We called him Waco because he looked like a Korean David Koresh, but most people thought it was because he was from Texas. He wasn’t. He liked to tell us that he was born from an energy shard of the Dog Star and that Yuri Gagarin was his spirit guide, but Lenny and I knew that he was born and raised in Hoboken and had, at most, been rejected by Space Camp.
I met Waco outside of a Pizza Hut in Van Nuys. He stood by a bus stop and watched me vomit up a box of cheesy bread I’d eaten too fast on a bender. “What are you coming down from,” he asked, and I told him, “My life,” so he bought me coffee and a pear Danish. I mostly liked him because he had fresh ideas about where the soul goes when people die. I thought about that a lot because I always wanted to die. There were a couple of reasons. Nothing to write home about, but enough to tether me to Waco, who said he could help because life had hurt him too.
Waco introduced me to Lenny, an ex-fighter pilot who’d never run anything but sims—a source of deep shame in him—and the three of us started a group: the Scions of Laika, after the first dog in space. A cult, someone once called it, but I never slept with Waco and would only hold Lenny when he cried in his sleep, writhing in the wake of rogue jets he’d never catch. The three of us didn’t do drugs or kill pregnant movie stars. We didn’t buy a farm. We just drew unemployment checks and watched time-lapsed clips of Venus Fly Traps. We just tried to heal each other however we could.
Sometime around then, on the porch of a house that wasn’t ours, Waco told us his theory. He said the most beautiful thing about life was that energy couldn’t be destroyed, so we could never really die. “But there’s no Heaven,” he said. “Just souls pooling in space, bonding to each other until they become black holes. Great caverns of energy pulling at a world they can’t touch, but will embrace again someday.” He smoked a Black and Mild and pointed to the stars, “It’s gorgeous, man. It’s total aces,” and I pulled Lenny close, and we started to cry because it was aces. Because more than anything, I wanted it to be true. I wanted to become a black hole and hold everything-turned-nothing against me. To become definitive proof that there was something greater waiting for all of us than mediocrity and pain. That we could go on for eons, millenniums, with nothing but silence and each other. Silence and each other.
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