Being an Angel
Justin H. Lo
“Sis, I want to become an angel,” I announced.
She rolled her eyes at me, replying without looking up from her glossy gossip magazine, “Frankly, that’s gotta be the most retarded thing I’ve ever heard.”
Indignantly, I retorted, “Oh? And just what part of it is retarded, may I ask?”
She looked me in the eye, holding up a single finger. “For one, everyone knows you’ve gotta be dead to become an angel, sheesh.” After a pause, she added, “You yak too much to be dead.” She cackled at her own wittiness.
“Well, I’ll just show you! I’ll earn my wings and prove to you I can be an angel any time I wanna be!”
Meghan stretched herself out along the couch to reach for the cell phone. “Yeah, you go do that,” she said, flipping open the cover and starting to dial. The nerve of that girl! To call her boyfriend while I was discussing an important matter with her! But it was no matter. Somehow, somehow I’d become an angel. A complete, living, breathing, loving angel.
“I will,” I whispered insistently.
Meghan glared at me and pointed at the phone, and when her attempt at telepathy failed, she said, “Would you please be quiet or at least leave my room now? I’m trying to make a ca –
“Oh, hello, honey!! What’s new?! … Oh haha, that’s so wonderful! … Ugh, I hate that bitch. She needs to be slapped … Ah, you want to do that tonight?! …”
I clenched my fists and repeated to myself: “Somehow, I will.”
Back in my room, I changed out of my school uniform. I sighed, flopping down on my bed to lean over my laptop. What was I even talking about? You could be called an angel when you were living, but you never really were one. At least, you couldn’t suddenly sprout wings or exchange voiceboxes so that you could have a sweeter voice. Even a middle schooler like me knew that much from science class. And getting a round fluorescent lightbulb to float above your head was completely unheard of. I was particularly troubled by the plugging-it-in part.
Still, you never know what you can find on the Net these days. I lazily strung the Cat 5 around several light poles, then secured it into my laptop. I always unplugged it when I wasn’t using it, cuz it was like a non-extendable leash that made it immensely difficult to move around my computer, not to mention a bit demeaning to my little baby.
[Angel Application Form] I typed into the little box, striking enter with my pinky.
I sighed and turned onto my back. It was all hopeless, I thought as I stared at the ceiling. No one really wanted to be an angel these days. The plastic glow-in-the-dark stars looked down on me; they’d been there, untouched, ever since we first moved to this house. On those little stars, I mused, there had to be angels, sitting there, smiling, waving at me. At least I could count on the angels to understand.
I sighed again, flipping onto my stomach again. I supposed that sighing was a way of preparing the body for reorientation.
I lazily tousled my hair until I saw it.
“Eh?!” I yelped.
From the living room, Meghan yelled at me again to keep it down.
“Yes, ma’am!” I replied, far too intrigued to care about standing up to her. I clicked the link, and it revealed a short, two-page document that was to be mailed to an obscure part of Alaska when completed.
“Name … age … gender …,” I read. Was this some sort of hoax? Some bizarre phishing scheme?
At the bottom, though, there was a contact number for more information. There was no honor lost in giving it a try – and sis was addicted to her cell phone, so the home phone would be all mine.
I picked up my telephone, fully absorbing the pre-dialing buzz that almost seemed to convey a hidden message. Taking a deep breath, I started typing in the number, digit by digit. Then I realized that I was certainly not calling in the United States, judging from the sheer length of the number, and when I heard the first ring, I freaked out and hung up.
It took a few moments for me to catch my breath. Oh goodness, what had I just done? What if that really was the right number? Now I’d never be accepted ….
But I had to try again! I reached for the phone again, and this time, kept a cold, purely-business demeanor. Several rings emanated, and I started to think that no one was there to pick up the phone. Figuring I had nothing else to do, since it was Friday, I decided to sit there and wait. I counted the rings in the same manner young children count sheep, and I was dozing off by the time a voice suddenly broke the pattern.
“Hello, how may I help you?”
“Aaa-aah!” I squealed in fright. “Um … um … I would … like to apply to become an angel. I-is this the right number?”
“It sure is!” the respondent answered in a cheerful voice. “Which class are you applying for?”
“Ah, if you don’t know, you’re probably applying to become a freshie.”
“A freshie?” I asked.
“Oh, we have a four-tier system, just like your high schools. Alright, what was your question?”
I hesitated for a moment and asked, “Is this for real?”
She responded, “Oh, so now you’re doubting angels?”
