[The following is an unfinished short story I wrote some time ago. I’m all but certain that I won’t get around to finishing it, either, so I’m dumping it here because I have this insatiable urge to do so. As an FYI, this was meant to be a follow up to this: How Are We Doing?]
It was a fun afternoon. Sitting, cross-legged (you can’t call it “Indian Style” anymore, obviously) in my living room with a friend, sharing drinks and telling ridiculous stories without a satisfactory ending surrounded by the nearly muted sounds of light jazz. We were doing our best to be classy and world-weary at the ripe old age of twenty two. We were fools doing foolish things, but I suppose that’s what you would say about all kids?
I sat across the floor with my friend. For whatever reason, we never sat in my furniture unless we were watching the tv, which we never did. My expensive couch and matching loveseat were going to waste. My friend was a stunning vision of loveliness that turned many a man into a stuttering, embarrassed disaster. I never got the appeal, personally. I mean yeah, this precocious little thing that appeared to be all hair and teeth from a distance certainly looked good, but there was not a hope in hell that the two of us could be an item and not end up murdering each other three weeks in. The Friend Zone is not always such a bad place to be, you know? Back in the real world, her expensive leather jacket was now serving a new purpose as a placemat for any unused utensils we brought out. Her unique sense of style captivated my attention, interrupted only when I would tip my head back and absorb the liquor in my hand. Today’s wardrobe consisted of a painfully, impossibly tasteful mini-skirt paired with one of those t-shirts you see on the internet. You know, the ones from Japan with horribly mangled English phrases that idiots like to point and laugh at, as though broken English were the Goddamned height of hilarity. I hated those people and I loved this shirt. The front read, “Glory Is Taken Back Again.” It was an empty statement that meant absolutely nothing. And I loved it for that reason. I always meant to ask where she got that shirt from. I would always forget until after she left.
The rain outside pounded on the windows with a violent furor. Distracted for a moment, my mind began to wander and think of those poor people stuck outside. The time travelers, or the astronauts, or whatever they were (their stories tended to conflict with one another) I ran into constantly had found a second home in my mind, filling me with this pervading obsession that I did my best to hide from the eyes of both the public and the private. Taking refuge under whatever cover they could find, guarding that boombox with their lives. Maybe they had gone on a journey, leaving us behind, if only temporarily? I couldn’t decide whether it was just day to day stress and the urge to just get the hell out of here that got me thinking about this so much, or if I was just well and truly nuts.
My friend, who happened to be a girl and was not a girlfriend, broke my train of thought with a question: “I got stopped by some sidewalk preacher on my way here. He was telling me about the end of the world, about how it’s going to end soon and only ‘the chosen people’ will go to Heaven while the sinners- and he said this while staring at my legs, the fucking pervert, would all stay behind, suffering for all of eternity. And these guys, these televangelists and shit, they’re all so fucking smart. The world seems to be ending at least six times a month and they beg for money even though you can’t take that money with you when you’re dead…” Something was telling me that my friend here had knocked back a few too many. “…so my question is, what if the world is already over? What if the chosen people are just waiting their turn to get into Heaven, like they’re waiting in line at the DMV or something?”
My answer was a simple twitch reaction of confusion, “What the fuck did you just ask me, woman?” I had to throw in the term “woman” to show that I was being lighthearted. “I, I guess? There’s a reason why I don’t believe in any of that crap, anyway.” It was true. I had long since given up hope of any savior or lord, at least not one that wasn’t a cruel, heartless bastard. A complicated story for another time, but my mind had been made up by the end. Now I’m discussing this subject with a drunk woman who is unintentionally and unknowingly spilling drips of bourbon all over her nice jacket. A stern glare partially obscured by her long bangs is informing me that this is her “serious face” and that is she is being serious now. I can’t escape this stupid subject despite my best attempts. She needs a satisfactory answer right here and right now.
Rather than answer, I changed the subject. I began telling her about the group of homeless people gathered around the corner from Mac’s Bar. About their sudden disappearances and reappearances. About their cheap boombox that’s long since been outclassed by modern technology. About the harassment from the dumbshit high school kids. About their alleged journeys to places and times we’ve never nor ever experience. I had hoped this would get her off of this religion bullshit. I had also hoped she caught my subtle intimations that hey, maybe we oughta get the hell out of this podunk wasteland for a short while. Clear our heads and find something else to do in life besides get hammered at my place, sitting on the floor pretending to be cultured. We couldn’t go back in time or into outer space or whatever, but we could certainly take the highway somewhere new and exciting. At least after the few (many) initial hours of traffic and boredom, occasionally highlighted by someone who doesn’t know how to drive attempting to murder us.