IT ONLY HURTS IN YOUR HEART
Janelle can’t stop crying. I can’t say I blame her. I’ve done my share over the last two years, though the amount of tears both of us have shed in the last six days makes the last two years seem like an office party. Darren Eggers is on the TV, though he’s really not there. It’s a pre-recorded loop, and he’s been repeating himself for the last six hours. The first three times he gave us his news report, Jan and I held each other, both of us shivering from the icy infusion of absolute terror.
“I don’t think I can do it,” she says between sobs. “Mike… I can’t do it.”
“It’s the only way,” I say, wrapping my arm around her stomach as we spoon on the bed. I put my lips close to her ear and whisper, “We have to. If we don’t… We have to.”
“I know, baby. I’m afraid too.”
Janelle, the woman I’ve been in love with for twenty-nine years, turns over to face me. She hasn’t worn makeup in over a year, since there hasn’t been any makeup to buy. There hasn’t been anything to “buy” for the last year. There’s not enough people left to run a store, let alone a factory or a farm to actually produce something. The last thing I bought was a .45 automatic, a pump shotgun, and two boxes of ammunition. They were the last weapons left in the store, maybe in the city. Gary, the owner of the gun store, sold me two of his personal firearms, knowing there wasn’t going to be anyone left to shoot (or do the shooting) soon enough.
Even though we’ve been together for three decades, and I’ve seen Jan without makeup for much of it, it took me a while to get used to her natural face. She’s still the most stunning, heart-stoppingly gorgeous woman I’d ever laid eyes on, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that she is one of those rare, truly beautiful women that doesn’t need makeup to make jaws drop and tongues wag. But without makeup, she can no longer hide the sadness, the despair that has infected her. That has infected everyone, according to the news. Or will soon. Except it isn’t the infection that’s going to exterminate the human race.
“Is it going to hurt?” she asks, wiping a tear away with the back of her hand.
“Only in your heart,” I say, kissing the cheek she just smeared, tasting the salty hopelessness of our situation. “But otherwise, you’ll just fall asleep.”
Janelle begins to cry again, her mind hearing the unspoken and never wake again. I didn’t think I had any emotions left in me to join her. The wetness on my own cheeks says otherwise. Continue reading