The Things I Will Miss
by J. D. Riso
In the end, reality is as cliché as Hollywood. When little green men fly over in their souped-up Frisbees, I can’t muster up any surprise. All I can do is wonder if they ever go cruising for chicks in those things on a Saturday night. I drop my gaze from the sky and walk into the house. I just hope I’m not their type.
“It serves all of us right, I guess,” I say. My giggles echo off the empty walls. I can’t bring myself to regret that I have no one to say goodbye to. “But I have never been lonely,” I say out loud.
The air in front of me ripples; a man-shaped shadow materializes. “You have never been alone,” he whispers. I can’t discern his features, but I feel the resonance of his smile.
I sit for a long while, my hand in his, and listen to the pandemonium. Frantic shadows scurry by the windows. I am entitled to join them now; indiscriminate tragedy is always a good icebreaker. They are going to congregate in designated shelters. Safety in numbers, and all that nonsense. The masses have never made me feel safe.
“The sad fools,” I say with a sigh. Their panicked stampede is as predictable as a Bruce Willis blockbuster. It will be a bitter betrayal when he doesn’t show up to save them.
After nightfall we wander the vacant streets. We watch the horizon, as the radiance from distant cities is extinguished one by one. My insignificance, something I’ve forever detested, isn’t such a bad thing after all. They will come for us loners last. The meek have inherited precious last moments.
The Shadow Man takes my hand and leads me uptown, to the mansions. Jubilation wells up in me like effervescent pearls. No place is forbidden now. The imposing iron gates are thrown open like welcoming arms.
A warm glow appears amid the blackness; rays of light rain down from an upstairs window.
I whisper, “How can a light still burn? There has been no electricity for hours.” I am more intrigued than afraid.
We enter the house. It is completely still, except for a diffuse luminosity. Golden light streams from a bedroom. I take a tentative step inside. A little girl emerges from behind a large doll house. A shimmer from within her opalescent flesh. She is the source of the light.
“We just want to look, honey,” I say.
She nods and leads us through the labyrinthine hallways. The Shadow Man disappears down a dark alley. The corridor opens into a cavernous bedroom. I gasp at its opulence. A chandelier shines rainbow prisms in my eyes. My head swoons with the rich scent of fresh roses.
“They have left me behind,” the Light Girl says; her voice is metallic indifference. “Will you take me with you?”
“We are going up to the mountains. It will be cold, dark, and dangerous. Why would you leave all of this?”
I look around at all of the feminine, superfluous things. The shoes of every style and color, the perfume and jewelry-littered dresser, the flamboyant evening gowns that were worn only once. Superficial, tactile things. The things I will miss. I finally understand that worn-out platitude — you can’t take it with you.
“Stay here with me,” says the Light Girl. She puts her small, warm hand in mine. “We can play dress up.”
I reach out and stroke a green silk gown. Such luxury has never touched my work-battered hands. They are going to come for me, eventually. I will not prolong the futile charade of survival in some dank cave.
The Shadow Man pokes his head in the closet. He’s wearing a black tuxedo two sizes too large. “I have something for you.” He holds out a corsage of pink orchids. “Get dressed, my darling, and let’s dance.”
The Light Girl giggles and claps her hands.
When they come for us, we will look smashing.
Copyright © 2006 by J. D. Riso