Week after week I lay in my own vomit. The light peaks threw the blinds like jabs from a knifepoint into my eyes. I cover myself with my blanket to keep them out. My phone rings and vibrates, then falls silent. Every time it awakes, I get anxious, then fall into peace when it dies into the quiet of my little studio apartment attached to a tiny guitar store. It’s been months since I’ve seen another person. I got a settlement from the drunk that killed my wife and bought a year’s worth of vodka and noodles.
It has been 92 days since I saw her last. It’s been 87 days since I last stepped outside. Today is the day. I haven’t run out of alcohol. I’ve just run out of noodles. At the liquor store, I bought all they had of vodka and all they had of noodles. They are called a liquor store.
I stepped out of the house into the small parking lot of the guitar store. The parking lot was empty. Must be a Sunday. The shop was always closed on Sundays because the owner liked to go to church and couldn’t afford to pay an employee. The shop was only open when he was able to keep it open. All night though, rain or shine, that old man would play that guitar on the other side of the wall until I was sleeping. Sometimes, he would play the song I dance with my wife too. He didn’t know…he couldn’t have. I would drink more, cry out the lyrics and he would stop. I’d pass out until I heard the guitar the next day.
I walked over to the shop entrance and opened the door…no one there… nothing moving and no guitars. Just silence. I’ve been foggy before and today is no exception, but something seemed wrong. I walked back out of the store into the street and waited for a car to pass by on the busiest road in town. I waited almost an hour before I gave up and went to my truck. I drove to the convenience store, the liquor store, the grocery store, the women’s clothing store, and finally to the post office. There was no one anywhere. I called 911.
“911 Emergency, please leave your name, birthdate, and emergency, and we will respond at our very earliest convenience.” Dial tone. I visited every single establishment over the next 2 weeks. No one stirred. No one answered their phones. My mom never answered. My dad never answered. My sister never answered. My friends never answered. The television was white and blue static. My radio was squealing with guttural noise. I thought for a moment that I was dead and this was either Heaven or Hell, depending on my current motivations to live.
The funny thing is that before everyone was hiding from me, I didn’t want to see a single one of them. Now I just want to find just one. Someone to help me sort this whole thing out would be nice. I’ve always been a creature of curiosity, but never one for the emotional stuff. Right now, I’d really like to know where everyone went. More than that, I want to know why I didn’t go too.
I borrowed a van from down the street. My friend uses it for camping. It has a mattress in the back and a small gas powered generator. As long as the engine runs, the extra batteries on the van charge. When they go dead, you can start the generator and get another couple days of heat and power. I’m going to look for survivors or whatever and whomever you want to call us…or just me.
Halfway across the country and I haven’t found a single person. I’ve meant to write about all I’ve seen, but I haven’t seen anything…just trees and leaves and road. For records sake, I brought the rest of my vodka. Not that I needed it…every liquor store is full.
I heard a satellite radio broadcast! They identified as being from Long Beach California. I’m in Oregon now: Almost 1,000 miles away from whoever is sending these broadcasts. The broadcast played some old songs from when I was a kid. Songs from bands like Weezer and Jimmy Eat World. I got nostalgic feelings from high school while driving. I couldn’t get to the source fast enough. The broadcast went on as it would have usually. There was no mention of any catastrophe. There was just a guy playing music, speaking sometimes about when the bands would play and where, then commercials advertising things like new windows, hand soap, and lawyers. Most of the band’s dates had past.
I wanted to drive straight through the night. I wanted to find the only radio station still broadcasting, and compare what we knew. But there was this deer in the road. It was the biggest deer I had ever seen, with the biggest antlers imaginable. I thought, “This should be on someone’s mantle.” It wouldn’t move. I could have drove around it, but the fact that it didn’t move made me wonder why. I got out of the car and it started walking to the right, into the forest. I followed it because I had nothing and no reason not to. It walked without any fear of me to the stream and started drinking from it. I didn’t get it at first. I thought it was just thirsty and I was the idiot that followed a deer panting for water. Then I saw a small deer to the left of it. It was dead. The larger deer walked over to it and lay down next to it. I listened to the water flow from the rocks to the stream and realized that even without people here to see it, the world was so beautiful and sad. I drove my van to that spot and decided to sleep there for the night so I could listen to what life sounds like without humans.
My mom told once that if I just applied myself I could see every beauty imaginable. It’s funny how things come back to you once they are only memories that cannot be questioned or rebuked. But here I am, lying on a mattress in a small meadow beneath a large mountain. Both back doors of the van have been open for hours and I have been watching one wild animal look at me and walk away unafraid after another. I am somehow no longer a threat to them. I am just an object in space and time to them. They move forward and forget me moments after they see me. I don’t need them and they certainly don’t need me. I slept to the sound of that silence for hours…the best I’ve ever slept. No one needed me or was afraid of me. There is something both sad and beautiful about that. I cried until I couldn’t cry anymore, then I fell asleep in peace.
