Honey, what’s for dinner?

It’s 6 am and I’m sitting in bed thinking whether mixed veggies go better with turkey breast than potatoe wedges. But also how peculiar is it really that 366 days ago the entire universe conspired to put me in your virtual way and put you in mine? Was it a year ago or was it last November? Sometime after my birthday when I thought, hey, why not; let’s browse through hundreds of unfamiliar faces to kill time, and hopefully, temporarily, wound emptiness in the chest with a conversation? I had one about the butterfly effect, and then I had you.

Was it last November or last August? When I made too many questionable decisions that led me right to a therapist’s doorstep weighed down by the world and the obsessive need to sabotage all that glitters and shines because drowning in black tasted like living. And living tasted a little too much like dying.

Was it last August or last May? When new didn’t suffice so I dug for insane, filled the boxes of a universal checklist and had my heart aflutter at murmurs of concern and gasps of awe alike. I fed myself love and experience. Don’t they always say, you have to love yourself first?

Or was it January, 2017? The day I gave one thing and took many? Or, no, April, 2016, the day I gave up one thing and took, oh, so many? Was it December, 2011, when the game offered two options, the kind that comes with consequences, and I chose the one that I feared most? Crossed a road to this life and never looked back?

Was it December 2nd, 2017, when you made me giggle for the first time, or, could be, January 1st, 2018, when you tucked me in bed for the first time?

I don’t know. One tiny detail could have changed along the way and altered the course of our lives. I could have flown to faraway lands, a continent between us; we wouldn’t have known. I could have spun in circles over one thing or the other, drove past you in a car at 2 am and we wouldn’t have known. Could have ignored that, “hey,” clicked on another unfamiliar face, threw a joke they didn’t get then went to sleep. We couldn’t have known. But I didn’t. I’m glad.

January 26, March 1st, March 17th; I love you, when did it stop being an “act of God,”? A string of events and choices we couldn’t foresee. When did we choose? When did we, willingly, consciously? Was it April 17th, May the 3rd, June 18th? Last weekend? Today?

Is it today? Tomorrow? Every day? One butterfly flapped its wings in New Mexico, and here we are, until you, or I, or the world doth us part.

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Versus the World

Hi, yes, hello, this is about your medical insurance card, hope you’re having a great day. So, if you’ll give me a minute; I wanted to just put it out there that existing is a biological hazard and health is a logistics nightmare. See, you think you’re good to go, you know, leave your bed this morning and face the terrifyingly fast deteriorating state of co-habitation we call the world, natural defenses all ready and shit, and boy are you wrong. Please, if you’ll grant me the gift of fucks-given and open ears, I promise: this will be 119.99$ a month worth the aftermath of economical dread and consequent budgeting panic (albeit very minor) attacks.

Look, you remember (ah, the memory is still fresh as dry cleaned bed sheets) when it was you and them against mama nature and you thought yourself a worthy adversary because you, silly goose, have gone above and beyond to romanticize atrophy and could always take the easy way out if shit, God forbid, ever really hits the fan. Because you’re young and invincible and most importantly indifferent and your body is an under construction temple that you’ll tend to in the next 5-year plan the same way you tended to your college graduation project 3 days before it was due. You know, procrastination worked 9 satisfactory times out of 10 and it has made you arrogant. Now listen, this will be 119.99$ a month worth the bondage, the slave labor, or whatdya call it, the job. I promise.

Well, see, though you might have thought it highly improbable, sometimes you want to live nice, love nice, fuck nice, but your body doesn’t know nice. What your body knows all so intimately is junk, backache, and tar. It knows reckless endurance and soldiering through the every day and that sleeping for 18 hours is super fun because in your dreams, you can fly. The real pickle is wanting to live when all you’ve prepped for was to die poetically. And darling, if you’ll excuse the endearment, for just 119.99$ a month, worth giving up regular funding of your dream Euro trip saving account, you get to smoke for 10 more years and feel less guilty about it. I promise.

