Community: that’s what I’ve been missing since the Apocalypse occurred. I’m living in a nicer abode and driving a hotter ride. But what I want are my friends.
They’re not coming back, not soon, maybe not ever.
When I lost you, darling boy, it was different—you were taken by Destiny. Although I hadn’t expected to be an empty nester for another fifteen and a half years, the pain of releasing you must have been similar to what parents feel when their children leave for college. You were only two and a half years old, but I knew you really were off to do the one thing you were meant to do: become the Dalai Lama.
A higher purpose was being served by your leaving me.
When your father passed away, he’d already had a full life. And he lucked into a fantastic death. He’d awakened early that day, and brought me a cup of coffee while I was still in bed. While I wrote in my journal, he went outside to play with you in the fall leaves. After I got up, he left for his laboratory, and around noon, returned home for his favorite lunch of chicken with avocado slices and roasted potatoes and parsnips. I remember we laughed a lot about a goofy story Eve had told me. We ate out on the porch because it was an Indian summer day with yellow sun and blue breezes. Purple asters bloomed in the meadow. After lunch, Dad went off on his motorcycle to see one of his best friends from childhood. The two men enjoyed each other’s company, but hadn’t been together for a while. The friend raises American Standardbred horses, the kind that run in harness races, and your dad went out on the course with him. His friend let him drive a stunningly beautiful trotter around the track, a champion named Space Case. Back at the barn, a different, less impressive horse managed to kick Dad in the chest. He was pushed to the ground; the wind was knocked out of him. But he didn’t complain—he said it actually hadn’t hurt that much—and his friend thought he seemed fine. His friend stayed up at the barn to talk to Space Case’s trainer, and your dad stepped away to wait for him. He walked down to a picnic area by the lake where he sat down in a comfortable chair. He never went anywhere without a book, so he opened up a 1945 edition of The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. It was the same copy his father had owned. There in the shade of a bur oak tree, your dad stretched out and must have been so comfortable, he dozed off. He never woke up.
It was sad for me that he was gone; but I knew it wasn’t sad for him. His ending was as good as it gets. And the timing allowed him to miss the SUCs entirely. He never had to witness—well, I won’t go into that. You’re a survivor, too, so you know.
Jill Riddell is a writer in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute and has a weakness for nature, magic, and pennies abandoned in sidewalk cracks.