“What is your purpose?”
Anthony shrugged. “I’m supposed to write a book.”
Martin smiled and asked, “How much have you written so far?”
“I wrote a couple of pages, but I stopped working on it a couple of months ago.”
Martin took a sip of his coffee. “Why did you stop?”
Anthony stared up at the ceiling. “The thing is… I’m not sure that I want to fulfill my purpose.”
“What?” Martin frowned, lowering his coffee cup slowly. “Why wouldn’t you want to fulfill your purpose?”
“I like this place,” Anthony answered with another shrug. “The moment that I publish my book, it’s over. I’m dead and gone. Why would I look forward to that?”
Martin laughed. “You don’t want to finish your book because you don’t want to die? What kind of philosophy is that?”
Anthony sighed, “Do you want to die?”
“I want to fulfill my purpose,” Martin said. “And as soon as I finish designing that office building, I’ll be done. I’ve probably only got another six months in me, and then I’m free.”
“If I never write my book,” Anthony frowned, “Then I won’t ever die, right?”
“I suppose so,” Martin nodded.
“Maybe that’s what I want. Maybe I want to live forever.”
Martin let out a cackle. “You want to live forever? Why would you ever want to live forever?”
“Because the world is a nice place. Everybody’s life has so much meaning, and it’s kind of fun to be alive.”
“Fun?” Martin mocked. “I don’t know about you, but I plan on dying as soon as I can. I’m going right back to those blueprints the moment that I get home.”
“But death is so final, so permanent,” Anthony shook his head.
“Yeah, and don’t you want that? Besides, you’re supposed to write that book for a reason. The world needs you,” Martin reasoned.
Anthony moaned, “What good is my book going to do for the world?”
“You’re supposed to write that book,” he repeated. “It’s important.”
“Judging from the little that I wrote, I wouldn’t call it important by a long shot,” Anthony grumbled. “So I write a book, I publish it, and then I can die. What then? My book wanders around some bookstores for a few decades and then fades into history, just like I will. How important could I be?”
“Everybody is important. Everybody has a purpose,” Martin lectured. “Is your book really that bad?”
“Yes. It is.”
“Then make it better. Maybe start over.”
Anthony shook his head. “I don’t want to start over. I just don’t want to write at all.”
“Because you don’t want to die,” Martin raised an eyebrow.
“That’s right. I don’t want to die,” Anthony confirmed.
Martin smiled and laughed again. “I don’t understand you! Why would you not want to die?”
“The world is so interesting. There’s so much about this planet, and this universe, that I don’t understand. What if I want to do something that isn’t a part of my purpose?”
Martin teased, “Then you’re doing it wrong.”
“Doing what wrong?”
“Life,” he shrugged.
Anthony sighed, “What if I never ever write a book? How old can I get?”
“You have to write a book eventually,” Martin told him.
“But I don’t, do I? Everybody just assumes that they have to do their assigned purpose, but what if I don’t? I mean, what would you do if I told you that your purpose was to break somebody’s leg?”
Martin hesitated. “Then I would break somebody’s leg.”
“What for?” Anthony pressed.
“Because I’m supposed to. It’s my purpose.”
Anthony leaned forward. “But isn’t breaking somebody’s leg… mean? You’re putting them into a lot of pain.”
“Anthony, why would I ever give up my purpose? A purpose is comforting. If I somehow didn’t have one, I would be completely lost in life.”
Anthony tilted back his chair and stared up at the ceiling again. “I kind of like the feeling of being lost. I don’t want to know when I’ll die.”
“You want it to be a surprise?” Martin joked.
“I think so. If death is so permanent, I would want it to happen when I’m not expecting it. That way it wouldn’t be such a big deal.”
Martin looked around the coffee shop, a nervous look on his face. “You’re kind of weirding me out. Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. But maybe a bit irrational,” Anthony admitted.
“Here’s my advice for you,” Martin pointed at him. “Write your book. Get your life over with so you don’t have to worry about these things.”
“I’m not worrying about these things. I’m just considering the idea of living forever. I don’t feel like I’m done experiencing life just yet.”
Martin kept glancing at the other customers. “Does this have to be complicated?”
“Why do you keep looking around?” Anthony frowned.
“I’m making sure that nobody’s staring at us, because you’re talking like some sort of lunatic. Why can’t you just write your book?”
“It isn’t really that good of a book. I’d hardly be doing the world a favor.”
Martin moaned, “It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not! Just write it!”
“But you don’t understand,” Anthony sighed. “I don’t want to die. Not yet at least. I could go home, stay up all night, and have the book done by morning if I kept it short. And then I’ll go out and tell a publisher that my purpose was to write a book, I get it published, and then I’m dead. Poof. I don’t like the sound of that. It’s so… straightforward.”
“Life is straightforward,” Martin shook his head. “Why would you ever want life to be complicated? That would make the experience so much worse!”
“But life is complicated! You just aren’t paying attention because you’re so busy trying to build some office building. You’re so focused on your purpose that you haven’t looked at anything else!”
Martin slumped into his seat. “I can’t talk to you anymore. I’m going home, and I’m going to work on my building.” He abruptly stood. “Just write the book, Anthony. Don’t make yourself miserable.”
Anthony watched Martin scurry out of the coffee shop. He shook his head and started thinking of another plot point.