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As I sat on the decaying patio, my eyes drank in the desolation expanding across the land I used to disregard as my home. My cynical stature was matched only by Joey, as he too sat in a nihilistic daze, glad for the relief of an end, but unsettled at the chaos breaking open in front of him. We looked at each other in an acceptance, these final moments had been predicted since the beginning of time; floods, earthquakes, nuclear winters, and utter disarray.
We had seen it coming, sure. Were we worried? Not one bit. We openly embraced the quick approaching catharsis.
I rolled my eyes to his hands. He was gripping his finished tome with pride. Two years of slavery to the pages of his ’great American novel’ and it was to be greeted with the fires of a grand finale.
“You should finish reading this chapter. I’ve been wondering whether she builds up the nerve to kill that no good husband of hers,” I joked.
Of course I knew how it ended, but we both needed a materialistic anchor to keep us in the turmoil of life, if only for a little while.
“Of course!” he exclaimed. “This is the most gruesome part of the entire s*** novel.”
His voice began to expel words, assembled in literary perfection. His vocal chords strained and relaxed as his emotions read the letters aloud. I was lulled into a daze. Just seven years ago I had been lulled by a completely different beat.
My mind swirled as I recollected myself, a sixteen year old hopeful. Ready for independence, eager to make a change, destined to be great.
I had whittled away countless hours, “I can’t go out today! I need to study. I want to go to college. I want my name on the placard of the political kingdom.”
In two years, I would be eighteen. Parties, college, independent studies and a fresh page torn from its perforated connection to my home. I would be on my own.
I knew in five years I would be at my cerebral maturity, at last a full grown woman, no more restrictions. Only me and a vast world of possibilities. I wanted to travel to foreign lands; cure the children, purify the water, pound sanctions on the international table, enlighten others, dive head first into backwards cultures. It was me that sixteen year old dreamers would look up to, glossy eyed, and shallow with over-tread dreams.
My corralled brain had not shone a spotlight on the twenty third year of my visit to this life, but I assume I had been drawing maps of a prosperous lifestyle and hazy adventures in the name of my personal moral conquest.
But where had I ended up?
A Joey seven years prior had shared his prophecy with me.
“We will be writers. Two minds linked like ours, we wont be scared of any floods. We will be sitting together, somewhere bleak, staring into the core of a tragedy but unconcerned, we will be reading. A book club, cheering death,” he had raved.
Now an eerie “I told you so” dangled within my grasp, but I ignored its presence. I snapped back to reality. I stared at Joey’s eccentric eyes, sprinting horizontal tracks on the thin paper rectangles. His voice echoed the silent dreams he had held for his future. The fame that he had coveted.
I had wanted fame too. I remember it perfectly..
“Cristina? What is it that you want to be when you grow up?” the nasal voice excluded me, prodded for my goals.
“I can’t say anything for sure, but I am leaning towards having a job in politics, and on the side completing one of the ideas I have for a novel.”
She scoffed and her eyes rocketed a tired path, tracing her eyelids.
“Well that’s, original. What college do you want to attend?” Her voice had a new edge to it, a frustration.
“Money and my GPA are making me lean towards a four year university in California,” I shared.
“Typical,” she breathed as she got up and reached a sweaty hand for the clip board beside her. “Well, when you get a more concrete plan in order, come back and see me.”
That woman had truly been an inspiration. I was devastated, thrown into a whirlwind of self pity.
“Maybe I’m not cut out to live,” I whined that evening.
“What does that woman know? Intellect like ours, no one gets it. They’re just stuuppitt,” he spat that last word with a trace of bitterness.
A loud crack demanded I return to present day. One of Seattle’s oldest buildings broke in half. I shuddered, questioning when the floor beneath me would shatter like a sheet of ice.
Joey was unphased. He was still ranting, bringing his characters to life the way he had wished fervent minds would have if a publishing company had attached their sticky fingers to such a masterpiece.
I saw a plume of dust and let it transport me back into my mind.
This is not what I had thought my life would be. After the bombs were dropped, the towns pillaged, the cities ravaged, the drought avenged and the earth angered, my dreams disintegrated like man kinds sanity.
We had managed a meager living. I wrote a column; philosophical, rational and used as toilet paper at the local prison, I’m sure. He wrote that book; a man who beat his wife, and a wives cold hearted revenge.
So now I swung with the exuberance of catastrophe in a nylon hammock, reading the novel dedicated to me as reality collapsed around me. The ground was rising, the sky was falling, yet my face radiated a content grin.
“Why are you so happy?” he questioned after spying my smug expression.
“It’s over, and the journey was grand.”
My cryptic words were lost in the final crunch. I inched closer to him and as we read the final page, certainty evaporated and we were encircled by blackness, laughing the entire way down.