The Next Morning, Or Maybe Afternoon
We got up late. It always feels like this, every time I go to the Outside. One night of sleep is enough to make it hard to believe the big fields even existed. Did they? The 22nd of August of 2022. Not long to go. I got up this morning, or afternoon, with a mixture of melancholy and a deep sense of urgency. Which is a weird mixture. I decided to test Leo. I whispered in his ear, to wake him up: “Sweetheart”. He grumbled. “Sweetheart”, I whispered again, closer to his face. “Yeah?” he asked, semi-conscious, his eyes still closed. “It is all going to be over soon”, I said. He yawned, and spent a good thirty seconds turning and stretching. “Sweetheart” he finally whispered, looking at me with afflicted, red and goopy morning eyes. He squeezed my hand tight, and I hugged him. Yeah. There was a bad thing happening and we were as helpless as children.
We haven’t had sex yet. I wonder when it’s going to happen. Sometimes I wonder if it’s ever going to happen, maybe sex is one of the things we incautiously left behind in our hurry to get through the big fields, I’ve noticed it’s happened to a few other things since we’ve been in the Outside. Food is one of them. I think food used to be ritual, it was ritual for as long as it symbolised my conformity, my commitment to my personal process of dissolving as something indissociable from the place I lived and the things I did, it was ritual for as long as it symbolised routine, the fact that things stayed always the same revolved around food, the huge dishwashing tin that had to be placed exactly in the centre of the big Sunflower Fields. The Kitchen Staff was a group of knowing people, devoted people, people who were unshakably committed to their personal processes of dissolving. Yes, they knew where things went. Of course they did, they had all been there for a long time, even Jonah. I thought it was love, what I felt when I watched him sleep. But how can I love someone who is the same as everything, the same as the air, the same as time passing, the same as light changing? Jonah would never leave, his eyes and nose and mouth and moles and nipples and dusty knees all belonged to the universe, there was nothing that was his anymore. I would have to fall in love with the whole universe. It seemed noble, desirable, beautiful, and, after I found out about Jacques’ death, it was impossible. After I found out about Jacques’ death all I cared about was saving myself. Saving myself from dissolving. Saving myself from becoming one with things I feared, things that threatened the things I loved.
After food was ritual, it became pleasure. It became obscene and dear. Jacques and I cultivated little moments then, new rituals, rebellious rituals that everyday had to be constructed and destroyed anew. We spent dear moments around the portable stove. We were happy. But we were happy in isolation. We were scared. We had to be. We were going against the norm, and the “norm” could even be the norm of the whole universe. How were we to know? We were hardly part of it. We were nothing but our own, separate selves. All else was unknown. We tried as hard as we could to become something known to each other.
Now food is nothing much, I have no idea what I’m doing. I guess this is how we are supposed to feel in times like these. Maybe. I still think about Celia and her family. They seemed happy, not in a pre-Unification way, they seemed happy in the way people who remain together through difficult times often seem to be. I think it’s a good way to be happy, considering the circumstances. Everything’s so different now. But I’ve got to remember that life was hell before the Unification, too. In fact, I was probably one of the least affected people on Earth by the Unification. What was I doing before it that was so different to what I’m doing now? Nothing. I was thirteen years old.
Another Morning (A Strange Morning)
It was hard getting up this morning, the second we opened our eyes we felt the weight of the day ahead of us. The Bomb has to be stopped. There is so little time left now.
We could decide to just be sad, Leo and I, just wait for it to go off. We could be the two sad-looking people who secretly know it is all going to be over soon.
“Hey, Leo. Sweetheart.”
“What do you think we should do today?”
“What are you talking about? We have to let people know.”
“So they can do something about it. What’s going on? What’s wrong with you today?”
“Well, Theo and Viola didn’t seem very alarmed last night, did they?”
“They just weren’t the right kind of people for us. That’s why we have to tell everyone we can. Someone must be able to help.”
“Well, how are we going to tell them then?”
“What do you mean? You just go out there and tell them. The right people will listen. I think we should tell Theo as well. He was asleep when we told Viola. We don’t really know who he is, he looks like maybe a successful guy, right? He looks like he might have some good contacts. From the old days.” He had no idea what he was talking about. “Let’s tell him, I have a good feeling about him.”
We walked downstairs in silence. Theo was still in his silk robe, drinking a cup of tea by the unlit fireplace.
“Good morning, Theo”, I said, brightly.
“Afternoon”, Theo corrected me with a laugh. “Good afternoon, you two. Sorry I dozed off last night. I’m just an old man, that’s all you need to know about me...”. He got up to greet us. “How are you guys today? I heard you had a pretty long day yesterday. Viola told me a bit about you.” Then he looked at me. “You have been through some tough times.”
I didn’t know what to say.
“Yeah”, I said.
“I know it’s not easy to lose a brother. You never really get over it”. He put his hand on my shoulder. Leo didn’t know where to look.
How do I feel about The Bomb? I’m terrified of it, just as much as anyone would be – just as much as Viola is, or Theo would be if he heard about it, of course I’m terrified of the idea that everything will get blown up to pieces, so soon. How do I feel about trying to stop it? I don’t know. Sometimes it seems innocuous. Sometimes it seems like something fun to do to pass the time. Times are challenging for everyone. Some people, like Celia’s family, survive them by staying together. Some people have resigned themselves to being forever an article of times past. They will never fit in again. They build their own private kingdoms of meaning. Theo and Viola fit this category. Most of the people in the big fields, and in all the even bigger fields everywhere, don’t live a life bound to a moment in time, but rather to a place. The history of places is so different from the history of people. The history of places is about giving continuity to one whole, isolated thing that remains still through the ages. That is what Leo wanted, but he failed at doing what he was supposed to, of course failing is always an option. And then there are people like me. I don’t belong to any place or time in particular, I don’t have a family or anyone to stay with when things are unclear. You see, it’s just harder for me to find something harmless to do to pass the time. I could fall madly in love with Leo. Leo and I could make pamphlets, hang up posters, try to tell as many people as possible about The Bomb, and hope that someone, somewhere, is capable of doing something about it. I could get a cat. Serve it two meals a day, until the day it all came to an end.
I could fall madly in love with Leo. Breathe gently on each other’s cheeks as we wake up each morning – that could keep us going for a good, long while. We still haven’t had sex. So that’s something we’re gonna have to do at some point, and we can surely kill some time doing that. Good. That’s at least a few weeks that are taken care of. We’ll be having sex, I risk saying regularly, until the 22nd of August of 2022. That would be pretty convenient, in times like these. Even in the big fields that’s what people seem to spend most of their time doing.