How Some People Deal with the Many Ends of the World
7 years old.
Bush senior had begun to bomb Iraq for the first time…that time.
My grandmother, my mom’s mom, spent her days watching television evangelists in her crowded trailer. In the early years of their marriage, she almost bankrupted her and her husband by sending money to Pat and the purple haired woman. Her children hated him for cutting her off from the bank accounts. They did not like having one more person to go through if they needed bail money. They also didn’t like how she got a little edgier when she couldn’t guarantee her place in heaven with a cash donation. She also missed receiving cards from (she imagined) them personally, thanking her for her generosity.
They were the only two people in the world that considered her generous. They were the two whom she gifted and never called later to remind them.
It was from these voices of her God that she learned about the prophecies of the bible. When Papa Bush began a public slaughter of the already devastated Iraqi peoples she had it on good authority that it was a definite sign of the end times.
She immediately set about gathering her 6 children and all their children in her trailer. The trailer sat on a nice wooded hill surrounded by her husbands beautiful tomatoes. Whenever I remember him it is on a little riding tractor lawn mower weaving his way through the trees. His work was never done though I was never quite sure what it was he was working on. He was a kind quiet man. My grandma had never stayed put after leaving my grandpa until that overall wearing potbellied sweetie came along.
She gathered them all; myself included and began a prayer meeting. She talked about the hell that was about to be seen on Earth. It was her intention that we all stay there together to await our certain death. It was her contention that a nuclear holocaust could be expected momentarily.
I learned in my adult life that this was the last time all her children ever did anything together to appease her. It was actually the last time that all 6 at once would be willing to be in a room with each other. No one else believed her idea; they just figured they would stay with her a few days until she settle down.
The trouble for me was that none of the adults present told me that it was Grandma and not Western Washington that was exploding. Everyone was playing along so well that I believed, with what capacity I had, everything I heard her saying. Most of my cousins were playing in the woods, beating each other up or trying to have sex or whatever other brutal shit they were learning at home. I was, however, glued to my Mom’s lap crying and shaking for what was years to a child body.
This is a memory of mine that I didn’t have until I was grown up and told about it by a kid who at the time was old enough to remember how devastated I was.
A 7-year-old child can barely understand why people can’t see through them if they block the television. I was trying to understand the end of everything and wrestling with the magnitude of heaven.
15 years old
I was living in a small room on the top floor of a haunted punk house where knives flew offs counters into walls and mice ran choreographed circles in the living room.
I sat rocking facing a wall for months. I felt everything falling from under me, I jumped at any loud noise, and I drank to quiet my nerves. When planes flew overhead I cried. My feelings were so big that they had the same authority as the purple haired woman had for Grandma. The end was upon me.
If I heard a plane noise while I was out I would search the sky desperately until I discovered which kind of plane it was and decided whether it was likely to drop a bomb. If it was likely I would run to the nearest public restroom, lock myself inside. My eyes and jaw and fists would be clenched shut.
When the noise passed I would slowly open one eye to see if I was still alive.
Most kids my age were worried about what to wear to school or whether they would have to be chaperoned at prom. Maybe they had not heard it was the End of the World or maybe they coped with rhinestones and extracurricular activities.
My Dad just recently found out that things are not going so well in the World of Humans. He started to be very worried about food and energy and water and weather and money. He found out from Facebook, who had the same authority for him as the purple haired lady had for Grandma or my fear had for me, that it is likely that the military will rise against Obama, taking over the government and holding the country hostage in a brutal and indefinite marshal law.
He has begun to collect canned food when it’s on sale and inquire with friends about food preservation. He goes fishing more often.
He started growing squash. The first year they were as big as my head, then from those seed, the next year they were as big as my head and shoulders and this year they are as big as my torso. Also this year, zucchini the size of my thigh surround the torso squash. Everything flavorless and everything gigantic. The larger the vegetable the greater comfort he takes.
I have been making zucchini bread and making zucchini bread.
My sweet brother from a different mother has gallons of water in the basement and the main floor of his home. Both, so that if one part of the house is inaccessible She may be retrieved in the other part.
He feels the little earthquakes. The ones that only science tools usually notice. He feels them and he waits. They are calling something bigger.
He raises his sweet baby and loves his sweetest sweetheart and goes to school to learn how to use all his personal experience as a homeless youth to help homeless youth. He sings and grows the only orange cosmos anyone has ever seen. If, by now, you have seen orange cosmos you can be sure they are a direct descendant of the ones in his yard.
He tends to what needs tending as if everything might have a chance to keep going. He does this even and especially as he feels the plates under his feet make little big shifts. Every couple of years he waters the cosmos with the jugs from the basement and the main floor and refills them with fresh water.
My mom keeps a bible on her bedside table and keeps the world at a distance.
Friends run away to the woods and make houses and grow food and keep the world at a distance.
Kids break windows or carry signs.
Today, it is cold outside. The porch was frosty until mid morning. I pray for more snow, especially in the places where the spring waters depend on it. I hear stories and I see them in everything all around me. On the corner a group of young men are having a good time being pissed off at each other. My dog is having a good time letting them know they should keep moving.
I have eaten today and I have drunk. My hands are cold, my shoulder is sore, my piano is longing to be played.