As we walked down the old staircase, my mind began to wander off, as it usually did. I thought about the world before and all the people I’d known. I thought about my family, but not for long. I thought of my parents and how the strived to get their children through life until the day they ceased to live. I thought of all of my friends, who I could only assume were dead. There was Doug Mercer, my best friend, who was one of the greatest human beings to ever live. He was tall and tan and good hearted. He loved sports, as his father had taught him to. He was going to be a sports writer. The world could have used a sports writer like him, or at least I thought so but I never really did care for sports.
Then my mind wandered to my first kiss. I was 15 years old, which I suppose was kind of old for a first kiss. What can I say; I was always a bit intimidated by a pretty girl. I guess I still am, but I haven’t seen a pretty girl outside of a magazine since the collapse. Her name was Monica and she was an actress. She was beautiful and could sing and liked me very much. I had a thing for girls who could sing and suppose I still do. She kissed me, of course, because I was too scared of messing it up to even try. It was a sunny day in April and she kissed outside of the auditorium of her high school as the sun set and turned everything that warm orange color that all of the beautiful memories are made of. I had sat in wonder as she sang on stage and gave her flowers and after the fateful kiss, she went back inside to get changed and my sister picked me up in my mom’s car. She was always mean and was yelling some sort of bullshit the whole ride home, but I didn’t care. I just gazed out the window and sang pretty songs in my head and enjoyed being happy for awhile.
We got to the bottom of the stairs and walked through the door into one of the back hallways that few people ever got to see. I thought about all of the girls I had ever, you know, been with. Not just kissing but that whole sex deal. There were three in total. Two of them were very nice girls that I suppose I was less than kind to. I wasn’t evil by any means, I was just myself and they were themselves and that was just never going to work out, or so I convinced myself. Maybe if I had convinced myself otherwise I could have died a nice happy death at the end holding hands with one of them, but I lived and I could only assume they died. Most people did, after all.
The first one though, the girl that I lost my virginity to, was nothing but pure evil and I hope that a bomb landed directly on top of her evil little head. But I shouldn’t say that because it was my fault really. I, for reasons I suppose I will never understand, wanted to have her and she, I can only assume, fucked me and dated me for a month just so she could finally rid herself of me. It was terrible. But it doesn’t matter now, because she’s probably dead. After she dumped me, I was a mess. It’s funny how I see things like that now. At the time I was devastated and destroyed, but now it’s just a memory as everything else is.
We pushed open the door that opened out into the main reading room and listened as the sound of the door closing echoed through the vast all. I kept the room moderately clean and tried my best to take care of the books, even though I knew that they, like myself, would someday turn into dust and be forgotten.
I never liked the thought of being forgotten. I had never been in love. Well, I don’t think I had been. I was in love with a lovely young lady when at the end but I don’t know if she loved me back. I know she had cared for me, but I had messed that up and tried to fix it but ran out of time. I assume she’s dead now. I never got to tell her that one last time how much I cared for her, even though I don’t know if it would have made a difference. She was everything I had ever dreamt up except one tiny detail. She was real. She was, but now she’s just a wonderfully warm memory. Her name was Sarah and she is the only thing that can still make me cry these days. What if, what if, what if I just got to see her one last time? What if I had dared to kiss her one last time? She had red hair and green eyes and to me was the most beautiful thing imaginable. She’s gone now, just like all the others. I’ll miss her until I’m gone too.
“Why do you have to be such an ass all of the time,” echoed James from the far end of the room.
“Why do you have to be such an idiot all of the time,” I echoed back to him. James was removing the backpack from his shoulders and unloading its contents. He was tall and thin with strawberry blonde hair and blue eyes that were hidden behind his Buddy Holly style glasses. Once he piled what he had collected from his trip onto one of the tables in the room, he walked over to the old record player we had and threw on an album. It was the Beatles White Album. We had the same taste in music, which was nice.
“You know you boys shouldn’t be fighting,” McNulty said as we got to the table where James was now sitting. “All you’ve got is each other”.
“Well James needs to smarten up a little,” I replied. “That is if he would like to stay alive any longer. Why didn’t you reload your gun before you left?”
“I forgot,” James said as he rummaged through the cans of food on the table.
“Well you had one shot left,” I said picking up a can of sliced peaches. “What the hell did you use it on?”
“After I got out of the grocery store, I thought the coast was clear,” James muttered. “So I wanted to see if I could shoot a pigeon that was on top of this statue. I hit the bird but the noise got the attention of my little friend. He stared to sprint towards me and with nothing left to shoot at him, I ran for home.”
“Well you’re lucky that John was on the roof, my boy,” McNulty said as his firmly placed his hands on James’s shoulders.
“Well since you’re here now James,” McNulty said taking his hands off of James and placing them in his pocket. “I was wondering if you might be able to help me fix my generator. The wiring is all fucked and I can’t figure it out for the life of me.”
“Yeah,” said James. “No problem Padre.”
James tossed his empty backpack against the wall and turned off the record player. He and McNulty walked over towards the door slowly, but I stayed by the table and looked around for a bit. The sun was shining that orange glow in from the huge windows that lined the walls. I closed my eyes and sighed. I wished I could talk to her, or at least see her one last time but it was no use. My heart ached and I bit the inside of my cheek. She was gone now and would never be anything more than a sweet memory.
“Hey Jimmy,” I said calling James a name he hated. “Don’t you think you’re forgetting something?” I held up his rifle in the sun so he could see it. He turned around, saw it in my hand and grunted. Father McNulty laughed as James ran over to grab his weapon.
“Thanks,” he mumbled under his breath.
“Think you might like to check if it has any bullets in it,” I smirked. “Unless you think you’d rather use it as a walking stick.”
“Asshole,” is all he said as he picked up the magazine that I had left for him on the table.
We walked to the door and pushed it open. After it closed, I turned and locked it up. James and McNulty were already walking down the steps when I turned and made my way down. It was a beautiful scene. The sun was falling below the all the buildings as birds chirped their last songs for the day. There were a few deer walking through the park across the street and I scurried down the steps. It was a very peaceful moment. It’s funny how that works.