“A-a-a-” was all I could stammer. How was I supposed to respond to this? She could be just playing me with a string, or she could really be demanding critical faith.
“Just kidding!” she said with a laugh. “We used to adhere to a strict ‘faith-only’ basis, but with the recent wave of phishing scams, we’ve decided to soften our stance a bit. So, name a small phenomenon that would prove to you that we’re real. Just do realize that this is the one and only time we’ll ever prove something that only your heart can decide to have faith in or not.”
“Yes,” I answered. “Hmm, could you make the stars on my ceiling glow blue?”
“Yes, hold on a moment.” It sounded like she was opening up some files.
All of a sudden, I couldn’t see anymore. The whole room exploded in furious blue-white light.
“Da hell is going on?!” I screamed.
“Oops, I might’ve overdone it there!”
I just sat there, fazed and wide-eyed. Yep, these guys were for real.
I left my application in the mailbox early the next day; it was easy to get away undetected by my parents since it was one of my chores to take out the mail, anyway. Thirty-seven cents.
I was especially giggly at school, and my friends thought I might’ve lost it. I assured them that I hadn’t, but my strange spurts of laughter while I spoke probably betrayed me.
“Dude, you sure you’re alright?” asked Lars.
“Yes!” I insisted. “Let’s go grab lunch, okay?”
He gave me a weird expression and gathered Melissa and James to accompany us. I noted, with a bit of dismay, that they had fallen prey to this strange plague called ‘love.’ And they used to be cool, too! But now they just cuddled each other all day – it was just so boring, since they didn’t want to hang out with us that much anymore. Sure, they talked and had fun with us, but there was implicit agreement that we’d let them have some time alone with each other.
I sighed. It wasn’t that I didn’t like love. Actually, it was to the contrary – I, in my blossoming youth, had recently noticed strange feelings stirring in my heart. I was lingering at the movie posters just a little longer; the jokes about people’s looks were starting to become half-true; I actually wore a skirt outside of school last Saturday.
“Oh God, I’m becoming an adolescent girl!” I realized, to my horror. I ran forwards towards the cafeteria.
“Wait, Coral, wait up!”
“Come on, you’re a guy – you can keep up!” I teased him, turning my head back to stick my tongue out to him.
“Coral!” he shouted, but it was too late.
I slammed into a large, soft body – it was a teacher! His glasses were knocked at a strange angle, and his food tray was teetering precarious on his right hand. I quickly clasped my hands around it to stabilize it.
“Ah-ah! I’m very sorry!” I blurted, bowing slightly.
“Please don’t run around this school,” admonished the teacher. “Your uniform didn’t get food on it or anything, did it?”
“No,” I answered. “It’s fine.”
“That’s good. I know you’re a growing kid, but you’ve gotta be a bit more composed about satisfying your appetite!” He chuckled gruffly, and I laughed nervously.
After the teacher left, I felt a light nudge in my side.
“Heh, all he meant was, watch it or you’re gonna get fat,” said Lars slyly. He pinched me slightly. “Or maybe it’s too late?”
“I’m not fat!” I protested.
“Whatever, let’s go chow down. If you ever turn girly and chicken out of a food race, I won’t talk to you ever again, got that?” he said.
I laughed and answered, “Oh, you think I’d ever give up on the pleasure of seeing you swear you’ll get me the next time? Fat chance!”
We tried to stifle our laughter at the terrible pun, but gave up and entered the cafeteria with tears of joy in our eyes.
As expected, I won yet again. I was particularly quick at eating chicken nuggets, and I had finished all eight before Lars had even consumed four.
“Curses, foiled again!” he growled. Per the rules, he handed over one chicken nugget to me.
“Mm, the other tray, please,” I said, admiring the spoils of conquest; it was fun, just one moment out of the day, having Lars do exactly as told, even if it was only concerning the transfer of a parcel of food. “If I really became an angel, would we still have moments like this together?” I wondered idly.
“Yes, your highness,” said Lars.
In response, - and I have no idea why this happened, honest! – I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but I did it anyway because it felt like the natural thing to do.
Melissa and James interrupted feeding each other to stare at me.
“Um,” I said.
Lars was giving me a strange look as well.
“Naaaaa~~ it wasn’t like that!” I shouted, suddenly excusing myself from the table. I ran and ran until I was in an empty classroom on the third floor. Gasping for breath, I crashed down onto a chair, slamming into its support poles on the other side.
“Why did I do that why did I do that why did I do that?!” I cried. “I can’t talk to him now, I can’t! His first girlfriend was supposed to do that, not me! I never wanted to be his girlfriend! Stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid ….”
