“Where will you be?”
He asks: “When?”
“At the apocalypse.”
He snorts, and rolls his head back.
She continues to look at him, unmoving; deadpan.
They dangle their legs over the concrete ledge, close to the lapping canal water. Dead scum floats beneath their feet and it smells faintly of harbour when the tide rolls out. They watch light dancing against the blank underbelly of the bridge, carrying traffic. About them, the detritus of shattered industry; a burnt out car, rusted steel drums, puddles made iridescent with a thin veneer of oil. A halo of fast food packaging flutters in the wind. Few boats wander past. Crickets chatter.
He thinks about what it would be like, to see the world end. Would it be quick, or drawn out? Could he make a last phone call? He lays out his final moments, placing himself on hard concrete. The sun above becomes a searing explosion erasing his body. He’d be dead, then: one permanent shadow amongst many. He notices how her silhouette blots out the sun’s warmth. She’d be one of them.
“With my family then, I guess.”
“I don’t think you understand.” She looks down at him. “It’s not about where you want to be, but where you will be.”
He sits up.
“It’s not such an easy question, is it?” She holds her hands out, palms up as though the concept were an object for him to see. Her naked feet form a Newton’s cradle. The sound of skin kissing bounces off the water and concrete. And he is reminded, for a moment, of sitting by the municipal pool as a child, listening to the unreal sounds of water slapping and voices ricocheting.
He draws his eyes down, shuttering them from the sun.
“I’d be at home then,” he says: “Sleeping and it would all be over by the time I woke up; or rather I would never wake up because I miss important events. Always do,” he adds, quieter.
“I like that.” She pulls a loose hair from his cheek and blows it away. “Permanent sleep. I wonder if you’d carry on dreaming.”
“Probably not.” He bites his lip
“There wouldn’t be anyone you’d want to say goodbye to?”
“Like I said – my family.”
“No-one else, I mean: no-one you would need to say one last word to?”
He shakes his head.
She brushes back one side of her hair, tucking it behind an ear. She cranes her head a little. The chug of a pleasure boat rolls around from a distant meander.
“I think I’ll be in a supermarket,” she says. “And I’ll be the only one smiling. Have you ever noticed that? That people never smile in supermarkets? They all carry expressions of boredom; or else annoyance, or inconvenience. I saw this woman once, in the queue and she was worried, you know? Like something was distressing her. She had the face of a trapped animal.”
“I’ve never noticed anything like that.”
“Well I have. And that’s where I’ll be, with all those people and I don’t think their expressions will be any different.”
“Why do you think that?” He asks.
“Why don’t you?”
“That’s not what I was asking.”
She shakes her head, and lets her gaze drop away from him.
“I want your coke.”
“What?” He frowns.
“I want it. It looks refreshing.”
She knocks into his shoulder, tilts her head and slips her eyes toward his.
He stutters a moment.
Her eyes drop to the cup and then back up.
“It’s hot. I’m hot.”
“Alright, take it. I’m not thirsty.”
She leans into him, pressing their chests together as though to swap heart beats. She grabs his drink without thanking him and he watches as she starts to draw on the tall cup, as her eyes lock with his. The red swell of her lips begins to glisten in the sunlight. He shifts a little. She licks the last drop before it can roll down her chin, a laugh in her eyes.
“Done?” he asks.
She nods, leaning back.
“This is what I think,” she says. “All those people in the supermarket: the reason they won’t change their expressions is because they can’t – they don’t realise what’s happening to them; the idea that they will all die, that no-one will be there to remember them, will be too much to handle. They won’t be able to comprehend it, so they’ll carry on as if nothing is wrong.”
“You’re a pessimist.”
“I’m not deluding myself. There’s a difference.”
“But what if they did realise?”
“They’d laugh. Really hard.”
“It’d be too late, the apocalypse will have happened.”
Monthly Archives: November 2009
“Where will you be?”
apple drops, lodges itself
inside the body.
grackle outside the window, dog
asleep in the closet, dobsonfly rising from
the bottom of the Susquehanna.
Those contemporary love poems
you were so fond of leave you
in another place: mud banks, abandoned
lots, airport restaurants with their cold
coffee, whole bodies stashed in
roll-away suitcases, what
Mel taught you about birds, how
when it rains they
never leave the ground.
Two summers after Mel’s death, the sky
draped over the earth’s shoulders. A far corner
is worn so thin that the clavicle has breached,
coming up for oxygen, a chance
at redemption, sheer curiosity.
and the sky
through the oval aperture
above your head in the form
of light that bounces
a little then rests on the curved walls
and also in the form
of whatever colors you can see and maybe
if you’re lucky clouds
maybe it’s obvious
and peacefully alien like a young nun
walking past the local establishments
in a university town in summer
where it’s always despite the superficial changes
the same time
even the rain
feels like rain after the evacuation
and even happiness
feels like having survived something
I can’t remember