The moist air is already sticking to your arms at 7:00 AM, the pores in your armpits twitching like a horse in a starting gate. Shaking off fading images of multi-colored ammo, the soft edges of a conversation in your last dream licking at the edges of your brain, you settle into a rocking chair with your notebook. You prop up your feet and hear the buzz of the humming birds already going after one another, bulking up for their long trip.
Coffee slightly bitter, not as sweet as Bob’s, but then he didn’t eat a spoonful of lemon curd before lying down for the night. So yes, you consume more than your share of sugar between the curd, and the candied orange slices, the chocolate, and the blueberry muffin you brought home for him but ate instead because he was “being good.” Yet he managed, in his sugar-free state, to lay awake like you, the two of you separated by a writhing berm of tangled sheets.
Yesterday, you read that seven out of twelve trash collection centers in your county have closed because they’re short three CDL drivers and you remember how the trash piled up on Guam after Typhoon Paka whipped their ass. You remember getting up at 3:00 AM to fill buckets from the bathtub tap because that’s when water came through the pipe. You think about the power outages in Ghana, sometimes lasting for days, and how hard it was to get anything done at the end of the dry season in Belize. And you see it all starting to slide apart here in the United States. End of empire. This is what it looks like.
You walk to the garden with your white mug, a gift from Sharyl with a picture of her dead horse Silver’s sire, a white Missouri Foxtrotter with a crested neck, thinking, I’ve been drinking coffee from this mug for fourteen years.
You see no signs of new edamame damage and hope it means the rabbit you chased off yesterday has not wriggled back inside the fortified garden fence. It was such a tiny little thing, and you felt bad taking up the hose to chase it out of the garden. You flushed it from the asparagus, watching in horror as it beat itself against the corner post even though the gate was open, finally squeezing itself through a rectangle of goat fence and clawing its way up the outside layer of chicken wire to burst out the top and sprint away.
The flutter in your chest is saying, This heat is what they’re talking about — the rest of your life is gonna be crispy, fried hell. The world is up in flames, ice caps melting, and we knew it all along but lacked the political will to avoid the crash. All your advocacy, your good example — we got ourselves quoted in a book about garbage, for chrissakes — all of it for naught.
You think you might run a load of towels today but know you shouldn’t use the dryer because the world is melting, but then they’ll be line-crispy and you’ll have to crumple them soft between your fists, folding and twisting like an Inuit woman masticating seal leather.
You think about what your last twenty-five years will look like, smell like, taste like — harder than hoped, made worse every time you look at your step-daughters’ Instagram posts, their whole lives ahead, the photos of the grandkids. But you bring yourself back from the sweaty rim of existential abyss with another sip of pure bliss and a satisfied look at the trim edge between the lawn and your rose garden. You did that, you tell yourself. You made that pretty line with your trimmer.
The A/C starts up, the sharp blades spinning so fast you can’t even see them. You jump like you always do, thinking about how good you have it here. Really. You’re not on fire, or wading through water in your living room.
The warm Sumatran blend in your straight-sided mug makes you wonder where even is Sumatra? and, was this fair trade coffee? and, what does that even mean? You don’t know because you didn’t buy it, you only brew it and drink it, and ran to the porch to pick it up after the driver tossed it on the sun-bleached deck before getting back in his truck to deliver other doo-dads to other lucky people.
Yes, we’ve got it good here at the end of empire. Water, electricity, coffee . . . Probably everything will unravel so slowly that we won’t live to see the worst of it. But who knows, maybe the world will pull out of this spiral and level out. Maybe everything will be all right.