Let us also establish that you’re all alone against a tyrannical natural selection, and that if you’re bed-ridden by 34, none of the boys on Tinder will ever swipe right. And if you’re wise enough, and I know you are, you’ll never have any desire to pass on your faulty genetics and terrible coping mechanisms to the guy who will most probably die first come the nuclear post-apocalypse. I mean, the planet is running out of resources and it’ll be a dog eat dog world out there. But barring future dead offspring, and if you’ll allow me to be so bold, the one responsibility you’ll ultimately owe a loved one, is to spare them the burden of caretaking.

For just 119.99$ a month, worth the moment of painful realization that, yes, you’re old enough to be that practical, yes, you’ve self destructed enough to be afraid, yes, you want to live enough to pay for it, you get yourself someone with a certificate to (hopefully) clean up your mess and tell you exactly how to not kill yourself slowly today.

And honey, if you’ll permit me the little intervention, it’s okay to breathe fully, and to love someone hard enough to fuck up responsibly. It’s okay, it’s not shameful, it’s not unfashionable, it’s okay to grow up enough to give a fuck. I promise.

Homage

Baby,

Two reasons I didn’t want to write this. The first is, there has always been some finality to documenting an experience, as if exposing it to the world is to somehow declare it’s now good and done. Evaluation all finished. Thank you for your time. But, fuck, I still want your time. Bear with me.

Second, and this is tricky to put into words, but there’s something especially unusual about your brand of beautiful. Like a story that wouldn’t make sense without background knowledge, like a tone stuck in your head but you can’t properly hum. How do I explain that I’ve sat and watched bits and pieces of the universe, of you and me, comprising together, playing out, perfectly synchronized, and worthy of fucking theaters. So, you see, semantics is a problem.

I would attribute you to kindness, but the word is flat and reductive. Kind is helping a frail old lady cross the street. And to be honest, I have no idea if you’d help a frail old lady cross the street, but you’d forgive those who come with heaviness that doesn’t necessarily correlate with old age. You’d love them regardless. You’d allow them peace and acceptance and ease. God, do you have any idea how much, how often, the world needs to just be allowed to fucking breathe? You’re fresh air to be around.

I could attribute you to gallantry. The kind of bravery that doesn’t require a world war or a fairytale hero. Walking the streets wearing yourself on your sleeve, hair all bright blue because fuck them all to hell and back? How could you do it when you knew you could get a punch in the face for it? How did you not co-exist, tip-toed next to a wall like we all do when the world wouldn’t acknowledge different because it doesn’t understand different? How did you choose to endure rather than change? Don’t ever change.

I could attribute you to grace. Not Nietzsche’s silly notion of a supreme being that never bends. It’s the way you speak of your scars, the way you don’t demand an apology for them, the way you don’t expect the world to owe you a reconciliation. When we’d laugh about them, and I know it hurts but you’d make the joke regardless; and the way you have managed to break free off all layers of a pathetic hypermasculinity society has imposed on almost all of its biological males, as a sense of identity, character, morale. You created your own and it’s beautiful.

I won’t address my side of things. Or how you’re kind, brave, graceful to and for me (nor would I detail the way you look at me, the “what?” and then the “everything,” or how it makes me look at myself in the mirror after), because this is not about me or my experience. It’s about you. And how you’re loved because you deserve it. You’re loved because you deserve it. You’re loved because you deserve it.

Here Comes the Sun

Eins.

The sun hasn’t come up yet but our protagonist is not in a hurry. This year has been long; that night, not. We have relearnt patience to merit its necessity, not its virtue, polished a skill to overcome. What’s your new year resolution? 

Zwei. 

 This kind of life is a gamble. You win some, you lose some. None of the outcomes matter; all the specifics do. The future doesn’t exist, and our protagonist has seized days like there is no tomorrow. Everything is beautiful, even when it hurts. Only “nothing” is bad.

Drei. 

