Music boomed over big speakers as Maeve realised exactly how miserable she was. She should be in her dorm studying. She shouldn't be at some party where people were drunk, dancing, and uncomfortably close. She assumed that she would rather be there, surrounded by people, some she considered friends, but upon arrival, she decided she was wrong.
The wall behind the large flat screen TV had pictures of a family hung on it. The family was straight out of a Hallmark card — a mom, a dad, a boy and a girl, seemingly close in age, and a golden retriever. The perfect family made Maeve almost jealous. She'd been attending the University of California, Los Angeles for a month almost, and she missed her family dearly. What was left of it, anyway.
The redhead sighs and goes down the long hallway to get some water from the kitchen. While on her way, she stops dead in her tracks as she hears some words she never thought she'd hear at a party.
"You've never heard the omnipotence paradox?"
She stands still in the hallway. She can hear the voices of at least three different boys. One of them, the dominant one, Maeve can already tell she doesn't like. He sounds like the most annoying human possible. The way he explains the omnipotence paradox in "layman's terms" — his words, not hers — just really got under her skin. And he wasn't even explaining it well.
"— then it wouldn't be able to make a boulder it couldn't lift. Yeah?"
Suddenly, one more little voice pipes up. "Uh, I don't know. You said omnipotence a lot."
Maeve hears the arrogant boy sigh, and she feels better knowing he's disappointed.
She walks away to go get her water, and returns to her original spot in the living room. After seeing a few people leave and yawning a few times, she feels a buzz in her pocket. She takes out her phone and sees an incoming call from her roommate, Selene.
"Hey," Maeve says.
"Hey, girl," Selene's voice rings out through the other line. "I'm really drunk and I'm gonna stay with Matt tonight. My friend Shane is gonna bring you home, he's really nice."
Maeve exhales sharply. "Okay. Just remember that I have to get a good night's sleep tonight."
"I am aware, Ms. Physicist. I gave Shane your number, he'll text you in a few."
"Okay. Stay safe, Selly, see you tomorrow."
Selene reciprocates and hangs up. Maeve searches around for a recycling bin and throws her cup in there when she feels another buzz in her pocket. She opens the text from the unknown number.
Hey, I'm Shane. I'm outside. My car is a maroon 2000 Volkswagen Jetta.
okay be there in a minute
She checks her pockets and makes sure she has everything. She passes a kid in a mask who'd been making everyone call him Prodigy all night and a ferret (this is Los Angeles, she doesn't ask anymore), and exits the party. The nip of the breeze prompts her to shiver, and she just hopes she can find the car quickly.
She notices a red — apologies, maroon — Volkswagen near the road and goes over to the passenger side. She taps on the window, and the boy looks at her, smiles, and unlocks the door.
"Hey, Maeve," he says as she gets in.
"Hey." She shuts the door and shivers again.
"Sorry about the mess. I have a lot of books."
She looks around the car and chuckles. "I noticed. What do you study?"
"Philosophy. Most of these books were written by some philosopher, and I'm not that bright so I have to go in and leave myself little sticky notes of translations. Put it all in layman's terms."
She chuckles and goes to turn the heat up until she realises what he said. Layman's terms.
He's a philosopher.
She knew his voice sounded familiar.
"Wait. Were you in there discussing philosophical theories of God?"
He turns to her for a few seconds and then puts his eyes back on the road, "Why, yes I was. How did you know?"
"I heard you. You know, I'm a physicist, and I don't really buy into all of that stuff." She, of course, leaves out the bit about her thinking that Shane is a narcissist.
"Why not?" he asks, turning to her once again and raising his eyebrow in a way that makes her angry. It's just so condescending.
"Like I said, I'm a physicist, and I just like a concrete answer to everything. You have classic literature in here, too, you have The Iliad. I never thought you'd like philosophy, you seem smarter than that."
As soon as those words escape her mouth, she gasps and covers it. "Oh my gosh. I am so sorry, Shane," she says earnestly. "That was so mean, I just meant, like. You seem like you—"
"Are you religious, Maeve?" he asks.
She's taken aback. A part of her wants to be a little upset that he's asked such a controversial question, but the better part of her respects him for doing so. She doesn't know how to feel at that point.
"Uh, no. I'm not."
"Are you sure? You hesitated."
She's surprised he caught onto that so quickly.
"I mean, sometimes I hope there's a God. Like, sometimes I talk to my Dad as if he can hear me."
"What's the difference between believing in a God and being a philosopher?"
Points were made.
"There really isn't one. But I don't believe in a God. I don't really not believe in one. I just don't know."
"Exactly. You don't. That's what philosophy really is, Maeve. Just a bunch of people who are scared because they don't know, so they make up theories to make themselves feel better. Because humans like having answers. We like a structure and we hate, and I mean absolutely abhor when we don't know something. It drives people crazy."
Maeve is kind of at a loss. She just nods. "I bet you believe in ghosts, too."
"As a matter of fact, I do," he responds.
"Oh, boy," she says, laughing loudly.
Shane laughs too, "I do! My friend's house is really haunted and he wants me to go up there sometime and investigate it. Maybe you can come with me."
"I'd love to. I bet you'd be terrified."
It's Shane's turn to nod, "That's why I won't go alone."
She laughs again. Shane isn't so bad. He's just a guy who's on the same mission as she is. To just figure out what's going on in the world. Philosophers aren't naïve or lazy like Maeve originally thought.
"So what else do you like to do?" he asks, turning down the Paul Simon playing through the car speakers.
"Well, I play the accordion," she responds. "I like movies a lot. My favourite show is Knight Rider."
"I love Knight Rider. It is so underrated."
"Yes! I agree!"
A long conversation about Knight Rider later, the two arrive at the campus of UCLA. They get out of the car and Shane locks it behind him.
"Thank you for the ride," she says. "I'm really glad we got to talk."
"Me, too," he replies. "We have to continue this discussion sometime. And text me whenever you're free to do some ghost-hunting."
Maeve smiles, "I will. See you later, Shane."
"See ya," he says, and turns around on his heels to walk away. Maeve stands there for a moment, taking in the night she just had, and then starts on her way in the opposite direction.