She’s splayed out on her emerald bed cradling the receiver of her red rotary phone. She’s been waiting for this call for a long time. Staring at the dial she tries to remember his number, mentally strings a few combinations together to no avail. Finally she hangs up the broken receiver and springs up with a deep groan, taking a long and careful look in her full length mirror. Her hair is longer. Her skin is the same shade of olive. She looks no older, no younger than she has since the beginning. A tiny smile and she plants a kiss on the mirror before skipping out of her room.
The house is quiet. She steps outside and it is just as silent. Her neighborhood is rubble, hers the only house standing. It gives her a better view of the night sky. There are so many stars tonight. Looking up at a glowing cluster, she decides she will go visit him tonight. Why wait for the call? She makes her way through her atomized neighborhood with bounce in her step. She is whistling a tune from long ago, one that finds its way into her subconscious daily, but she no longer remembers the lyrics. It’s a happy one, though the words might have been tragic.
She takes the shortcut through the charred forest. The trees look vibrant when she focuses on the center of their trunks, ignoring their baldness. Some have even kept a bit of their color. She no longer sees the corpses, even when she has to leap over them. They are rocks to her. The birdsong is ever-present – she hears it from the moment she enters the forest until she exits. It doesn’t matter that it has been silent as long as she can remember.
The town square is more difficult to traverse blindly. Each decimated building holds a memory, or regret, and this is where her friends once broke their nights together. Titania takes the path that leads her mostly through lesser-ventured streets, avoids the fountain, the plaza and the bench where they sat when it happened. She is propelled by thoughts of him, weaves the night in front of them. It has been a long time.
Walking down his block she brightens, ignores the vacuum of sound and complete absence of life. His house is the only one standing, which makes it easy to spot from far away, and builds her anticipation. It is identical to hers except for the missing roof, which is easy to construct mentally. There it is, a brand new house. Except already it is filled with countless nights of revelry – friends flitting about at one of his grand fetes, or else the quiet evenings spent star gazing in his back yard. The closer she gets, the more the house glows – the warmth is almost undeniable, she swears she can feel it on her skin as she approaches.
She knocks. She isn’t sure why, it has been ages since he has deigned open it for her. They are so close she can dispense with the formality. After a few moments she opens it herself, calls his name loudly as she walks in. Was that his whisper upstairs? She bounds the steps two at a time, face flourishing in anticipation. Down the hall to his bedroom and she swings the door open. He lays on his side, propped up on his elbow, coyly reading their book. A calculated flutter of his lashes and she leaps into his embrace. It has been such a long time, she whispers, and he tightens his grip on her. She is lost inside him, inside a moment she is trying to crystallize, inside the warmth of his arms, house, life.
Some part of her knows it will disintegrate soon and it will be more painful than the last time. The skeleton she hugs on the deteriorated mattress under a blasted sky will gradually assert itself, and she will be where she began. But right now there is life, memory and a quickening of the blood, his breath temperate on her delicate cheek, her nose buried in his nest of hair. Right now her thoughts are fenced in by the contours of his body. She can forget the silent planet she has crossed. She can forget the weight of being met by death on each continent. She can forget her long and fruitless search for chlorophyll, flesh or fur. Tonight she is in the meadow, the one from long ago, and they are with her. There is boundless energy, an appetite for the future, a dance that dispels death. Tonight she is far from the last being on the planet. Tonight she can’t even taste the denial.
Illustration by Pedro Tapa