Stephen Wack

A Kiss Goodbye, at the End of the World

“I don’t know what else you want me to tell you,” said Davis.

“Well, it’s certainly not that,” said Mimi. “What you just said.”

Molecular structures dismantled like washed over sandcastles. Entire mountain ranges, city skylines, boiled down to radioactive muck. Amphibians in business suits frolicked amongst black-acid waters, exchanging handshakes for a job well done.

What Davis had just said to Mimi was this: Human civilization, as we’ve known it, is over. There is no more land to live on, T-bone steaks to feed on, breathable air to breathe on. Our world has officially, irredeemably been destroyed — so, how about a kiss?

Mimi was displeased. What little remained of the atmosphere was collapsing all around her. She expressed her displeasure by stamping her foot three times against the bloated whale carcass the two were currently marooned on. Davis was confused.

“Is that a no?” said Davis, waiting.

“Yes,” Mimi said.

“Yes, that’s a yes?” said Davis, a glimmer of hope.

“Yes, that’s a no.”

“For Christ’s sake.”

What was the big issue? Where was the harm? A kiss goodbye, at the end of the world? She was acting like a child, stamping her foot like that. Why was her defiance always such a turn-on?

“I just don’t get it,” added Davis. “You act like we haven’t known this was coming for years.”

“I don’t care about all that,” Mimi said, waving off the surrounding wasteland. Truth be told, she felt rather relieved. There was comfort in a definitive end. She imagined all the dishes still left piled in her sink, of the looming project deadline she hadn’t even begun to start, of the check-engine light incessantly flashing on her dashboard, of the pending charges to her already sunken bank account, of all the unreturned calls and unfulfilled dreams and unrealized hopes and unrevealed secrets — of all future responsibility, in an instant, wiped out beneath molten snow.

“It’s this,” Mimi finally mustered, gesturing between them, “ — us.”

My God. Had she really just said that? Wasted what little breath she had left saying that?

“What do you mean?” asked Davis, incredulously. “What about us?”

Exactly, thought Mimi, unable to bear the all-too-familiar scene playing out between them. Here they were, tiptoed on the brink of extinction, having exactly the same conversation they’d had every few months since this whole affair first began. What about us? What was this? How much longer could we keep this going? How many more times would it have to end?

“Well?” Davis pressed on, growing impatient.

A family of horses born with hearts outside their bodies whinnied from the smoldering rooftop of a high-rise, luxury apartment.

Mimi thought to herself: Same.

From the start, Mimi had recognized that her role in Davis’s life was to remain a limited one. Somewhere between supportive yet superfluous, her function never serving beyond that of a background extra, solely called upon to fill in a space. At times, she imagined herself, ever so gradually over the years, as being taken apart, piece by meticulous piece, then reassembled inside Davis’s world alike some ship in a bottle. So delicately had this integration taken place that, by the time Mimi finally saw the boundaries set by Davis for what they were — the narrow time windows allotted, the lukest of warm affections he could give — it was already too late. The glass had already been set around her, not so much in preservation than in custody, as one of many trophies in a case.

There were more just like her, certainly. There had to be. Each one serving as a short-term remedy to an otherwise enduring ache. Not unlike a teething child would Davis seek to stuff his mouth full of whatever was in his proximity, with whoever was too stupid not to run away. Between each momentary lapse in judgment, every instance of boredom, sadness, loneliness, drunkenness, directionlessness, arms flailing, Davis would reach out to grab hold of someone, deploying them like an emotional airbag to help keep him afloat, bearing down his weight of misery and shame until she, too, would have to redistribute her own life to avoid becoming sunken herself.

The ocean, now everywhere, shimmered virulently in its oily metallic boil. The atmosphere congealed. Each breath, a lungful of oatmeal.

“We,” Mimi gasped out like a punched fish, “ — are pathetic.”

Davis was speechless. He took a step closer and nearly fell through the stewed whale.

“But, I love you,” said Davis often. Tossed out the word as though it were some salvaging rope for her to grab onto. As though it were she who was drowning, and hot him.

Apologetically, Mimi just kept shaking her head. What more could she even say? What else hadn’t already been said?

She could call Davis a heartless dickworm. Could blame him entirely for their fucked-up dynamic. For this all but deliberate exploitation of her affection and efforts and energy and care, expending ever last bit of her until there was nothing left to give anyone, put towards anything else — her friends, family, job, hobbies, herself.

But why? What would be the point? What even was Davis to her, truly? Had she ever really cared to ask? Was she not also totally complicit in this long-term devastation taking place between them? In the same vein that Davis called upon Mimi when directionless, did she not use Davis just the same? As the red self-destruct button situated dead-center of her control panel? Was there not, in its own way, a sense of self-control found in orchestrating one’s own demise? How this voluntary collapse of her private life afforded her the illusion of control over all that was collapsing just outside of her? This constant dissatisfaction with her job, her social life, how she spent her free time, the cruel way her eyes met herself each morning, each day becoming that much more difficult to love? Was her surrender to this guaranteed hurt ignorance? Was it negligence? Self-denial? A blatant disregard for learned patterns to come? Were these really the questions that needed answering now? Of all times? With none left? Now?

The sunset, flourished with poisons, had never looked prettier.

“So no kiss, then?” said Davis.

Mimi helped him back onto his feet and laughed. She had nothing left to give him. There was no exiting this with heads held high. She kissed him on the cheek, and he felt it — a pitifulness like he’d never felt before.

The sky tore open with the low hum of ripped denim.

Davis turned just in time to watch Mimi dive headfirst into the ocean’s belly of acid. She swam down, from one airless place to the next, as the earth met the sky at its middle, and, like two toothless mouths, swallowed each other whole.