I guess it’s kind of funny, if you think about it. You always see in the movies – in the TV shows – people running and screaming and praying and stuff. That’s what Hollywood always thought it would be like. Some sort of ‘death cloud’ or something – or like an asteroid or something like that – that just happened: that just totally hit everybody by surprise.
People have known about it for months. It’s not like in the movies. The word ‘inevitability’ comes to mind: and hey, guess what? Nobody cares to run from the inevitable. It’s pretty stupid – isn’t it, if you think about it – how people, in the movies, try to run from inevitable death. Everybody has decided what they were gonna do today weeks ago, maybe even months ago. Say goodbye to family, spend time with girlfriend, et cetera et cetera. As with the Kubler-Ross effect – or whatever it's called – people fade into acceptance once they chug through the denial.
I guess I’m no exception. It almost seems a bit cliché, a bit typical. Maybe even obvious. Anyway, point I’m trying to make, I’m trying to say that I knew what I was gonna do that day. I didn’t plan in advance – pretty typical of me – but I did get up before 1:00 today, which is a miracle in itself because I never get up before 1:00. Not even for school, most of the time. My dad always used to say that he used to sleep in all the time when he was a teenager too – because it’s about hormones or something – but that it wears off with age, as you get out of puberty. I’ll just have to take his word for it now. I guess the eve of the apocalypse deserved special effort, anyway, I suppose – although, to be honest, like with what I said about ‘inevitability’, I was beyond the point of caring. Man, I was beyond the point of caring even before I knew we were all gonna die, if you want to know the truth. I mean, it’s not really like I’ve got much to lose. There were people who lost more than me.
Walking through the park, and the wind was still blowing. There were no leaves on the trees or anything (I mean, it’s winter: what did you expect?), but you could still see the branches shiver slightly if you looked close enough. There was a pond, right in the centre, that used to have loads of ducks that little kids used to feed bread to. It was in the middle of like a bank, and if you would place the bread in the grass then the ducks would waddle up the bank to get it. You would have found it pretty cute if you’d have saw it. I mean, I sure found it pretty cute.
The pond was frozen over now. I don’t even know why I mentioned it, to be honest. I guess – this thought struck my mind – I guess I was wondering where the ducks were at right now. Where they went. I mean, I never found out where the ducks go during the winter – never really much into that Discovery Channel stuff – so, I mean... well, who cares. It’s not like it matters.
Point is, I was in the park because I was supposed to meet this girl – we used to hang out and stuff in middle school. I guess she was alright. But I asked her to meet me here. I mean, why not? It’s not like we were lovers or anything, don’t get me wrong – but I just felt like seeing her again, I guess. Before we all died and everything. I guess, if I was gonna do just one last thing, it would be to have a conversation with someone I knew pretty well. I mean, I wasn’t gonna spend time with my parents or anything. I guess, if you want to know the truth, I guess I always kinda valued having someone the same age to talk to. Someone who was on the same level. Not many people really value that. Maybe because they don’t have it, or don’t realise that they have it – but, to be honest, I saw more worth in that than anything else.
She was sat on a bench next to the pond. The pond that I just told you about – with the ducks. She had some bread next to her but there weren’t any ducks to feed it to, like I said. The sky was pretty damn grey. It was snowing.
“You alright?” I said to her.
Strange: she sort of smiled – she didn’t speak – but she smiled with this little crooked-looking, bent-shaped little smirk. I guess it looked pretty cute. Kinda made me feel bad, though.
“Pretty bad day to meet up again, huh?” I said.
“Bad?” she said. “It’s literally apocalyptic. What the hell is the matter with you!” Strange mixture of sadness and irritation in her voice... Sounded sorta wobbly. Then she said softer – really softly – “I’m glad you wanted to meet up again, though. Phone wouldn’t have done it.”
“Aren’t you sad you won’t be with your parents?” I said.
“I’ll see them tonight. It’s tomorrow morning, isn’t it.”
“Is it?! Jesus Christ, Josh, do you even care? We’re all going to die, and you’re all like ‘ees eet’? Bloody hell...”
“Hey, hey, shh. Calm down. Quit worrying, wouldya? I didn’t want it to be like this.”