  It’s 5 am. The sun hasn’t come up yet but who’s asking? There’s heat in her chest that she can’t quite get over it’s embarrassing. Doctor had said something opaque about the type of anger that wears masks; could be anything, anyone, anywhere. We promise to dig through to understand and unravel. But it’s 5 am, and it’s calm as breeze.

Vier. 

  You’ve listened to that one song 13 times on a row you dislike it now. You don’t leave your bed for much but you’d leave it for them. And our protagonist can assign stories to people and sing their beauty to the stars. Each and everyone. How can they all be so lovely? You’re high on a chocolate cake and existence is endearing in its dreadfulness. You want to do nothing and you want to do them. You listen to that one person 13 times on a row, the sun is almost up, and you don’t dislike them yet.

Fünf. 

  There’s a count up to 10 and we’re not sure where it leads to. He holds, he release; you need it over but you need it to last. People obsess over destinations but they terrify you. What is there when you’re there? You never want to stop wanting.

Sechs.

  Our protagonist’s response to stimuli is often severely hindered by demons of monotony. We sit down and we think of an augmentation, surgical intervention, aggressive intrusive hands to unfold the mystery and reattach the wires. It’s only fun because it pleases you to be so strangely dysfunctional. You pay them to probe you for the truth. You can’t help but lie. 

Sieben. 

  Some moments, some on the rocky shores of the sea, some in dimmly (or otherwise brightly) lit bedrooms, some in the balkony when the sun is finally out. Some moments are worth remembering, and you ink them on paper and cross fingers over your heart and think, “It’s okay to die. It’s okay. I have lived.”

Acht. 

  This year has been long; that night, not. And they both pass. Numbers on a calendar, astronomical events that repeat themselves time and time again. It’s nothing special and yet it’s all you have. Immersion, indulgence, distraction. You miss everything. You miss everyone. Today, It’s enough through and through. And though tomorrow it might not be, you’ve  seized the days one time too many, tomorrow is a metaphysical afterthought, and it fades into temporary oblivion. 

Neun. 

  Our protagonist loves to wrap herself entirely around a human body until at least one personal, intimate detail seeps into her skin and stays. And Nature has seen numerous entanglements of various anatomies since organisms knew how to separate and then reconnect again, must have listened to that same song 13 times on a row it dislikes it now. But we think, we don’t know but we could bet money on it, that, sometimes, something so fascinatingly original passes between skins, and Nature is slightly amused.

Zehn. 

  It’s noon. The sun is all there is. Our protagonist traces parts of herself that still light up because someone beautiful has touched them. She pays farewell to people and she pays farewell to years. That last one has been long; that last night, not. And in a few days, on a particular midnight that has no astronomical right to feel special, we restart a count up to 10. We’re not sure where it leads to. But, for better or for worse, and through temporary oblivions, we are thankful.

Eins… 

Epilogue

If this paper, mind you, screen, is, or was a mere second ago, blank, it’s because there’s a certain limitation to human language, and your brain thinks that’s about the farthest edge of it. What happens to you, what you experience, does it even count if it doesn’t defy words? You’ve wandered the globe, always seeking just the newest, the most bizarre, freak show. You end up in a carnival tent; you’re the freak. Do you even mind it the least bit?

Your friends say, see a doctor. “I know your liver doesn’t yet hurt for all the drinking; I know your lungs have grown tighter, perhaps a lot darker; I know your heart only aches for trouble.” They say, Please. See a doctor. “I know you’ve accustomed yourself to a survival battle of your own design. I know sins of the mind have more or less become habitual. I know you’d choose to cry, and bleed, and go fucking insane over the emptiness that is stillness.” See a doctor. Please. Fix yourself.

But let us not talk about fixing, or the underlying promise to exorcize the self destruction out of you. Tell me, how often have you stared into someone’s eyes and saw nothing but an abyss, and sought them for it nonetheless? Sought them, not for any petty moments of fulfillment; sought them because the vacuum draws you in just like a black hole would the sun. (But can you blame the sun?) And you reciprocate their nothingness with affection, so that if, if you do one day see the light, a light, any light, a flickering thing so weak your breath could blow away, then oh what victory! What marvellous marvellous triumph of the self.

