Friday, June 30, 2006

Too Late

You've been coming home late for weeks. First it was the board presentation. Then there was the week when the Japanese delegation was in town and you had to take them to dinner every night. Now there's this new account, the one you flew to Paris for, the one that keeps you in office, working as late as midnight sometimes. I've tried to tell you how much I miss you, and how I wish you'd try to come home early, but you just shrug your shoulders and say you don't have a choice, it has to be done. I've accepted that. I haven't tried to insist, because I know it wouldn't help and you'd only get angry.

Then, this afternoon, the news on the television. The asteroid they'd just discovered. The computer simulation showing how it would strike Earth around 6 am tomorrow. The devastation it would cause. All the dreary statistics adding up to just one thing - there was no hope that any of us would survive. The End of the World. The same official government announcement on every channel, playing over and over again. I guess they figured all other programming had become redundant. I guess the camera crews and the announcers have all gone home.

For a while I was afraid that there would be panic on the streets - rioting, looting, that sort of thing. But it didn't happen. If anything, it was unusually quite, as if the whole city had gone into mourning. Which in a way, it has. A city in mourning for itself.

At first I was relieved. I thought, at least the house is safe. Then I thought about the asteroid again, that most furious of all vandals, streaking towards us through the sky. And suddenly I wasn't so concerned about someone throwing stones through our window anymore. Instead, the eerie silence on the streets began to frighten me. I began to feel as though the asteroid had already struck. We were already dead. I wished you were at home.

Where were you anyway? I tried calling you to tell you the news, though I knew you must have already heard it, no one could not have. But the phones were busy. I guess they had to be, what with everyone trying to reach their loved ones - it must be ten times worse than Christmas. Then I figured I should just wait and you'd be home in a couple of hours. But you weren't. Then I thought, maybe there's traffic on the roads. I waited another half hour than I called Marcie to see if James had got home. She said he'd been back for an hour. She said the roads were clear because unlike what you see in disaster movies no one was trying to run. There was nowhere to run to. Everyone just wanted to get home and be with their family. I asked her if James knew where you were, and she went really quiet all of a sudden, then said she had to go.

After I put the phone down, I began to think. All those late nights, all those meals out, your distraction, your coldness, that Paris trip, the shirt you brought back with the buttons ripped off and claimed the laundry had done it. Had I overlooked the obvious? Could it be you were having an affair?

It's almost ten o'clock now, and I decided long ago that you aren't coming home. All around us, the neighbours are facing up to the truth in their different ways. The Kauffmans have turned off their lights and (presumably) gone to sleep. I guess they feel they'd rather meet apocalypse in their beds. The Robinson's are having a party - I can hear the music even from here. I don't know what the Adams are up to, but if I know them at all they'll be praying. I myself have opened a bottle of our best champagne - I figured there was no point saving it now - and am in the process of getting very drunk. I'd thought I'd make a special dinner tonight, a gala last meal. But when I realised you weren't coming I gave up on that and decided to stick with champagne and icecream. It's not much fun drinking champagne alone, though. And I'm waiting for the icecream to thaw a little.

I know I should be frightened by the prospect of imminent death. I know I should be sitting here in shock, horrified by the notion the mankind will become extinct tomorrow. But all I can think is - where are you right now? What are you doing? Who are you spending tonight with, this last night before the end of the world?


Krithi said...

"I know I should be frightened by the prospect of imminent death. I know I should be sitting here in shock, horrified by the notion the mankind will become extinct tomorrow. But all I can think is - where are you right now? "

Gosh, that is so true!

gawker said...

brilliant! the pathos at the end is overwhelming.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

beautifully depressing. loved it

Supremus said...

Depressingly beautiful.

Old Spice said...

Nice. Reminds me of that woman whose husband worked in the twin towers and was having an affair. He'd gone to see his mistress that morning. After the towers were hit, she called him, panicked, and wanted to know where he was. He calmly responded "I'm at work, everything's fine."

Abhiasha said...

As for the woman mentioned by The Graduate in his comment, i wonder if she thanked or rued her luck ?!

Filmiholic said...

Ain't it the truth. The working late, the "going out with some people from work for a few drinks", the distraction, the blahness. Of course, at first, you never suspect, because you never think he could be capable of such a thing. Ha, ha, until you find out to the contrary.

Or so I've heard.

Falstaff said...

krithi: Errr...okay. I'm curious to know how you know this, but thanks anyway.

gawker: Thanks

shoe-fiend / supremus: Hmmm...I was actually going for a more bitter-sweet almost comic touch. I was actually not trying to be depressing. I personally thought the idea of someone worrying about who her husband was sleeping with when the whole world was going to end was fairly ridiculous. This may explain why I never manage to stay in a relationship.

graduate: lol! That's why you should always use voicemail.

abhiasha: Or conversely, depending on what his wife did to him, whether the guy was thankful for not being in the Towers, or regretted it.

filmiholic: Okay, if you say so.

Old Spice said...

I can't remember what happened to that dude - or whether his wife was happy that he was alive or wished him dead. Have done a perfunctory google to find out more, but can't find more.

I also seem to remember reading that quite a few people who died on 9/11 were cheating on their partners; others had mistreated their children, that kind of thing. Makes you think.

Kirthi said...

"Errr...okay. I'm curious to know how you know this, but thanks anyway."//

When I said "this is so true" I meant:

1. People are always preoccupied with things sooo trivial.

2. and if you look at the big picture, what you described can be extended to our life itself. Our deaths are imminent, so to quote Falstaff "like anything matters"!

Falstaff said...

Krithi: Ah, right, that makes sense. I agree. Was just a little worried that an asteriod may have struck earth and destroyed all human life on it without my noticing. i've been out of touch with the news for a bit. All I have access to is the ToI and I'm sure they'd be too busy quoting some starlet on her new hairstyle to report anything as irrelevant as the end of the world

dazedandconfused said...

Poignant, and I think bitter-sweet comic touch went unnoticed by many including me for the simple reason that we are not used to it from you :)

Next time.

Krithi said...

*Grin* :-)

Swathi said...

this explains why you never stay in a relationship??

when your world comes crashing down , the imminent death
causes a welcome relief and this was why the comic touch is replaced by a sense of melancholy.