I meant that I didn’t want to argue. I think she could tell that’s what I meant. She sort of looked really solemn, like a gargoyle or something, drooping her head down so that her hair covered her face. She always had this long, black hair. Quite a long fringe. Combed to one side. Sometimes she would plait the back and poise a flower on her temple. That always looked pretty nice.
Anyway, she said sorry, then she said really softly again: “You remember our first date, don’t you?”
I looked at her. She was kinda stroking her fingers. Man, she was getting real messed up. “Sure I do”, I said softly.
“Cineworld, wasn’t it.”
“That place by B&Q? Yeah, I remember. Haha – ‘course I do. It was that really little place with those little seats that you could barely fit in. Made of rubber or something. The rows always used to curve in slightly from one end to the other, so the ones sitting at the back had like an inch of legroom.”
She smiled, pretended to look smug jokily. “That’s why we always used to sit in the front.”
I smiled with her. “The screen, too”, I said. She laughed at that. The sort of laugh where it’s like just a single scoff, and then stop. You know the sort. “The screen, it looked really big because it had these massive curtains covering it, and then the lights would dim and the movie would start and whatever, and the curtains would take about ten years to open, and then the actual screen would be this little box in the middle that you couldn’t even hardly see.”
I was miming the box with my hands, and everything – making a really big deal about it. I could be a real drama queen when I wanted to. It really was a crappy little place, though. And she was smiling, so who cares.
“Man”, she said, after we stopped laughing, “I can’t believe I said yes to you.”
“I’m quite the catch, right?”
Haha! She was always one for sarcasm. Man, she killed me sometimes. She really killed me.
“I remember when we first met, on that school trip—”
“—to the cinema. Don’t remind me. Like, a rewards trip thing, wasn’t it? You got to go there if you performed well.”
“Haha, they obviously didn’t care that much! I wouldn’t ‘uv gone if it was about ‘performing well’ – ahaaha! Man, you know what Fitzjohn was like. She didn’t care. She didn’t have the guts to say no to me.”
“Yeah, whatever. You didn’t have to sit next to me, though.”
“You were pretty—”
“—ha! Don’t charm me, sailor.” Man, she killed me sometimes. Sailor, for christ sake! “I only said yes to you because I’d never been asked out before. I didn’t know what it was like. Figured I couldn’t just say no, then never get asked again. Beggars can’t be choosers.”
Man, she always had these issues with the way she looked. I mean, I guess she was on the skinny side, but she looked pretty damn pretty to me. I think she told me once that she used to get bullied. Never really had many friends. Always used to think she looked like a pig, but I never saw nothing wrong with her. She looked pretty damn pretty to me.
“Good job you did!” I said. Good job she said yes, I meant.
She smiled at me. She had this wonky little smile. “Good job I did.”
We talked a bit more – for a few hours, I dunno. Talked about movies, and then about books (because we sorta drifted into movie adaptations), and then about poetry. Not really deep, to be honest. I mean, I know it sounds sorta ‘intellectual’ and stuff when you say you were talking about books, but it really wasn’t. Neither of us really paid that much attention at school. It wasn’t a really intellectual talk. You wouldn’t have cared to hear the conversation.
One thing happened, though: we started talking about romance movies, and about love and relationships and stuff. Again, not really as deep as it sounds – but there was this one movie that we saw together (hell, we went to the movies a lot), called ‘Marley and Me’: but we weren’t really watching it, if you know what I mean. And we were just talking about this time when we were in the movies, and then I don’t know how it happened, but she sorta just put her hand around mine, and then, all of a sudden, we just started necking. I mean real, proper necking. Just there, right then. In the park, while it was snowing, sitting hand-in-hand together by the pond – just necking. I guess it was kinda romantic, if you think about it. Man, I don’t know how long we did it for. Seemed like forever.
“You know, Josh”, she said.
“If we were to just die, right now, while we were sitting here together – I don’t think I would mind.”
I just looked at her a minute. She had these beautiful eyes. All dark, and lonesome. I looked at her a minute—well, I say minute, but it was only a few seconds, really. But, I mean, it seemed like minutes. It seemed like forever. It was still snowing. I wanted it to feel like forever.
“And – you know—”, she said, “—I don’t mind. I don’t mind at all.”
She was just smiling. Just smiling. And man, I think I was too.