But I digress. None of the words already written is what I want to write. I want to write about last night, and the sleepless attempts at rationalization, and the sickening need to not only find sense but create it. The reconciliations with fresh violations and the struggles deemed worthy only because they’re too much. I want to romanticize cruelties that I don’t deserve and conclusions drawn in hasty whispers across unfamiliar skin.

Beauty is the unfairest agent of them all, is it not? I’ve watched it drip with malice and wanted to slurp every last bit and ask for more. What unperceptive idiot thought darkness can only ever come with horns? And are we not easily deluded children, to despise the vulgar and share a bed with the graceful?

Tell me, what atrocities have you had to bear to get into their bed? Tell me, did you like bearing them? And if it sucks the air out of your chest now to admit it, would you say you stayed, more for the atrocities, than for the bed?

But in the tangled web of compromised free will and threats both laid in the open and creeping out of denials, of distress so sweet it hurts and an utter lack of empathy that makes curious muscles tense and nerve endings tingle, I am tampered with. I’m infatuated. I’m damn near frightened. I’m alive. And his body is warm and his eyes are cold and his words sting and burn and he’s fascinating and he’s fucking beautiful. And so help me god my mother hasn’t raised me a coward, so I won’t run.

So don’t run, okay? Even when you’re dangerous, even if I’m dangerous. Even if we look at each other and see nothing but disorders. Don’t walk away before you’ve given me enough, and taken enough, bruised enough and played enough. Don’t walk away until all is said and done and I’ve soaked in you, broke for you, fell and rose, fell and rose, fell and rose, and absorbed all your colors, and then survived you.

Or not.

So don’t run, okay?

علبة شوكولاتة

أول ما قابلت الناس اللي معايا في الشغل الجديد كنت فعلياً مش طايقه وشهم. الهزار السيكسيست وسلوك المتدينين المقيت بتاع “هوليير-زان-زاو”* وإحنا شعب الله المختار . مكنتش متخيله إزاي هضطر أتعامل مع الناس ديه شبه يومياً، وإزاي 12 ساعه من يومي هقضيهم مع ناس مختلفين عني قوى كده.

كنا في رمضان وكنت تقريباً بفطر قدامهم كل يوم. محدش سألني أو بصلي بإستغراب. الموضوع كان مريب شوية بس ما علينا. بعد أول أسبوعين بقينا بنضطر نتعامل مع بعض كتير. بريزينتيشانس و أرت بروجيكتس. فاكره أول مره هزرت مع واحد فيهم على ال التيم-لييدر بتاعتنا. ومن ساعتها كل ما تعمل حاجة عبيطه نبص لبعض ونبتسم.

بنقعد على الأرض ونتناقش هنقدم الموضوع إزاي، وأحيانا كتير برسملهم. فاكره اول مره برضو بنت قالتلي تعالي معانا فى التيم عشان انا بحب أفكارك. البنت لطيفة وضحكتها حلوه. واكتشفت إن أغلب البنات جايين من محافظات وعايشين لوحدهم هنا. وأنهم تقريباً استقلوا عن أهلهم بقالهم سنين، حاجه انا لسه مش مستعدة نفسياً اعملها.

في الأسبوع الأخير ده إتعاملت معاهم شخصياً واحد واحد. واحد منهم موبايله رن ب “ديسباسيتو” كذا مره ورا بعض. انا ضحكت وقلتله بحب الأسباني. قالي انا بحب الموسيقى بس طلعان عيني بسبب الرينج تون ديه. “انا مش مقتنع إن الموسيقى حرام بس صحابي كلهم كده. إزاي أزهري وبتسمع الحاجات ديه؟ فيه حاجات لسه بدري عليهم لما يقبلوها. إنتِ عارفه إن رفاعه الطهطاوي يبقى جد جدي؟”

بقول كلمات إنجليزي في النص أغلبهم مبيفهموهاش، بس هما بيكلموا ألماني احسن مني. في إثنين جم قالولي إكلمي معانا إنجليزي عشان نتدرب. واحد منهم أول ما شفته مكنتش مستحمله اتبادل معاه كلمه. جدته ماتت من أسبوعين، ومن ساعتها وهو هادي. إمبارح قالي،
“Make tea with this water. It’s better, right? Because it’s filter.”
“Filtered?”
“Filtered.”

