Given how late he was to the process, the program in Copenhagen had been the only option available. Paul had taken it, relieved and nodding at the universe. At some point in his life he was going to have to choose, but this, he’d been glad, was not it.
At some point he was going to have to graduate and write cover letters that stated his objective and trick someone into paying for his visa or move back home if the fraud stopped being worth the effort. Eventually, he was going to have to figure out the kind of person he was and the cause and import of his life and then curate his behavior accordingly.
What kind of person was he? Supposedly everything could be traced back to the parents, but his were not very illuminating.
Had the both of them been musicians or practiced alcoholics this would have been a no-brainer. Instead, for as long as he could remember his mom had been stay-at-home and the job she held before that had since been made obsolete by the forward march of technology. Meanwhile, his dad owned a chain of jewelry stores, which Paul had been explicitly forbidden from inheriting.
“What’s the point of a family business if it’s not going to be the family’s business?!” Paul had screamed when he was fifteen.
“Knowing you, the family business will not stay the family business,” his father had replied philosophically.
His childhood was equally vague. Oftentimes Paul wished that before he could speak or walk his parents had laid out at equidistance from him symbols of potential careers; had let a meaningless yet interesting shape at which he crawled and clawed before his lobes had even hardened, seal his fate, so he could take it easy the rest of his life, convinced and relaxed in his destiny. For example, one of Paul’s cousins spent all of his childhood unraveling rolls of toilet paper, much to his mother’s dismay, and now he was an EMT, equally to his mother’s dismay. All Paul did with his childhood was masturbate and snack, so this was his punishment: a biology and studio arts double major at a liberal arts college.
Yes, Paul had never cared much.
Although… Once, when he was fourteen, Paul had stood naked in his room gazing at his blank wall until he began to punch at it. He was the only one at home that afternoon, one of his parents away with addiction and the other trying to hold everything together, and in that moment Paul was surprised to know what ambition felt like, in that moment he was singularly driven to tear out his flesh just to get at what he was sincerely supposed to be.
He had punched at the wall until he got past his skin and his insides became clear, until his arm ruptured and he genuflected to the floor. He had stared at the blood on the wall for a very long time, then the cells on his knuckles, and in each he had seen art and science mapped indistinguishably one onto the other.