I’m a couple days away from the transmission that just keeps going on like people are still listening. I’m listening, so I guess they are doing their jobs. Maybe hundreds are on their way there, just like me. The roads are clear. If this were a catastrophe, the roads would be a car park. This wasn’t planned. Everyone got gone very quickly. I stopped to take a look at the Grand Canyon today. My mom always wanted to see it and I had promised I’d take her. It was on the bucket list of things to do with my wife. It was so beautiful that I lost my breath. It was bigger than I had ever imagined. My wife would have been so scared when I looked over the edge. I guess we didn’t make it to that. She had done something good and apparently I hadn’t and she is gone and I’m here still. I walked right up to the lip of the canyon. I shouted into the abyss. I told God and anyone who may be listening how I felt. I shouted, “I hate you! I gave you everything! You gave me everything! Then You took everything from me!” I sobbed as I shouted. I threw up and shouted more. “You are a terrible God! You aren’t good or fair. You are death!”
I’d spent the last bit of my life angry and wondering where my wife had gone. Why her? She volunteered to everything. She always gave to good causes. She went to church and believed in God just like I did. Then it drove me to one conclusion. It wasn’t her. It was me. I am here alone because I have always chosen to be alone. Even when she was alive, I kept myself from her… a very small part of myself. This was a part that only I could see. She could have never really known me; only who I was when I reacted to what life brought me. I reacted badly to what life brought me. I always thought the worst. Then I always self destructed and she always picked up the pieces.
I’ve been searching the world for people. I haven’t found even a trace of them left. I put my hands on stove burners and find cold medal, hoping to find evidence of life. I stop at campgrounds looking for small fires and find nothing. It doesn’t really matter to me anymore. I guess it never really did. No one is there watching over anyone. I am alone.
I remember this time that my friend at school had died and my mom maybe heard about it while I was at school, or not. I came home with my 12 years old stomach in knots turning all over. I didn’t have a word yet to describe my feeling. Later in life, I would have the word. It would be the word “alone.” He was alone, I felt alone, we should all feel alone. We don’t. That is what has always driven me to drink. Even before my wife died. I drank because no one feels alone when a 12 year old kills himself.
I remember this while lying on a mattress in front of waterfall that washes away more land than I’ve ever seen. I think about who I am and where I have been and I finally realize how small I am.
With or without humans, the world will continue as a clock would. The water will flow until it doesn’t. The air will push to and fro until it doesn’t. Life will begin, thrive, then die in front of maybe no one. This is the Creation of a God I can never understand.
I smile and turn the key and make my way to my destination. Humanity. I yearned to feel human touch and togetherness again. I think about the nights I spent in darkness…drinking myself into more darkness. It makes me sad. I really just want to see someone. I want human connection.
I’ve finally arrived. There is one car in the parking lot. Satellite dishes cover the property. This is where I’m supposed to be. This is hope I have come all this way for. I walk in the doors. They are so welcomely unlocked. I walk in and find my way into the control room that boasts a large generator roaring and a control panel unmanned. Unmanned…this isn’t what I was expecting. I search the place and only find that the generator is powering reruns of a satellite show to repeat until it ran out of fuel.
I laugh to myself. I stop to think. Was the journey worth the ache in the heart? Yeah, I think it was. I think I found what went wrong. I lost my vision that the world would thrive with or without me. I would thrive with or without her. You could lose everything you had ever known and it wouldn’t make a difference. What remains will always be what remains.
I drove to the ocean in northern California. I made a few stops to see the beauty that God made for us or whomever would see. I’ve figured out why I am still here. Because life is beautiful, whether or not you see it. She left because the world is sick and she fell victim to it. She didn’t deserve it. She got sick. She died. Then everyone left without saying goodbye. I can’t be mad. I never said it either. I never told her goodbye. I never told her that it was ok to go. I didn’t tell her I would be ok. Maybe I’ll be ok.
I got to the coastline. I’ve seen so much. I’ve grown from a person that wanted to hide, to someone who wants to live, even without my beautiful wife and all of these beautiful people. I want to help people. I want to be everything I’ve never been. I want to be human.
But here is this wave. This enormous wave that is heading right for me as I stand on the beach and write this. Did they know about this wave? What caused it? It doesn’t matter. It is here and everyone is gone and I am finally here.
Thanks for reading...Z