Some fiction to flesh out the stories that are often true.
“Hey… it’s me. I hope you still know who ‘me’ is. I think you do, but its been a while. Almost six years.”
Five Years. Nine Months. Fourteen Days. But who’s counting, really?
“And normally I wouldn’t call you, because we haven’t talked… and you’ll think I am crazy for even trying. But the world just might end in an hour and I thought this might be the best time, or the only time, to catch up. You know… Before it all ends.
And nothing that I am saying right now is making much sense at all but I just called to ask how you are doing. It’s funny, I’ve been waiting to ask you that for nearly six years and it takes an 89-year-old preacher predicting that the world is going to end in an hour for me to actually find some kind of spine to call you up and just ask you.”
I play over what I will say in my head.
I am getting ready.
I am going to call you at 5p.m. today.
May 21, 2011. 5:00p.m.
One hour before the world is destined to end a girl will find the courage to call a boy after six years. Before earthquakes tumble through hometowns and destroy playgrounds from childhood and take down old oak trees that still play home to abandoned tree houses crooked up in their branches.
And I am going to ask, “How are you?”
How. Are. You.
Three anvils coming off the tongue.
“I feel kind of silly, just blubbering to your voicemail. But I have been telling myself for the last three months that the world would end today because, well, if I didn’t then I would probably never call. I wouldn’t search for a reason. And I think one of us has really needed to call the other. I could be wrong. But…but…”
For the first time in 22 years, my mouth will fail me when I finally call. Completely fail me. For I know I’ll want to say Ten Thousand Things all at once but I am already stuck with the task of saying them One by One.
“I don’t listen to the Beatles on Sunday anymore; that was kind of your thing. And my hair color has changed three times since I last saw you but maybe you saw it on Facebook. Most people still keep in touch on Facebook. That’s how I find out about all our friends’ engagements and baby showers at least. Crazy; thought that might be us.
And I haven’t forgotten your birthday. I know I haven’t called or said anything but I never forgot it. To be honest, I still get these nervous rashes sometimes when someone even brings up your name…. I finally learned how to kayak.”
I watch the numbers on the clock skip forward. Past five. Half Hour until the World Ends.
“I hope you are doing well. Really. I have only ever want the best for you but I think that wish got lost somewhere in the last few years. I hope you’ll know it now. I saw your Aunt Marge last month. She might have told you that though. I really should have called years ago; that fact is not lost on me.”
But a boy can cast a crazy spell on a girl’s fingers when it comes time to gather up bravery by the arm load and make those fingers crawl toward the keypad and tap out his number. An area code is suddenly heavy. The number itself is nearly impossible to dial.
“I haven’t decided if I want you to call me back when you get this. There will probably only be a few minutes left. So don’t bother. Or maybe bother. If you feel like it. But promise me, promise me, that you won’t say you miss me. Don’t find a way to plop that sentence into one of my seven inboxes either. Because suddenly you’ll be filling all my spaces again. And it won’t last ten seconds before you pull away and begin apologizing for the mess.”
This Muddy Mess called You & Me. Sometimes Us. Rarely We. Lately, these days, They & Them. Two People wandering far, far away from You & Me.
The minutes sprint towards 6:00p.m. I close my eyes. I wait.
“And please don’t call me back asking to know what happened to Us ten minutes before the world goes ending.”
6:00, 6:01, 6:02,
“I can tell you how it all began: We were young. We knew nothing at the time but everything in the moment. We tried. We fought. We stumbled. We didn’t know better. We wanted it to work. We wanted it so bad.”
6:03, 6:04, 6:05,
“Life got harder. Time taught us lessons. Pain. Jealousy. Foolishness. Resentment. Don’t you remember? They all showed up to throw a Bon Voyage party for the two of us.
You chose south. I needed north. You were moving. I was shaking.”
6:06, 6:07, 6:08,
“We really shouldn’t spend the last ten minutes before the world ends tying all the reasons behind our own ending to red balloons. Letting them go. Watching them float up to the Solar System. We’d be left with only one reason.”
“We both needed exits. And they needed to be graceful. I would not cry this time. You would not call. We’d grow bigger someday. But we had to learn to do it on our own.”
Silence. Nothing. No ground shaking. No world crumbling.
I was going to call you at 5p.m. today.
An hour before the world ended and I was going to call you.
I was going to ask, “How are you?”
I am sorry I never called. I am still wondering how you are.