Proof of God
by Holly Goddard Jones
I swear, for the first part of this story I was convinced it had been included in The Best American Mystery Stories by mistake. Fifteen or so pages in, and all I'd read about was some poor sad sack kid named Simon who was a closeted gay and in love with his friend Marty. He'd had a hard adolescence, but maybe now in college he'd find that one thing that would make him feel happy, feel whole. It was good, but the only hint of a crime/mystery was the keying of his Dad's Corvette. Not exactly hard boiled to this point.
But that I believe, was the point of the story. It wasn't about the crime, which happens a few pages later. The title of the story should have clued me in. Proof of God. What proof of God do we have, especially the non-believers such as Simon.
Could it be his love for Marty? The man who conspired to "get him laid" only to see it turn into murder? Or perhaps his father's love, which is absent for most of the story, only to see it shine through when his son needs him most? Perhaps all the proof he needed comes with the jury's verdict.
I'll most likely re-read this story in a few days, letting it soak into my brain a little more. So far, most of the stories in the collection have revolved around the crime, or a crime. This story instead focuses on Simon himself, and his thought process as he proceeds through life, not ever really happy with who he is.
Perhaps the greatest crime committed in the story is his inability to be who he really wants to be?
No, it's the murder. I'd really like to get caught up and swept away with all the talk of Descartes that punctuates the story, but I find it hard to display any sympathy for Simon. Sure, he was a confused young man, who was hopelessly in love with someone who would never love him, but he had options. He could have not gone with Marty. He could have left the room. There were outs for him at every turn, and when you get right down to it, he fucked up big time. Instead of coming clean and taking his medicine, he chose otherwise.
And he got away with it. When his car was vandalized for the second time, where once there was sympathy, now there was only righteous vindication. He deserved worse.
He dialed his father's number and waited, thinking, as he always did when despair wanted to settle on him, of Marty's touch that night; the heat in his wet cheek, the only proof Simon had ever needed, the only higher power.
If I could, I'd slap the shit out of Simon.
But still, good story. It's not often I can outright hate the main character by the end.