The Meaning of Life

Essay: If you could ask the Universe one question, and have it answered, what would it be?

I know most people would ask the Universe what the meaning of life is. And maybe that is my question.

"There is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you." I held my mother's words in my mind as I forced myself out of the bathroom, into the hallway, and to the top of the stairs. "You may do things that make me angry, sad, or disappointed, but I will never stop loving you."

The first time she had said that to me I was three years old and tried to hide the fact I'd spilled bright red finger paint all over the dining room carpet. When mom had found out and asked why I'd covered the spill up instead of telling her, I told her it was because I thought she'd get mad and not love me anymore. See, daddy had left not that long before and I was afraid if mom got mad, she'd leave and never come back, too. The tears in her eyes had scared me until she'd told me she'd never stop loving me.

And so far, she'd kept her word. Trying not to hyperventilate as I went down the stairs, I heard my mom in the kitchen, making dinner. I debated waiting until after we'd eaten (or she'd eaten anyway, I wasn't particularly hungry at the moment), but knew it was just a coward trying to delay the inevitable.

"Mom?" I hated the fearful hesitancy in my voice, but tried to ignore it and keep talking. She turned and her smile quickly vanished. I guessed because of the look on my face, which in the upstairs mirror had been pretty awful. She sat down, some mom instinct telling her whatever I had to say was going to be bad.

She was right.

After I told her, I expected her to jump up, yell, scream, something, anything. A part of me wished she would, the part that felt dirty and bad and wrong. But she didn't. She just looked at me with an expression of sadness and utter disappointment.

"How could you be so stupid?"

I told her I didn't know. She never yelled, never berated me, just sighed and put her hand over mine. I must have still looked as though I was expecting something, some kind of angry outburst, but she just smiled sadly and said screaming at me wasn't going to do anything but waste energy. Being a single mom all these years, I supposed she had learned how to manage her energy well, especially with someone like me as a daughter.

The relief I felt at confessing was short-lived as we talked about the options. None of them were great and mom only gave them to me, she wouldn't help me choose. That, she said, was completely up to me. After I told her what the boy had said, basically a threat of complete denial and a lawsuit, she seemed to agree to leave him out of it. Of course paternity tests and lawyers could be brought in, but his initial reaction made it seem a futile effort at best. I was on my own.

After the doctor's visit, mom let me stay home for the rest of the week. I told everyone I'd had the flu. But really, I had guilt. Was it the right decision? Should I have gone for adoption? Or tried to be a mom at 16? I tried to believe that it was better not to bring a child into an already difficult world without starting at such a disadvantage, but it was hard. Was I wrong to not even try? Or let a childless couple have a chance? It's been almost two years and I still think about it every night. Would my baby have grown up to be someone wonderful, in spite of the rough beginning? Or would they have been messed up from having a mother who was too young, too naive, too poor, too everything but ready to raise a child properly? Had I made the right decision?

So if I could ask the Universe any question and have it answered, really answered, so I knew if I had made the right decision, it would be:

Who would my baby have grown up to be?

Maybe someday I'll know the answer. Maybe after I leave this earth and go wherever it is people like me go, I'll find out. Until then, I will spend every night wondering.

Wiping away the tears, Stacy deleted the file and started Mr. O'Neill's essay on 'What One Question Would You Ask the Universe?' over.

If I could ask the Universe any question, it would be, 'What is the Meaning of Life...'