اه، و الولد بتاع المنصورة. لهجته تدي على سوري وملامحه جميلة فشخ. بيناكف في كل الناس وبعد كده يقولهم انا اسف لو زعلتك. خفيف ووجوده يشرح القلب وفيه بواقى طفولة مش منفره تماماً. بحب أبص عليه، واسمعه بيدندن، وهو بيحب ينكشني وانا في حالي.

فيه 5 قطط لسه مولودين عايشين في الجنينه بره مبنى الشغل. البنات بيلعبوا معاهم حتى لو خايفين منهم. واحده منهم مره قالتلي عايزه اجيلك البيت مخصوص عشان العب مع زعتر. بتلبس خمار وعباية ووشها زي القمر. وبتقول “شيت” لما الدنيا تبوظ منها. مره سألتها قبل ما أولع سيجارة إن كانت بتضايق من الدخان. إتخضت لثانية، بعد كده قالتلي لأ، بس صحتك يعني. قلتلها ربنا يسهل وضحكنا.

فاكره مره واحده من البنات كانت بتتكلم مع الولد اللي بيأمهم في الصلاه وبيخطب فيهم كل جمعة. كانت بتقوله أنها قرت “حوار مع صديقي الملحد” وإنه كتاب مهم قوى. قالها من غير مايفكر إن الكتاب سطحي ومبيجاوبش على حاجه.
“انا بحترم الملحد جداً على فكرة.”
“ليه؟!”
“عشان شجاع.”
بحاول الاقيه من ساعتها على فيسبوك. مش عايزه أكلم معاه، بس عايزه اشوف هيكون فين كمان تلات سنين.

يمكن اللي مخلي التجربة ديه راديكاليه قوى بالنسبه لي، اني بقالي حوالي تلات سنين بختار الناس اللي هتكون حواليا بمقاييسي، مش بجبر نفسى أتعامل مع دواير مختلفة، ولو إتعاملت بيبقى بشكل محدود ميسمحليش ولا يتطلب مني أي درجه من القرب. انا نوعاً ما مبسوطة اني مقابلتش ناس شبهي، عشان على الرغم من سهولة الحوار اللي كان هيكون ما بينا، معتقدش إن التجربة كانت هتقدملي حاجة جديده، و حزينة اني مش هفضل في الشغل ده كفايه عشان اعرف واشوف اكتر، وعشان نظرتي تبقى أقل سطحية.

مش متخيله إني أعرف أكون صداقة حقيقية مع حد منهم. ومش ناوية أجيب سيرة حريات شخصية أو ليبرالية والذى منه عشان الجدال هيزعلني. عارفه انهم لسه سيكسيست و سيلف-رايتشوس ولسه مفيش بينا أرض مشتركة. بس مش مهم. انا ممتنه لكل لمحة إنسانية شفتها في حد فيهم كنت فاكره إني مستحيل أقبله. لسه منبهرة بالطبيعة البشرية ومدى تعقيدها وكمية الألوان والتناقضات والخفايا اللي جوا كل واحد فينا. وبيتأكدلي كل يوم إن، في أغلب الأوقات، سهل قوى تلاقي قناه وصل بين أي طرفين مختلفين لو سبتلهم بس الوقت الكافي إنهم يتلاقوا.
___________________________________
*Holier-than-thou

Fig Leaves

Don’t try this at home.

