked next to a poster of Like a Virgin by Madonna, so I can’t make out the faces exactly, but I know the boy’s profile intimately. It’s my ex-boyfriend Rob. His make-out partner is Kelly, the girl he cheated on me with.

Of all the people to run into, today of all days. Why isn’t he in school? He knows this is my place. He doesn’t even like music. My mom’s voice rings in my head. Things happen for a reason, Tasha. I don’t believe that sentiment, but still, there has to be a logical explanation for the horribleness of this day. I wish Bev were with me. If she were, I wouldn’t have even come into the record store. Too old and boring, she’d say. Instead, we’d probably be in Times Square watching tourists and trying to guess where they were from based on their clothes. Germans tend to wear shorts no matter the weather.

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