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Instructions for a Later Life

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The world will end tomorrow. There is no need to worry; it seems to be nice. Some accounts describe it as the convergence of conflicting beings, every person at odds with another. The odds become evens, and every piece of life’s jigsaw binds with its negative, except the atmosphere was not created for perfection when it is the holder of all great preexisting flaws. The puzzle will collapse, and it will collapse because peace among men who must disrupt it has finally been achieved, and no purpose no longer exists for men.
But the world cannot be so kind as to collapse, and let the ruin be all that become of the feet that used to walk it.
Others say people are merely pawns, and nature is the true force to behold, to look at with one hand shaded over the eye to protect from blindness and angry debris falling from a meaningless war among humans. Heartbeats are to erupt in the sky and shake the earth that was supposedly protected. People can fall off some edge that doesn’t exist, or into the space that does.
But the world is too selfish to know nature that way.
The world is so selfish, in fact, that the only force of nature greater than its utilizers - water - will rise miles above the highest flock of seagulls flying innocently that day, and will be the bluest it has ever been, abandoning the stench of green and waste of brown, and it will engulf everything. It will inundate freshly made streets and construction workers will sigh until their lungs are filled with water, and their nostalgia becomes everyone else’s once it releases through that muffled sound people who can afford beaches and chlorinated pools know so well.
Nothing sacred will belong to the individual, and that is enough to end the world.
Once it’s all over, and no people will exist to maintain the memories of the pain, at least for the moment, the world will be nice; there will just be no one to record it. So it is better to know now, just to begin picturing the world as it should be remembered.
Life is a great jigsaw. Time is an illusion; hours are collected everywhere, but no end of land matches its parallel in the number. Moments are greater, and don’t rely on something subject to change, where symbols can be spelled out and words can be reduced to one character with all the same sounds.
Moments, however greater they are than the concept of time, cannot stand on their own. Each is preceded by something smaller, each is succeeded by something larger. It is a jigsaw, truly, when moments become integral and snap together with the sticky hands of a toddler just getting full control of her fingers, only to break apart once the picture is made and the reason for existence has been truly fulfilled. Let these pieces become a part of the jigsaw before the world removes them:
The feeling of staying awake longer than fifteen hours just to wake up when the sun does and fall below consciousness as the moon finds itself above, once eyes become smaller than the holes in the face that cradle and house them, and move far, far inwards, shying away from all of the light that emits from the night, natural and unnatural alike. What is natural?
The stars. They don’t really glitter as poems say, and they don’t shoot in the sky from cannons seen only after death, but the points every child draws sloppily with a crayon extend, as if doing something close to glittering and stretching so far as if each tip were shot by an old gun passed from grandfather to grandson - the man in between was shot before the stars, rendering him incapable of participating in the family revelry.
The moon. It never looks the same, though, and has been unreliable since man’s first day on earth, when he was expecting to blind himself again, but was instead met with a soft silver circle staring directly in his direction. 
What is unnatural?
Anything outside of the moon, anything outside of the stars. The harsh whites of the street lights the city put on avenues with the greatest crime rates, or the largest masses of people of color - it is always or, it is never and. The melding of red and orange squares that become brighter and brighter as shrieks of fear inside of the vehicle become louder and louder and one more arm reaches across the nearest body to keep it from moving forward. The steam from whatever pollution is most relevant at the time, rising up from the rusty covers of the sewers or rolling in coils of tiny clouds from somewhere in the atmosphere, covering the green of go and red of no and yellow of slow.
The lurch and thrust of a seven-year-old truck breaking - no, creaking just to slow and end the better thrills in living - because its driver couldn’t see whether the light was green or red or yellow due to some fog he would have never seen in the daylight, and only knew to stop once the steam cleared once the minivan beside it spiraled forward like a black and white checkered flag was being thrown its way, straight into a white hatchback that saw the same flag, only this time with a green light. That truck could do nothing but sit as the passenger leans sideways to look at the driver and ask, “Are you alright?” and all the driver could say is, “You should have seen the other guy.”
