it’s more than a little unnerving that i relate so much to this:
“Come onnn, little Corolla,” I say, shifting into second. My windshield is dusty and every time we emerge from a patch of redwood cover, the sunlight makes it hard to see. “How are your parents?” I ask, squinting forward. “How’d they do with the whole mess?”
“Yeah. Both of them.”
“Yeah. I don’t think I even know anyone who isn’t on that shit,” I say. “Jesus, what a condition. I remember I couldn’t even use paper towels in the bathroom without thinking about where they were going, and what about the trees. Speaking of trees, check out this one.” A huge Douglas Fir comes into view as we round another sharp turn. “Anyway, I thought, alright, no more paper towels. And then every time I washed my dishes, I thought about the water I was using. So I stopped washing my dishes. Then I stopped wanting to take showers. Then, get this, there was like a 4.2 earthquake and they predicted aftershocks, and I kept having nightmares. It was sort of exponential. I just couldn’t stop thinking about everything in shambles, you know? And global warming, and hurricanes, and you know how they say the honeybees are all dying and they won’t be able to pollinate the crops—”
Amos cuts me off. “I know, man.”
“You know. Right.” I laugh and realize my knees are shaking a little bit. I remember the bottle of Ativan in the glove compartment. “Not like I hadn’t felt like that before. But this was totally ridiculous. I couldn’t function. Couldn’t go to class. Couldn’t hang out. I was scared shitless of everything that happened. The tiniest things, I kept reading things as signs of something bad. I couldn’t even get drunk, man, no matter how hard I tried. I’d have shots and shots of tequila” – I looked at him – “You know me and tequila. Anyway, no dice. Just made it worse.”
“Then you saw the thing on TV?” Amos says, but he isn’t looking at me. He is looking out the window with a certain impatience.
“What, you in a hurry?” I ask.
We’ve reached a clearing at the summit. “No,” he says finally. “I just get carsick. The sooner I get out and walk around, the better.”
“Alright, alright.” Back into the trees, downhill. “Anyway, you know the rest of the story. Public health announcement. National paranoia epidemic.” I laugh again. “Crazy shit! But what a relief, man. To have someone tell you you’re not nuts. Or at least you have a good reason for it, isn’t that the truth? I was so caught up with myself I didn’t even notice it was happening to everyone else. I was holed up in my room eating bananas and energy bars, would you believe it?”
“I believe it,” he says…
…Amos stops abruptly and turns around to face me.
“Listen, Thomas,” he says, and I realize I’ve forgotten to take my Ativan. “I wanted to come here because you’re my friend. And because,” he pauses and nudges a shell out of the sand with his toes, “I thought maybe the Ativan didn’t work for you either.”
“What?” I say. The fog is rolling in at an unnerving speed now.
“You know what it’s like,” he says. “Or you did, anyway. How everything was still so beautiful but you couldn’t enjoy it anymore, because it felt like it was slipping out of your hands, faster and faster. It didn’t matter if it was an earthquake, or a bomb, or maybe it was just people running out of something, money or water or life, gradually. A sand castle, remember, you used to tell me? I guess you probably don’t want to hear this,” he says, and it’s true that my jaw is set and I’m casting about for something to look at, settling on a far off cloud that looks like a ship. “I guess it’s pretty nice to be cured, to have all of that – the news that hasn’t happened yet – so far from you now, but it’s still here for me,” he says, pointing at the ground. “It’s in things. It’s already happening. Like every time you look at things, you can already see them gone—”
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