Shelly says she has Japanese radiation poisoning. I'd like to believe her, but Shelly lies so casually that trusting her is foolish. Yet she stirs passion in me. I've long loved wrong women, beautiful faces masking ugly emotions. Finding beauty minus nasty is fruitless. I stopped trying ages ago. This led to inevitable pain, but those sweet fleeting moments were worth it. My only regret is that I lacked the strength to make the pain last another day.
Shelly wants me to check her skin. She stands over me, freckled thighs covered by a baby blue skirt. She lifts the skirt slightly, points to what she claims is a rash. I see nothing but soft flesh. Shelly sobs, pushes her leg against my face. "Kiss the cancer away," she demands, and I do, moving up her thigh in case the cancer has spread. Shelly moans then slaps my face. "Asshole!" She walks away, stops at the bathroom, runs her hand along the back of her right thigh. She shoots me a shitty look, then slams the bathroom door. Running water cannot cover her screams.
Love is in the air.
Miles of strip malls rot away, weeds sprouting through the cracks. Kids play in these ruins, oblivious to the carnage. They run through dead showrooms and markets. They crash rusting carts into peeling walls. They jump on the corpse, screaming, cursing. No one stops them or counsels safety. Adults are too busy staving off more death. When the next mile of ghost lots emerge, kids will descend once again. Playing in failure and misery makes them happy. At least we left them that.
It's been an hour since the last blast. Maybe they're tired. Maybe it's a dinner break. We sit in candle-lit darkness trying to retain our sanity. Our block has been spared, but two streets over it's a fiery mess. Dense smoke. Loud cries. Doubtless many bodies. We don't know for sure. We're not going over to check. Some people from that block have staggered down our street, dazed, scarred. But they said nothing. We haven't seen them or anyone else for days.
We're told to be patient, that soon we'll be free. Let the missiles work their magic and a better world will arrive. Any world where missiles don't rain down is fine by us. Until then, some electricity would be nice. Drinkable water, too.
(Photo by Sam Holden)