The sounds of the truck’s driver falling in love with his passenger all over again as the passenger laughs and the driver stares for the few minutes that seem like several lifetimes of befores, and perhaps one or two afters, to remember the depths of the crinkles next to his wife’s left eye, listens to note the chimes of her laughter that begin high and plummet so quickly to kill the joy that can’t last for long, like the feared penny dropped from the highest level of the Empire State Building, and breathes just to say to someone who would listen about how there was a time when he knew her, and knew the same air she did, just if anyone after the driver were to challenge one of the few things of which he could be certain and sure. The shared air becomes too thin to support the both of them as he repeats more and more, “Our love is alright,” to her, and smiles as the words leave his mouth and sit comfortably in the steam and his wife’s ear, because for the right moment, love is alright and theirs and applicable to any old lifetime that either one of them might have lived and known before. Alright love is not the kind that should be forgotten and abandoned so easily, no matter the time.
The smell of burning rubber and exhaust from a minivan that let skid marks on a road that won’t remember and a stalled truck that’s been going well for seven or so years, respectively. Neither are particularly appealing, but both are nostalgic, holding memories that have no business in being seen by someone who didn’t create them, let alone being possessed by a later observer. It’s funny. Some smoldering tire is an alright love and an alright accident and some alright lights.
But those are all belonging to someone else, and they have all been deposited in that same bank of things that are alright and good and meant to belong in the world, having been created by the same being which created the earth, after all. Other pieces of the jigsaw are not so lucky to be collected from the bank as willingly, and wait for their matches in sorrow at the bottom of the cash drawer that has existed for years and years, until they are too dusty and begin to irritate the banker’s allergies, just to be blown out by one sneeze into the trashcan, or maybe just to stay in a locked drawer, never to be opened. It is alright, their lives are alright, because the sharp knife of neglect will carve some crude holes into each edge so that they may fit together to inhabit the minds of humans with only good memories. They all converge. These bad things must not be forgotten; if they are ignored, they will form their own jigsaw instead of simply integrating. Also give these bad things the privilege of becoming a part of the jigsaw:
The first day of school for a child who has been attached to his mother since his birth, crying from his first day seeing light outside of flesh when his father would dare to touch him or sing to him in his deep, rugged voice; only his mother could carry him, only his mother could sing in her high voice that anyone would find alarming, terrifying, even. That little boy is crying again, and can’t let go of the hand he’s known all of his life. As he wonders through tears why his mother is going through such measures to leave him with a stranger, she leaves with her head bowed low in the hopes that her sunglasses cover her whole face, so that when she finally looks up, her dry eyes will be protected from the clouds with not even silver linings, but gold linings. According to the weather man, they won't stay that way for the rest of the day.
The little boy looks up after about five minutes with a tissue pressed to each temporary reaction to pain on his face, and when the teacher tells him he can sit instead of stand, all the pain is but a memory and a question later to his father phrased, “What was I like on the first day of school?” because there is no way for him to ask his mother, and no possible way for her to answer. The little boy’s father takes his son home that day. The mother is working late.
The dull ache the mother feels in her chest as the world’s people present to her the many conditions of living once they say, “I’m sorry, but you’re needed to stay at work until 7 p.m. No question. You can try to call your husband to pick your son up, and if necessary, he can stay here. But you’re really needed for this case, especially at this moment.”
And that workplace - any workplace - it’s no place for a child whose goods have not been compromised, whose goods have not been subjective; they only exist, and are applicable to any situation. The realm of greed and necessity has no business in extending to other horizons that have existed as something undisturbed since birth. It’s just five minutes of voices bouncing between stretched antennae and towers to protect it.
“Alright,” she says. “It’s alright,” she repeats.
So when it’s time to reach that fifteenth hour of staying awake, the mom drives, and learns of all the distractions of the navy sky she is so used to seeing in a lighter hue. There’s all of the dust floating in the small window of yellow a light can provide; the thump-like drops of water from whatever rain happened most recently from the roof; the embers of cigarettes that glow with greater importance than the hand holding them, appearing to float in between the faded brown of buildings by themselves, like tiny fireflies knowing air outside of tiny holes poked crudely into the cardboard of a box.
All of the lights, all of the lights are not something she wants to forget for later, when she tells her son a vivid bedtime story of the dark and tiny flames that look like stars. It goes like this:
“There once was a woman who had a son, and she loved him with all of her heart. She would tell him this all the time, but you have to understand - the boy was very young. He couldn’t grasp that unconditional love was possible. He asked all the time what would happen if he were to do something bad. If he were to run away from home, would she still love him? Yes. If he were to marry someone she didn’t like, would she still love him? Yes, always.
