A deserted city, by Jocep Picon
As our eyes adjusted to the light and the full panorama of the scene before us came into focus, I was thunderstruck again, this time it was shock.
“My god” I exclaimed, “Our city is in ruins. It’s as if a nuclear bomb had fallen. Is the whole world this way?”
Rich was speechless, staring in amazement. The view from my window at the other end of our single story building was of a narrow street, carless and treeless and a little overgrown. I only had sight of the facades of a few small businesses right across the way. That window gave me no clue as to this holocaust. And I never thought to open that window and experience the exhilaration of fresh air. I had been living in a cocoon, just like everyone else.
Almost to get away from this picture and the thought of this sight, I pulled Rick by the arm and said, “Let’s go to the other side of the building, to the small street with shops and try to hunt up some food”. He instantly agreed.
Our legs were weak but we hurried there, our tiny spears in hand. When we arrived we felt much better. The street was perfectly quiet, the two and three story buildings intact. There were bushes and grass growing through the cracks in the pavement but few abandoned cars along the sides. Some of the storefront windows were smashed in. The street signs still remained.
It was East fourteenth street in Oakland and I could tell by some of the storefronts that it was once a Spanish district, and a thriving little commercial neighborhood. I spotted the hardware store across from my window but we didn’t bother with that for now. There was a diner two doors up and that’s where we headed. The door was unlocked and the place was deserted and in order, like any diner one might find closed for a holiday.
We made our way to the kitchen and then the pantry, where there were jars of pickled items and stacks of various cans. Some had been disturbed and knocked over, with broken glass on the floor. But I assumed animals might have done this. I wanted to get back to the women as we’d been gone for over a half-hour so I grabbed four cans of refried beans. They can’t go bad. I didn’t trust the pickles and jalapenos in jars. We found a sack and threw in a can opener and plates and cups and cutlery and headed out. But just as I was exiting I noticed a bag of coffee by the door. We left but a new mission was sprouting in my head.
When we burst in the door to my unit, the women tittered.
“You too look like cave men returning from the hunt. Did you kill any bison?” Tina snickered.
“This is a Mexican neighborhood”, Rich replied, “and were all having cold, refried beans for breakfast. Any complaints?”
“No I’m starving”, Mary broke in. “What was it like out there?”
“Different”, was all I could think of to reply. “We’ll show you two lovebirds later”.
As Rich began opening a can I laid out the plates and forks placing a large dollop on each one. It was an unusual meal. I hadn’t held a fork in many years. But all the old habits came back and I even enjoyed the meal. The beans filled my belly and for the first time in ages I had a real taste of something different.
In our dream states we enjoyed the most exquisite feasts of luxurious foods, pheasant, abalone, truffles, caviar. But it wasn’t the same, it was all in your mind and the taste didn’t linger in your mouth for ten minutes and the feeling in your gut wasn’t there. You were always off to another scene in seconds. Obviously there were flaws in this ‘second life’ which only our real existence revealed. It was a pixel world, flashing and limited. But nothing could perfectly mimic the millions of years of experience we went through in evolution, that touched and lighted up all the eighty six billion neurons and eighty five billion nonneural cells in our heads simultaneously. It was a cheap download, less than a gigabyte, engaging us on a single plane, not the thousands we felt when we were in a state of high emotion or which we engaged when we were creating art.
From the gusto with which our girlfriends and Rich spooned in their plates of food I knew they were feeling the same sensations as I was.
We were finished in minutes and I told the girls I had a great surprise in store. “We’ve had a change in plans and this is going to be the most bittersweet moment of your lives. Mary, Tina, follow us down the hallway. We’re going to step outside”.
I grabbed Mary’s hand and Rich and Tina were right behind. I flung the door open; we stepped out and I introduced them to the beaming sunlight. They had the same reaction as we did, a minute of blindness, then a feeling of pure ecstasy, like a plant in sunlight again after eons of darkness. Mary’s arms quivered and with eyes closed she raised her face to the skies. Her nostrils flared as she smelled the pure breeze. Tina did the same and turned to her mate and pulled his head to her lips and kissed him even before her eyes were able to open again. Then both of their eyes did open and they beheld the scene.
“This is it, my love, this is our life now, bittersweet”.
The shock and confusion was too great for Mary. She stood frozen while I hugged her tightly. But Tina took a step away from Rich, let go his hand and surveyed the desolation with peering eyes, turning her head slowly to assimilate the whole panoramic vista of the destruction. Then she turned to all of us and said: “We’re going to need a serious rethink of this predicament”.
last post ...
next post ...