A young boy has a conversation with his father.
|“Dad, what's happiness,” said Toma. “What does it mean?”
It was a pertinent question, asked at just the right time. It was currently a month after Toma's birthday. He was sixteen. The perfect age for branching out into the world and learning what it takes to really make it in life. He had just gotten his driver's permit and was going around the neighborhood with his dad, showing the world what he had to offer. Young. Intelligent. Energetic. He had it all. Nothing would stand between him and his ultimate destiny. Except...this one question.
“What do you mean, 'What is happiness?'” said Kenneth, his father, puffing on a pipe.
“I mean,” said Toma. “Yeah, what does it mean?”
“Well, what does the dictionary say?” said Kenneth.
“Well, the dictionary says that it's an elevated emotional state marked by ample laughing, smiling, singing, etc,” said Toma, drinking a strawberry lemonade.
“Well, are you happy?” said Kenneth without so much as a smile.
“Well, that's the thing,” said Toma. “There are times when I get this feeling inside.”
“What kind of feeling would that be?” said Kenneth.
“Well,” said Toma. “I just get this feeling inside that I can do anything, that all I need is an opportunity and I can make everything right. I can change the world.”
“That's good,” said Kenneth. “That's happiness. You're doing good, boy.”
“Yeah, but the feeling doesn't last,” said Toma. “It's so...”
“Pernicious?” said Kenneth. “Ephemeral?”
“Screwed up,” said Toma.
The lake house had a nice breeze that came in with 2s and 4s from the south as they sat there on their beach chairs, taking in the sunshine. There would be no rain this day, maybe tomorrow. In the previous week, things had gotten hectic. Toma had went on his first college tour, had kissed his first girlfriend whilst there, and had, unbeknownst to his father, had tried his first Goldschlagher. He was a man now. Old enough to wonder why he wasn't being sent off to war.
“What do you want?” said Kenneth. “Unending happiness? That's not good.”
“It just sucks that I have to feel pain,” said Toma. “I mean, why do I have to have lonely moments, moments in which life seems hopeless and dark? Why do I have to have days when I'm just...down?”
“Well, you don't have those days very often, do you?” said Kenneth.
“No, not really,” said Toma. “What do you mean, 'That's not good'?”
“What is it you say now?” said Kenneth.
“You said, 'That's not good' when I said I wanted to be happy...all the time,” said Toma.
“Well – yes, I did say that – Toma, do you know that when you were born, you were the biggest baby in the hospital,” said Kenneth.
“Why am I so short, then?” said Toma.
“I don't know,” said Kenneth. “Sixteen hours of labor.”
“Sixteen hours?” said Toma. “That's my Fortnite 2 record; that, plus two hours.”
“Happiness is like Fortnite 2, but I'll get back to that later,” said Kenneth. “Do you know, that on the day that you were born I had just been fired from my job of 20 years?”
“Which job? I thought you worked for the Royal Courts all your life.”
“No, I was working for Beijing Kemical in Beijing,” said Kennneth. “It was the first job I got, right out of high school.”
“I was born in China?” said Toma.
“Yes,” said Kenneth. “You're still technically a UK citizen, though. Anyway, I worked at Beijing Kemical for 20 years. I was the leading junior manager in the company. I was being groomed for upper management.”
“Wow, what happened?”
“Well, one day, my boss shows up with a stack of papers,” said Kenneth. “He said that one of the other managers was having trouble with marriage.”
“What did that have to do with you?”
“Well, he had this pile of paperwork that the other guy couldn't finish,” said Kenneth. “I get to my desk. I'm about to pull an all-nighter and I get a call from your mother. She said she was having you. I was possessed.”
“Yes, I levitated from that desk and I walked out like I was sleepwalking,” said Kenneth. “My boss kept yelling at me, 'You'll be fired!' 'You'll be homeless!' but I just kept walking. I got to the hospital and my whole world changed that day. I lost my career, but I gained a son. That's happiness.”
“What about Fortnite 2,”
“I see you playing that game,” said Kenneth. “Hours and hours of shooting, killing stealing and destroying. You can't stop. But with all of that chaos, you're more peaceful than I ever was at your age. You're arguing less with your mother and me. You've even got yourself a college tour coming up. That's what I call happiness.”
“So you're saying that I am already happy?”
“You need the pain,” said Kenneth. “You can't be happy without it. It keeps you whole. To be happy 24/7 is to be a narcotic. You don't want to be a narcotic. Happiness is what you make it. You can mix the happiness with your pain and make a Mocha Cappuccino, or you can sit on the toilet and scream for your mother.”
“I know,” said Toma. “It's hard, though. Will I ever make it?”
“Look at it this way,” said Kenneth. “I need you to understand this. Life doesn't owe you anything. If you are still breathing, you need to thank God. I'm telling you this as a lifelong atheist. Nobody owes you.”
“Thank God, even as an atheist? That doesn't make sense.” said Toma.
Just then, a falcon flew overhead. It's squawking was loud and strong as it flapped its wings in the sky. The falcon. Majestic beast from on high. It was the sight of such an animal that gave Toma the answer that he was looking for.
"Dad," said Toma. "I will be the best man I can be."
"I know you will, son."