Don’t. You run across a kindred soul like yours in virtual space. You recognize them because it takes one to know one and you’re just that. You play with words, pour your heart’s contents for them but only in metaphors. You’re careful. You remind yourself always: self preservation first and foremost. But you’re also an adrenaline junkie. Not the kind to jump off a cliff; the kind to reach out for the sun when your wings are all wax and plastered feathers. You flirt with thoughts of self-annihilation: the type where your heart beats all the faster, not altogether stop. Because fact is, you never really want to burn. You only want the sweat.

Don’t. You see the humanity in those who are godly; then you look closer, and you see God in their humanity. You think you want to embrace both as something of your own, a souvenir of authenticity and rawness. You let yourself be fascinated because you’re past all delusions of perfection, and now the subtlest curve of her body is a cosmic miracle; and the way he zips up his jeans is an erotic dream. And you, you are more than yourself.

Don’t. You breathe new air and thank your lucky stars for being where you are now. Everything that has ever happened has happened for a reason, ended for a reason, brought you here. You don’t want to rationalize it; you only appreciate it: the changes, the passage, their good and their evil. All is forgiven. You’re forgiven. You’re strong and mighty and full to the rim with the world. Experiences are your drug of choice. You collect the memories and write them down so you won’t ever again forget. And you kiss the tips of her fingers and chase his eyes across the room. You hide behind a wall and fuck each other’s demons, make peace, smoke a cigarette.

Don’t. You’re the best thing that ever happened to you. You snort another line and get a pat on the head. You smile, you tear up, awareness courses through your blood, you join hands with warmth and wrap arms around her waist. It’s almost midnight and Cinderella has to rush home minus one missing custom-fit glass shoe. You secretly hope they have lost something of theirs among something of yours too, that, somewhere along the way, they’ll come knocking: the prince, the godmother, the fantasy. Maybe. Maybe once every blue moon, maybe never. You don’t worry. Good things will happen when they happen as long as you keep on moving. Your door remains ajar.

Don’t stay where you are.

That One Last Prophecy That Almost Fulfilled Itself

Fragmentation is a nasty habit, I know. But you see, doctor Gregory, I’m a firm believer in the overall absurdity of big pictures and greater goods. Neither of the aforementioned minds the details, because that’s where the devil resides, they say. I say, fuck the near and the far future alike. Fuck that one thing that requires just that other one thing to function, and fuck happiness that demands misery to persist. I understand that we, regrettably, are adults. And as adults it has been forbidden us carefreedom, or the right to grieve at the lack thereof. I refuse to abide by the social contract that obliges me to always bear. Henceforth I, too, don’t find martyrdom attractive, nor do I wish at any point for myself or others to view me as the hero I know I’m not. This savior is nonexistent because this savior desires only to live carefully, selfishly, and self indulgently. I suppose I could claim the moral high ground and assume courage in admitting that a life well lived is not necessarily a life reflected on one, or several, profound purpose(s). But let us not brand my words with absolutism, for I know, the details, and the devil, are my friends, and the universe is wicked beyond reason, and purposes are times too many thrusted upon us and clinging. I realize also that we, creatures cursed with intelligence, are always and evermore threatened by one another, and by ourselves. And for that I have no solution and against that no protection. But you understand me, doctor Gregory, when I say, I’ll point the blame wherever the fuck I please, and if that is my chest, or should it be yours, then so be it.

A Temporary Truth, a Temporary Truce

I’m trying to write the pain away.

Disclaimer: Nothing is permanent. Best case scenario, death does us part. Worst case scenario, time does.

Confession: This is unfathomable. Obscene. Outrageous. I’m completely and utterly furious. I think of you every time I light up a cigarette. And every time I throw one away.

Introduction: It’s mildly amusing how I can’t seem to get a grip. This loss of control triggers scandalous levels of anxiety. And if you know me enough you’d know. You’d know the ebbs and flows of need, the fluctuations of extremities, you’d know how the moon changes, and how my heart seamlessly does.

Message: I am sorry you’re aching, like I am. I’m not sorry you’re aching like I am. If anything, let us always suffer in tandem and break free in sync. And may you only fly away when I need to breathe. And may I only run for the hills when you crave space.

