“None of it matters!” she screamed, filling my tiny attic bedroom with her frantic voice. Instinct told me to shush her so as not to disturb my family in the house below, but I refrained. Today was not any other day. Spreading her thin arms wide, and her face contorting with anger, she yelled “Don’t you get it?” I looked at her, trying to find the words that would make a difference. Words that would offer her some of the peace that I wanted desperately for myself, but I knew she was right. Since the news broke a few hours ago, the panic had time to subside and the terrible reality was setting in.
Nothing matters now.
I had only begun to contemplate my own mortality when she started pointing around the room, her long dark hair flying as she twisted and turned. I tensed as her finger jabbed at my lovingly curated vinyl collection and she yelled, “They don’t matter!” My eyes lingered on the neatly filed collection, some battered and others in original cellophane, next to the restored vintage turntable my mom had given me for graduation a few weeks ago. The tracks contained within are older than I was, throwbacks to the songs of my parent’s youth that had peppered my own upbringing. Soon they, like everything else, would be gone.
“And neither do these!” She yelled as she whipped around to address the wall above my bed. It was covered in a gallery of our favorite photos that I had personally matted and framed. Each glossy representation was of our most treasured moments frozen in time. I glanced up from where I sat on the bed, catching a glimpse of our smiling faces pressed cheek to cheek at the beach. At that moment, I couldn’t remember the trip from which that image had been born, but we looked great in it. So it had made the wall. Tears welled. I inhaled sharply and clutched the bed’s edge as she turned to my shelves.
“These DO NOT MATTER!” Her hands grasped the hair at her temples in an almost cartoon-like expression of frustration. I lunged for her as she pulled her hands from her hair and shoved her arms across the top row of my perfectly organized shelf. Books and knick knacks went hurtling across the room. Her arms moved in a frenzy, hands grabbing one book after the other, throwing them wildly as she continued to yell through sobs, “NOTHING MATTERS!” I dodged the books flying around her and tried to get a hold of her arms.
When the shelves were empty and her rage exhausted, she crumbled to the floor in a defeated heap. Out of breath, I knelt and wrapped my arms around her. She turned into my shoulder, shuddering against me with each heaving sob as her familiar scent enveloped and overwhelmed me. I sighed, allowing my own fear and sadness to bubble to the surface in this safe space. We sat together for a long while and I wished it could last forever. When she looked up at me, her face was swollen and tear streaked. In a shaking whisper that shattered my heart she asked, “Do we matter?”
One week later, hand in hand, we stood in the backyard staring up at a sky gone red. Warm winds whipped around us, rising and falling at unpredictable speeds. The tornado sirens were blaring in unison with the notifications on our phones, warning us to take cover as if it were any other storm. The last few days had been a chaotic mix of mass looting, suicide, and prayer as humanity grappled with the truth. Despite the unending advice to stay in and bunker down against the inevitable, we had decided to face it together.
In the unseasonable heat, we watched as tiny specks screeched across the sky and shattered into a million sparking fireworks when they entered the atmosphere. Each eruption was a dazzling harbinger of the asteroid that had become world news just seven days ago. Social media had exploded and conspiracy theories followed, but no one could deny the images of the mile-wide rock hurtling toward our lonely planet. Or the fact that it could not be stopped. “At NASA, we call it a–,” the NASA man’s voice cracked as tears welled behind his glasses and the news anchor encouraged him to take his time. After a heaving breath, he clutched his hands and continued shakily, “We call it a world killer. We did all we could, but it wasn’t enough.” The broadcast cut short as he broke into tears. He hadn’t been the only one.
The dark mass of the world killer was visible now, growing larger in the swirling sky as it surged on its unforgiving course. Its destination would be ground zero for the end of everything, right in the center of our insignificant corner of the world. Fiery debris shot holes in thin clouds dyed crimson, leaving smoke and ash trails in their wake. My eyes were watering from the combination of thickened air and overwhelming emotion, but I couldn’t look away. I squeezed her hand tightly and smiled as I felt her squeeze in return. In my periphery, her long hair danced with the wind and the simple familiarity gave pause to my anxious thoughts.
In that moment, I realized I was the most present I had ever been. With crystal clarity I realized that life had always consisted of a seemingly endless series of moments. My time was always spent looking forward or back. Today, I had nowhere to look but here with her. There was no point in the past and the future no longer existed. My shoulders dropped and I exhaled a deep, peaceful sigh. The heat was growing in tandem with the winds that caused us to sway. I pressed my face toward the burning sky and focused on the comfort of her hand in mine as we waited for…