I buried my face in my hands. It was getting to be great day, too.
“Hey?” came a voice from the doorway.
“Yeah?” I asked. I checked my eyes, but there were no tears. “What’s up?”
“Is something the matter?” It was Katie, and she sat down next to me, ruffling her uniform slightly.
“Um, nothing important. I’ll get over it,” I said, laughing on the offbeats.
“Did something happen during lunch?”
“N-not really. I was just being careless.”
“Lars is worried sick about you, you know. He got Melissa and James and me to look for you all over the school,” explained Katie.
“It’s really okay,” I said. “Tell him not to worry about me. I … don’t think he really wants to see me right now.”
“Oh come on, you’re his best friend! Of course he wants to see you!”
Katie’s smile was so pure that I couldn’t help but raise my frown.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I conceded. She put her arm around my shoulder, and we walked out to join the others.
“Coral!” Lars exclaimed when he saw me. “Oh, thank goodness you’re alright!”
He hugged Katie, thanking her profusely for finding me.
Then, he turned to me: “I was just surprised; I know you meant nothing by it.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad you understand, buddy.”
Melissa and James smiled on from the distance, but there was something just a bit odd about their smile – it seemed just slightly off, maybe tiny bit crooked, or maybe it was sadness?
That afternoon, I sat down on the lawn outside, picking at dandelion petals. Somehow was feeling funky, yet I could not quite put my finger on it. It was just a sigh-inducing feeling, a certain element that seemed to pull me blindfolded down an unknown path.
I yawned, lying down on my back. There was no use thinking about such things, especially when there was homework to be done and beautiful weather to be enjoyed.
I stared up at the clouds just as pebble rained down onto my forehead.
“Yaaah!” I screeched, rubbing the point of impact intently.
Next to me, I spotted the scattered pebble, which had strange blue-and-green stripes. Out of curiousity, I picked it up in my palm and stared at it, not expecting it to suddenly produce a short video clip.
“Welcome and congratulations on beginning angel training. This is your first assignment, so please look forward to it!”
I stared at the figure, who seemed to be a motherly type. She had a slightly pudgy, but nevertheless comforting appearance.
“Your first assignment will
“Coral, do you have a moment?” asked Laurel.
“I guess,” I answered.
Laurel pursed her lips, then sat down in her rocking chair, her body swaying back and forth, the creaks filling the empty church with methodic rhythm.
“We try to wait for this until after you finish your first job. It … might be kind of hard to swallow right now, but we don’t require any response for awhile. Just take your time with it.”
I nodded, gulping audibly.
“Coral,” she began again. “Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No,” I said evenly, hoping it would get me off the hook for the rest of this.
“Is there a boy you like, who you would like to be your boyfriend?”
I frowned. “Yes.”
“There’s no explicit rule against any of this. But you have to understand that your relationship will be strained. From all the people I have brought through, every one that has been in love, has felt a heartbreak. It’s because, as you start out, you are assigned to people you know, people who you’re accustomed to and comfortable with.”
“So naturally, there’s a chance – a very high one – that your love interest will soon be in your care. And you need to be ready, because, as you might have already noticed, your empathetic and telepathic skills will be developing at an incredible rate. You will understand him probably better than you ever hoped for. And you might find out things you never wanted to know.”
I laughed a little. “What, porno magazines under his bed?”
She giggled in turn, looking relieved that I could still make light of the situation. “Could be, could be. But just be ready. You haven’t forgotten the credo, have you?”
I shook my head, staring her in the eyes. “I know. My priority is his happiness.”
“Yes,” she said. “I’m glad you remember. There are a few other things I want to talk about, but they’re not as … touchy. Listen, when people are sad, they sort of … fall into a self-perpetuating state. No one just ‘snaps out of it’ all of a sudden.
“You have to know that people will be stubborn about sadness. They don’t want to let it go. Or rather, it does not want to let them go. People are going to resist your solutions and your happiness. They will blame you for trying to cheer them up, and possibly for the things that other people are doing to them.”
“But that’s what I’m here for,” I said simply.
Laurel smiled. “It’s easier to say you’ll take it, than to really do it.”
I looked far away and sighed. She was right – it was hard to always be patient and understanding. But that was where humans gave up. And that’s where angels had to begin.
I slipped into the house; it was all dim inside. I couldn’t figure out whose house it was, so I wandered down the dark hallways until I finally came to a room that had a dark brown frame