Instructions for Living the Perfect Life

Posted on: November 19, 2015

Arabella found the instructions for living the perfect life on a late night/early morning Amazon binge. She was drunk and immediately clicked Purchase, woke up Gael snoring next to her, and texted her best friend, Brynlee, to tell her the exciting news.

“Bella is so funny,” Brynlee said. She was in bed, scrolling, texting, liking, commenting, and swiping with practiced fingers. I was next to her, half-asleep in frog pajamas.

“Mhmm,” I moaned. It was nearing three in the morning, and the Netflix prompt, Are you still watching? lit up the dark room. I had class at eight. Philosophy with Professor Fine. One more tardy and he swore to fail me; a fate I would surely test eventually.

“She’s drunk and ordered something called, Instructions for Living the Perfect Life. It comes in a briefcase. With, like, instructions and stuff.”

Brynlee was not a vapid valley girl, though based on her speech, you’d be forgiven for thinking so. Her’s was a halting dialect full of umms and likes. But in reality we all spoke this way; all of us shock troops in an army of communicators shaped and molded by emoji-speak. We unwittingly and accidentally transcended simple slang, and eventually we’ll “speak” like binary robots, with blinks and blips in a sort of teenage auditory morse code.

“I wonder who supplies something like that? Must be a private seller or something.”


Five to seven days later, the instructions were delivered. I came home from an exam to find Arabella, Gael, and Brynlee huddled around the briefcase like it was a board game. Brynlee was reading from a piece of paper, and Gael smoked a vaporizer, letting out invisible fumes with large, smiling, sighs.

“Hello, lucky owner,” she read. “You have in your possession detailed instructions on how to live the perfect life.”

She giggled and took the vaporizer from Gael. He leaned back in the beanbag and flipped through his phone absently. Swipe. Type. Tap. Repeat. Swipe. Type. Tap…

“Before you unlock the secrets of the enlightened life,” she continued, “please read these instructions and complete the attached checklist.”

“Instructions for the instructions,” I said.

“Don’t be so negative,” Brynlee snapped.

“Knowledge is an onion,” Gael said absently. “You’ve just got to peel back the layers.”

“Is that Descartes?” I asked him.

He looked up, confused, as if the joke had just sneaked past him in the night and all he could do was smell it.

“I dunno,” he said finally. “Sure?”

Brynlee pinched my leg before I could continue with my teasing.

“First,” said Arabella, reading from the checklist. “Surround yourself with individuals of a purely positive energy. Life is optimally experienced with an open core.”

I imagined a giant robot man, his chest lighting up, his core like a bug zapper sucking up all the positive energy of the world, zapping away the bad vibes. I would call him Mister Good Vibes.

“Second,” she continued, “find a beautiful place above sea level. Like heat, positive energy rises. High elevation areas are best.”

“We could go to Devil’s Point,” I said. “It’s the highest part of the city.”

“Ummm,” said Brynlee, “I don’t think a place called Devil’s Point would have the best energy. It’s called that because people commit suicide there and stuff.”

“That’s actually a myth,” replied Gael. “It’s called Devil’s Point because it’s the middle, and highest, of the three mountains. The conquistadors, or some shit, named it because they thought it looked like Satan’s pitchfork, ergo, Devil’s Point. It’s basically geography.”

“Who told you that?” I asked him.

He shrugged. “It’s like a thing everyone knows. It’s just true. I don’t know who straight up told me.”

I got out my phone and tapped open Chrome to catch him in his bullshit.

“Lastly,” Arabella said. “Spread the love. Secrets only hurt. Honesty is the policy of the universe. Share the instructions for the perfect life once you have them, so others can benefit and be fulfilled.”

“That it?” I asked.

Brynlee nodded.

“Well, fuck it,” I said. “Let’s do this, Leeroy Jenkins. I’ll drive.”

The four of us drove up to Devil’s Point and parked at a spot overlooking the city. It was absolutely beautiful. Some sort of cosmic paint had been spilled, creating a landscape of indiscriminate grace that emanated off the canvas of the earth, that shone through the fumes of our progress and made our world magnificent. I knew the reality. Knew that the protracted wavelengths of red blocked the other colors in our spectrum as they stretched across the atmosphere. I knew it was the science that was beautiful, not some invisible projection of mankind’s vanity, or some selfish belief that these things existed for us, blind to the notion that we were nothing more than unwitting watchers in the best of times, destroyers of worlds in the worst. I knew the truth, but I chose to keep it to myself so as not to disrupt the opening of the briefcase.

“Everyone ready?” Arabella asked. She had the briefcase in her lap.

“I’m excited,” Brynlee said.

“Me too,” chimed Gael.

And then, a strange feeling spread over me. I was also, ashamed to say, excited. All the nonsense had somehow coagulated into a sort of earnest enthusiasm; in that place, with those people, overlooking thousands of lives and actions with their personal universes spread out, merging and bouncing off one another, like someone had zoomed out on us all with Google Maps - demagnified our worlds - and from such a distance we were all lawless picnics of aggressive atoms, rubbing against one another.
What was happening to me? Was there something to be said of positive vibes? Of feng shui, and Oms and Umms? Of clapping away the bad energy, or lighting incense to wash out the negative? Was there some element of truth in all this bullshit?
“Here we go…”

She cracked open the briefcase and an intense bright light emerged from its guts and momentarily blinded us all.

“Oh my god…” said Brynlee.

“What the fuck?” muttered Gael.

“It’s beautiful,” awed Arabella.

As for me, I kept my mouth shut, hoping to contain whatever mysterious dynamism toiled inside my cranky skin and bones.

Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Blake Bronstad

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