We’ve been here for like twelve hours now and have exhausted most talking points: childhood nostalgia, did I shut the kitchen sliding glass door, how old do I think neighbor Johnny is. Yes I miss swinging, I said, yes I shut the door, and I think he’s sixteen or fifteen maybe even. Sylvie kept talking but I stopped and listened to the rattling upstairs and thought about if zombies might come through, how they’d kill us in probably less than five minutes because we’re both young and skinny and there aren’t weapons down here for us unless you’re three-hundred pounds and can rip a pipe from the ceiling. Down here, we have water and canned soups and blankets, but nothing that would help us in the case of vampires. Sylvie wants to know if she should ask Johnny out once we get out of here. I say sure. Because we won’t get out of here. Sylvie knows that. If she doesn’t, she’s thick. I’m not even sure really why we’ve decided to stay alive, when we know we can’t go back up and only have enough rations for the next two weeks anyway. But then thinking that, I think how I’d go about not staying alive, like reversing that decision, and I don’t like the idea of swallowing chloroform, which we don’t even have, or having to bash Sylvie’s head against the concrete wall. So I stay sitting there, listening to her, with the rattling overhead that means some end of some version of the world, and I wait, like the rest of mankind waits, huddled in some basement.
The reason I want it to be vampires up there –– which it isn’t, it’s mankind laying waste to itself and then hiding like a bunch of pussies –– is because then I know that my parents will maybe keep living a little longer after their death. They didn’t make it here in time. I don’t know where they are, but they’re not here with Sylvie and me, which means they’re out there, which means they’re either dead or on their way to being dead. If it was zombies or vampires then, you see, they’d have a little extra life, even if that life doesn’t count as life-life in the generally accepted sense.
I try not to think about all the things I never got to do, but sometimes it’s hard to help. It’s only been ten hours and already I’ve been over and over how my first kiss was with the wrong person but I guess I got to do that so it doesn’t count, and how I didn’t get to go all the way in that one way. I never got to kiss a boy I liked for real. I never got that A in chemistry I’d been working for or that car I’d been saving for that they kept at the corner of the car lot on 14th street. I never got to tell Penny that she’d wasted five years of her life on someone who hated her. I never got to tell Mom that she was right about a lot of things but wrong too and that both mattered. I never got to figure out how small those things were. I never got out of the small things and into the big. It’s too bad, really. I would’ve been good at it all.
But, okay. I guess I don’t get all of this. How all the people lied and said things were fine until they really weren’t, which only gave us enough time to find the bomb shelters our grandparents built back when nuclear bombs were a problem. Small time. The grocery store is like a wasteland now. I could write a poem about it, about all true things, and it’d probably win the Pulitzer, if we got that far. We won’t.
We watched this movie in English class like two months ago. It was pretty boring. Most of us fell asleep. But I didn’t. I liked the way the woman looked. She didn’t do much, just went in and out of her house and to the store and visited her daughter a couple times, maybe called her ex-husband. I didn’t get what the plot was. Maybe the point was that there was no plot, which Mr. Peters tried to talk us through awhile ago but no one got. Why bother with no plot when you could have sinking submarines. But I guess the point is and why I remember it is because she was so happy. She was alone but she was so happy and content reading the paper and clipping coupons and making the same dinner always. Maybe though she was always happy only because she knew she was still beautiful without makeup on. Or, I guess, because that’s the way they wrote it.
There’s more noise upstairs and Sylvie pushes herself against me and keeps talking like she hasn’t heard any of it, but neither of us are fooling each other. She tells me about the time she and Johnny washed their cars at the same time, in our driveways like thirty feet away from each other, and how his hair got that mussy sideswept thing she likes so much and how she stared but she didn’t think that ended up being a bad thing.
I’ve heard this story before. It always ends the same way.