Author’s Note: This dissection is not an attempt to reminisce by a manipulative selective memory. Said memory is not the villain. It’s all us. We did this. We created the beauty and demanded that it be preserved. It’s so cruel.

Conclusion: The worst part is that I never need to polish you because you come as you are. And you, as you are, elate me, and it burns my cheeks with shame that I let you. (But, and this is the secret of secrets, I like it.)

Acknowledgement: My ego is very grateful, my skin, my mind palace. Not my heart. My heart is bent out of shape and violent. How dare you?

References: You, cheeky bastard.

Humanity: Au Revoir

We did it for the eternal youth, not the immortality. Who wants immortality anyway when we’ve been discussing our eventual joint suicide for years now. I remember sitting on the porch with her, hands clasped together and a glimmer in the eyes, and we spoke of all we were bound to miss.

“The sun?”
“Eh, I never really liked it. Too bright and too full of itself. Made me nauseous 3 times out of 5.”
“And sunsets are overrated.”
“Sunsets are beautiful, but only in the manner a painting is beautiful. There’s nothing of it to grasp with your fingers. Might as well watch it on YouTube.”
“Once my kindergarten teacher told me: you can touch the sun if you dip your fists in the ocean the precise moments it sets.”
“That’s both romantic and idiotic.”
“It’s something. I think I’ll miss the beach.”
“I’ll miss how its rays reflect off of your hair, leave it golden.”
“The effect can be mimicked artificially.”
“Not the same. Not as ephemeral. It’s magical because it fleets.”
“We can worship the full moon instead. The cycle gives us what, two days? It’ll part us too soon; we’ll ache for it.”
“And we like aching.”

So that settles that.

She shifted her feet beneath her, bare and tiny and out of sight. I thought of ache and sucked my lower lip through my teeth, focused for 2 minutes of silence on the gentle motion of our chests, rhythmically rising and ebbing. Living was a curious thing.

“Breathing?” I asked.
“Mechanics. Air doesn’t taste like anything.”
We paused to put this to the test. Sucked in oxygen in tandem. I visualized her lungs expanding to capacity and then evacuating, pink and fresh and slightly, just slightly, laced with tar.
“Smoking!”
“I’ll miss smoking.”
“The conscious destruction of it, never the nicotine.”
“Never the nicotine.”
She fell silent, gaze rising up to a tree nearby. She thought of organisms sustaining a monotone purposeless life until inevitable decay. I know because I thought it too.

“Feels obscene, betraying the natural order of things like that.”
“Aging, a life vanquished untimely, vanishing. The natural order of things offends me.”
“You think yourself too significant.”
“I am. The universe revolves around me. Until it doesn’t.”
“Death, a choice, rather than an obligatory destination.”
“Will you miss it, the fragility of our biology?”
She seemed to ponder on this one a little. People like to think of death as the ultimate life force. Fight or flight. Adrenaline. Survival instinct. Would our stupid bodies realize they are damn near invincible, stop rushing blood to our limbs because danger is no longer dangerous?

“No.” She said.
“No.” I thought.

“Flavors. Food. Vodka.”
Her eyes lit up, “Weed. Psychedelics. Intravenous opiates.”
I licked my lips, “Do you remember our covenant to start shooting up morphine before we kill ourselves?”
“It gave me something to look forward to.”
“And now we may go an entire eternity without ever knowing how it feels.”
She stared at me, wrinkled her nose in an exaggerated expression of woe. Who knew humanity had so much to offer and so little of it to do responsibly?

“Do you regret the things we didn’t?”
“One cannot tell where we would have ended up if we did. Here isn’t so bad.”
She exhaled; I squeezed her hand tighter. It occurred to me to ask her if morality concerned her. The words flirted with my tongue and faded prematurely. It’s a question for another day.

But we haven’t once spoken of everything there is to gain. Cynics don’t. And here, a purgatory between two worlds where all choices lay ahead, inviting, exhilarating, terrifying, wasn’t so bad. Wasn’t so bad at all.