Note: This is a monologue written for Sean Baptiste’s ongoing performance project, ‘Untroducing the Human Race’, which is a series of monologues done from the perspective of the last inhabitants of the world in the very near future.
by Sean Baptiste
I’ve always sort of been a lonesome sort. I had friends, sure. But I’ve always sort of gone through life with a lot of alone time. I worked as a nurse in the Halsford County Hospital. It wasn’t a very populated county, and we were the only hospital, so I got the dubious task of watching just about every single person I know pass. I don’t know why I didn’t die. I dealt with the sick all day long. I held their hands. I watched them pass. I made sure none of them would ever have to do it by themselves. Drunks, rapists, mothers, priests, accountants, children. Didn’t matter, I held all their hands. I held it all inside of me. I was there for my Mom, my Dad, my two sisters, about two-thirds of my friends. In case you’re wondering, yes it killed me every time to see yet another one of my loved ones carted out of the room in a cardboard coffin because wooden or steel had become far to scarce. I am the last survivor of Halsford County. I don’t mean of the hospital, I mean the entire county. I came to this city alone. I always thought I would stay alone. I kind of felt like maybe my coming to this city was a bad idea. That maybe I should just die. That I was just postponing the end. I tried killing myself a couple times but something always went wrong. I ran my car in my garage when my parents died, hoping to die of carbon monoxide poisoning. The car ran out of gas just as I was starting to get sleepy. I tried hanging myself but the fan that I tied the rope to came clear out of the ceiling and gave me a sizable bump on my head. I swallowed some pills in my Moms medicine cabinet, only to find out that the sugary taste they left in my mouth meant they were placebos. I came to a point where I realized that the suicide thing just wasn’t in the cards. So I came here. There wasn’t anything left for me at home. There wasn’t anyone left to help die. As much as it hurt, it still gave me a purpose. So I left. I came here.
I live by myself and I don’t have that much. I go to pick up my food from the Provisions Building every other day. Other than that my interaction with other people is fairly minimal.
So it was a couple weeks ago. I’m at the Provisional, waiting in line. And it happens. Out of nowhere. This girl behind the desk. She must have been new, I knew I had never seen her before. She wasn’t gorgeous or anything. I have to stress that. Neither am I. That’s not the point. The point is that she wasn’t they type that most people would instantly notice. There was a sort shy quality about the way she stood there. She wasn’t chatty, she didn’t seem to possess an excellent sense of humor. She just sort of did her job and went about her business. But there was something. Something I could feel coming off her. Well, I get up to the counter and she’s waiting on me, and I’m looking at her hair, it’s clean and combed. She’s looking at an invoice on the counter. And she looks up at me and our eyes meet and suddenly see us, lying together in bed. Its early morning and the blankets are pushed down and I am awake and I’m looking at her. We are facing each other. My face is just inches from hers. I’m looking into her closed eyes and I’m trying to match my breathing to hers. Her hand is on my chest right above my heart. My hand is on the crest of her hip. I love her this way. She is beautiful when she wakes up in the morning. Before she’s had the time to shower and put on makeup, before she looks like everyone else. When she has that sleepy warmness, but her feet are still cold. She starts to wake up and when she sees me there she starts to smile a little. There’s no romantic music in the background. Our bedroom window faces the western part of the dome, so we never get to see the sunrise. She moves her free hand to my face and rubs whatever stubble has grown on my face since last night. She has sleepy seeds in the inside corners of her eyes. Imperfect. The whole scene is just one big bunch of imperfections. That’s the scene that played out in my head the moment I saw her, part of it anyway, I saw something else but I’m not ready to tell you. There were no fireworks, no champagne, no beaches, just cold feet and bad lighting. And this voice in my head just says “Yesssss”.
You don’t experience that level of intimacy with a person on just meeting them. You just don’t. I loved her immediately. Not because I loved her presently, but because I knew I loved her in the future. I don’t think I can really explain why. I guess because she was so real. I guess because in the scene that went through my head I was content. I guess it was because when I just stood there in the line for provisions staring at her with my mouth open she didn’t think it was creepy, she laughed. Not in a mean way. It wasn’t even a laugh of joy. I wouldn’t call it that. It was more like surprise, like she knew exactly what I was thinking, like maybe she had the same thing when she saw me. A vision of the beautiful and ordinary. When I sort of came to, that is to say when I closed my mouth and looked slightly less like a jackass, I ran out of the building. I know, I know, I know, I should have stayed. I should have stayed and talked and gotten to know her. I know. But I couldn’t. I got so afraid that I would screw up. That maybe she didn’t see what I saw, that maybe I imagined the whole thing, that maybe if I said something about it she’d think I was crazy, or wrong, or at the very worst some slimy guy who used this line to pick up chicks.
