The day the world went away
9.11.2002 by , every Tuesday.
A couple of people have told me that this is baffling. It's sort of supposed to be, but it might be a bit too baffling... Anyhow, prepare to be baffled!
Apologies for the lateness. Also, apologies for the Nine Inch Nails reference. But not sincere apologies.
There’s nothing worthwhile on the tube. There’s never anything worthwhile, but today the networks have reached new and creative depths of repetitive depravity. For several minutes I dance between channels, barely catching a weather map here, a sitcom there. The edge of a starlet’s breast snags my eye and I halt at a hollywood news show. Several minutes into the saccharine, fawning program, I jab the "off" button and whip the remote at the wall. It doesn’t solve anything but it makes me feel good.
Steven’s still gibbering. I can hear him clearly now that the TV’s off. The sound sickens me. There has to be a way to stop it. I heave myself off the easy chair and walk towards the kitchen, pausing to note the remote’s position on the wood floor, mechanical innards spread about pathetically.
Steven’s balled up on the kitchen table, holding his knees tight with his arms. He’s muttering something meaningless. I pause to assess the situation; he hasn’t moved for two hours, and he hardly notices my presence. Dark spots of sweat are growing under each arm. I think about getting him a glass of water or something, then conclude that I’m not in a heroic mood. A couple of beers would help me along in this respect.
I yank open the sticky fridge door. "We need a new remote," I comment as my hand wraps around the deliciously cold neck of a bottle.
Steven stops muttering and curses inventively. Then he curses again. "How many of those things are you planning to waste?" he cries. "This is what, three so far?" He cuts the air with another expletive.
I deign not to comment. I raise the bottle to my forehead and feel the condensation soothe the hot skin.
The sound of a beer being opened is one of the most soothing sounds in the world. It’s like a lover’s sigh. A little tiny sound that's the universe saying "Everything’s gonna be all right." I down the first one quickly and reach for a second. Steven’s muttering again, but I think the sound’s growing on me. I amble around the kitchen rearranging dirty dishes and slamming back a few more beers. Finally I take stock of the situation once again.
"Do you want some water or something?" I ask.
"No," says Steven.
I’m upset. My efforts at heroism have failed. But no matter. Things are starting to fuzz and glow.
"Comerro," says Steven finally, "I’m scared."
"Bullshit," I reply. "And I told you, it’s Jack to you. This isn't the fucking office."
This seems to shut Steven up for a bit. I turn my attention to the curious way the floor is spinning. I wonder if it’ll stop if I concentrate REAL HARD.
Steven starts muttering again. It’s distracting. Finally I walk up to him and put my hands on his unpleasantly damp shoulders. I lower my head and fix him with as straight a stare as I can.
"Everything," I say, in a big speech voice. "Everything, Steven, Is Going To Be Just Fine."
Steven’s pale watery eyes quiver. "How do you know that, Comerro? How do you know that? We’ve hit something big. Bigger than big. There’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide..."
I curse loudly, and Steven stops, surprised by the volume. In the ensuing silence I search for the words to reassure him, or myself. With a sinking emptiness I realize once more that he’s right. It makes me even angrier.
Maybe Steven notices that he’s winning this one, because he really starts running with it. "There’s nowhere we can go, Comerro," he says, "and nothing left to do. We know something nobody else does, and we can never, ever let on. We’ll both go mad and it won’t matter because nothing matters except It." After all this time he’s still too terrified to say the words out loud.
So am I. And fear makes me angry. I resist the urge to smack the nervous twitchiness off Steven’s face. He was never this anxious a month ago; always the cool, calm, immaculately dressed CEO, never acknowledging the presence of a base courier such as myself. Times change, I guess.
"Well?" he persists. "What are we going to do about it, Comerro? Well?"
And suddenly, I’m thoughtful. I think about the future, and the past, and the fact that there’s only one beer left in the fridge. And I do all that I can to keep from thinking about It.
Finally I open my mouth to speak. A flash of desperate, pathetic hope sparks in Steven’s eyes.
"It's Jack," I say. "I told you, you goddamn whining pissant. It's Jack." I turn on my heels and storm out.