“Eventually, the boy grew out of those questions and found different ones. In school, he liked numbers and their simplicity, so what he asked his mother began to reflect that. How much does she love him? And first, the mother was simple with her answers. She would say that it was an infinite amount - no number that even the most beautiful of minds could know entirely. But she got bored, and made her answers the most interesting part of her life. How much does she love him? Her love will end when the population of the world declines. How much does she love him? Her love will end when the last person in the world who wears socks decides they’re not needed. How much does she love him? Oh, well…it was hard to answer, and all of the good ones had been taken up by her in the past few answers. But she knew it was real and true when she told him that every star in the sky is for every time she’s loved him.
“Of course, the person in control of the stars heard this. There are people in charge of all of the things above and below you, even on your level. Someone in charge of water, someone who takes care of the ground…I think you get it. Anyways, the person responsible for lowering the stars, raising them, and numbering them got upset. No one loved him enough to enumerate thoughts and feelings with something so inhuman, like the stars. Not his mother, not his father, not his husband or wife - no one; they didn't exist. Not even God, who gave him the honor of knowing the sky better than the people who dedicate all of their lives studying its patterns, just to know natural understandings. Those scientists didn’t see what was heavenly, and if they couldn’t, there was no way a mother could! So in all of his anger, the ruler of the skies slammed his left fist down, while his right hand clenched an iron staff he banged on the dark floor of night. The force with which he did this was enough to blow all of the stars out of their constellations, so that they would disperse into the soil, and show up as diamonds to those who didn’t have enough love, either. The controller of the skies could be generous in that way.
“When the mom saw this, her son was asleep. She immediately thought she needed to do something so her son would know she still loved him. She searched all of her drawers for candles, and when she finally found one, its wick was a stub, too short to even light. Once she checked the cabinets, she found one more, this one with a longer wick, but when she put it in as part of a paper lantern to deliver to the sky, the wind blew the candle and it burned the paper. Nothing was left but a pack of cigarettes. Now, the mom is no fan of smoking, and neither was her father, who lived with her and her son. In fact, she had taken them from the street once they had been thrown out of somebody’s car by an angry spouse. The pack was almost full, except for one gap where the operative cigarette separated itself from the rest.
“And the mom lit them all. She couldn’t hold them - she had only ten fingers like the rest of us - but she tied strings to their middles, and dangled them from trees and set them on branches, without the glowing orange circles touching any surface but the air.
“When her son woke up after the ninth night in a row of not sleeping for a full night - only four hours this time - all he could say was that his mom really loved him, because even though those cigarettes were numbered and finite and bound to burn out eventually, their ashes would stain the ground below, and in certain light, would glitter, much like familiar stars.”
The melancholy settling in the pit of the mother’s stomach - the real mother, and not the story mother - as she imagines a life without the world’s greatest complements, void of the greatest saviors that appear in the lucky few centuries. The closest savior is still too far - about four hundred years away, take or give a few - and as a responsible member of the human race, the mother must step up, must protect everyone else from the world that may or may not end. She speeds through everything. Everything. The sky, the earth, the tall in-betweens that invade both elements.
It’s the last time she sees the world with living eyes, and she remembers it as a snapshot taken with a tremor. No colors; the camera to take the picture lives in another concept of time, where sunlight determined order before numbers could. Everything is black and white, definitive and certain.
The savior crusades into a colorful world with a monochrome lens and a minivan, and the only people to notice are sitting with wild eyes on the rugged cloth of a seven-year-old truck, but they’re too ensconced in the pain and healing of their own moments to collect the pain and ready healing of someone else’s.
Do not forget this, any of this, because the earth will rumble once tomorrow at the hands of two angry fists pounding on the door of despair that has no real front, just a shield weakening by every moment. All of the stars will fall out of their constellations in the sky; all of the cars will skid from their lanes; all of the water will burst from bottles, from swamps, from oceans and lakes and rivers; all cohesive moments will dissipate into tangible things that won’t last and won’t matter.
Know every part of the earth while it’s still letting itself be known, before misaligned stars, crooked cars, and basins where water used to live becomes what is expected of the world.

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