I stood in the alley next to the provisions building panting and sweating and feeling like maybe I was going to throw up. I always feel like that when I meet someone who I am attracted to, or feel like I maybe for just a second can’t live without. You know, that deep down desire, passion, need for another person that both kind of rips you apart inside but also kind of tickles? Well I have met my share of ladies, but I never once threw up. Never once, no matter how bad I felt like I was going to. But this time. Out in the alley. I did. I know its weird, equating love and nausea but I know you know what I mean. So I’m out there just feeling feverish and like my body is out of control and at the same time I feel like I am floating a few feet over the ground. I am leaning over with one hand on Provisions Building delivery door, and I am feeling a little bit better, I am pulling myself together. So I take my hand off the door and stand up. I take a few deep breaths into my lungs and prepare myself to go back into that building and talk to this girl who it appears I am destined to be with. I think to myself that I should have a breath mint first. Just then the delivery door opens rather swiftly. Slammed open, actually, right into my face and I go spinning to the ground grasping for my nose which I am hoping is not broken. And I hit the ground, bounced twice, and rolled onto my back staring up at the dome that covered the city. It had been up for two years and still I don’t think I had gotten used to it. It was slightly tinted red to keep out UV rays and it always gave the sky a purplish hue. It always looked like sunset. Suddenly it was gone she had stepped in the way of me and the dome and was looking at me. She had one hand over her mouth, and was touching my face with the other hand. She was saying something but my head was ringing and I couldn’t hear. I touched my nose and it was blood free. But then, I don’t know to this day if she was picking up on what I was trying to do, if she knew I was worried about a broken nose or what, but she took her hand off my cheek and gently ran one index finger from my hairline, slowly across the ridge of my nose, it didn’t hurt. My ears stopped ringing. Her finger went further down to my lips and stayed there, exerting no pressure but gently lying there. She looked at me, and she was so close to that I could see my reflection in her pupils. We stayed like that for several seconds, with her finger on my lips, and our eyes locked together. I reached up and placed the palm of my hand on her chest, right above her breast, it was instinctual; I knew it was the right thing to do and I felt her heart beating. I can’t stress to you how much this moment was not about sex. It wasn’t. The connection we had at that moment beat the best sex I have ever had. That moment filled up every empty space inside me. As lame and cheesy as it sounds that is exactly how I felt.
We didn’t kiss. Her boss came out the back door and ordered her back inside. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t apologize, she didn’t tell me her name, nothing. I didn’t talk either. I just leaned my back against the opposite wall and watched as she went back inside.
I went home and thousands of things went through my head. Everything. I felt like for some reason we had some sort of shared destiny. Almost like fate, right? Except I don’t really dig the whole fate thing. It’s more like I got a glimpse of what would happen if I traveled down a certain route. It wasn’t necessarily what was going to happen, so much as what could if I just got my ass back down to the Provisions Building and asked her name. That’s what would happen. But I was so overcome, you know? I just sat there on the wood-tile floor in my living room and thought that what had just happened to me was perfect. Then I thought maybe it was perfect because of its brevity. I didn’t go back to the Provisions Building during the days again. I always went on night shift when I knew she wouldn’t be there. I couldn’t possibly imagine talking to her. Not now. Not when I didn’t know what I wanted. Maybe I didn’t want to fuck it up. Maybe I didn’t want to take something perfect and elongate it. Maybe that’s all we are given. Not perfection, but the occasional perfect moment. And I’d rather take that perfect moment with me into the next world. I’d rather remember her that way rather than dying. One night one of the clerks handed me a letter from her. The handwriting was messy. It listed her phone number. It said she didn’t know why I hadn’t been back in, but not in a persecuting sort of way. It said she wanted to meet me and talk to me. Not trying to be forward it said. She wouldn’t normally do this. But she felt something she had never felt before. And saw us together. And she knew I saw it too. It was in my eyes. And the world is dying it said. And we only have so much time it said. And she wouldn’t mind getting to know me before it ended. Signed Rebecca.
I read the note a hundred times and thought: I don’t know what to do. You see, I know where this road goes, I know that what I saw when I first saw her was just the happy middle. I know how this ends. I was showed that much. And I know that I die first. I know that I turn gray and she is holding me when the last stale breath drips leaks between my lips. I know that my last thought is to press my dying lips against her hand holding my cheek. Then the whole thing ended. I was outside of the dream and she was standing there looking at me from across the counter. And I know how it feels to be the survivor in that situation. My mother kissed my hand when she passed. I know exactly how it feels to have your loved one giving a final selfless act, kissing your hand, right before they die, as a sign of the thanks for the comfort you provided. I know that the only thing you can do is sit there while they turn cold and wonder what exactly you could have fucking done differently. Because no matter what you want to think, it is your fault. That somehow you didn’t do enough. That you didn’t risk enough, give enough because you are still alive, a survivor sitting there with cold dead lips pressed against your hand.
But then I thought about that one perfect moment in the alley, and how maybe in whatever time we have left we could have more moments like that. Moments you’d give everything up in the world for. Moments that are so perfect that you’d make an absolute mess out of your life just to experience them. I think, now that I have actually experienced one, that they may be the only thing worth living for. And I think that maybe she knows, I think maybe she saw just as much as I did. And I think that she isn’t scared for when I die in her arms, she’ll just be happy for the time we shared. And I think I’m tired of being alone.