Thursday, June 14, 2007

Three Days

"Three Days"
by Annie Highley-Smith

It’s not as easy to get around anymore; not with all the garbage bags piled up to the sky and the newspapers strewn all over the ground; no one bothers to pick them up anymore. Newspapers fly about my feet, carried by frequent gusts of wind, and in silent hope that the headlines might have changed I bend down and pick one of them up. The headline read: “How long can you live without water?” I threw the paper into an overflowing garbage can and kept walking. I was tired of hearing about how there was no fresh water left on Earth. How the stupid scientists made a filtration system that ended up using all the salt water as well. It was all getting to be so repetitive and overwhelming. I may have failed to mention that yesterday, the government declared a state of emergency because they seemed to have used up the United States’ Strategic Water Reserves.

“Damn rich people and their bathing habits,” I muttered to myself.

It was 95 degrees out. I was walking what felt like an exceedingly long walk to the bodega, just hoping for something to quench my thirst. I knew it was futile but I came to the conclusion that without hope, I had nothing. When I got there, every beverage was sold out; probably bought by some millionaire striving to survive a few more days. Licking my dry lips, I realized that it really wasn’t the brightest of ideas to walk around in 95 degree weather. “I’ll probably die of heat stroke before I die of thirst if I keep this up,” I thought dryly. No sooner had a thought about going over to Steven’s house crossed my mind when I hear: “Yo Sergio! Wait up man!” I turn around and it’s Andrew yelling from all the way down the street. Oh man, not him. Not today. Maybe if I thought hard enough I could transmit my strong desire for him to leave into his brain. But seeing as he was suddenly standing right in front me, I doubted it would happen. “Whaddup Serg?” he asked. I replied in the usual way most teenage boys reply; I grunted. He asked me if I wanted to go to Steven’s house and when I told him that’s where I was headed he suggested we walk together. “That was smart,” I thought to myself.

When we got to Steven’s house, an overwhelming smell engulfed us at the door. Taking a moment to collect myself after being winded by the draft of stale air, I thought about the combination--teenage boy and grandmother-- hoping that neither of them could see the look of disgust on my face. Not many people know the actual reason Steven doesn’t live with his parents. Usually he tells people that God ate them, just as a joke, and typically everyone drops the subject, but Steven’s mom and dad were both killed about 4 years ago in a horrible smelting incident and the police had to ask Steven to identify his parent’s bodies. After seeing the pictures, Steven wouldn’t speak for almost a year, and it took months of therapy for him to even be able to look anyone in the face. Slowly, progress was made, but he still hates to be reminded of any sort of metal at all.

The time it took for us to get situated in Steven’s couch was less than a matter of seconds; for Andrew and I this was routine. With my fingers, I combed my messy light brown hair to the side in attempt to get it out of my eyes, but no matter how much I tried, I knew five minutes later I’d have to repeat the process. It seemed no matter how I cut it, it always got in my face, though you’d think five years with the same hair cut I would be used to it by now. “Hey Steven, what up man?” one of us said. He walked across the room, his back to us, and replied in the same “teenage boy” response: a grunt. He obviously didn’t care which one of us had asked the question, otherwise he would have turned around. Steven was like that: very inquisitive, but also straight-out lazy.

“C’mon man, let’s go do something! I’m so bored!” Andrew said. Steven and I ignored him, knowing that he would ask again in another few minutes anyway. Andrew, not realizing how well we knew him, asked again, and again, and again for what seemed like an hour. After about the 5th repetition, I was on the verge of telling him to shut up when Steven interrupted me by yelling at him saying: “Look man, do you even know how long people live without water? Three days, Andrew! Do you know what day we are on? We are on day two! So don’t tell me you’re bored on the last day of your life.” Andrew looked like he had just been slapped in the face but he neither yelled back nor punched Steven. He walked over to Steven’s XBOX 360—which is what he had been playing when we walked in—picked it up, and threw it against the wall as hard as he could. Andrew simply replied with “Well I guess you won’t need that, seeing as today is the last day of your life.” And turned around and walked out the door. After recovering from the initial shock of the explosion of sparks from the XBOX 360, I turned to look at Steven. His face which was usually stark white was turning a sickly shade of purple. It was then I decided it was my turn to leave as well.

As I left Steven’s apartment building I too had come to the realization that I only had one more day to live. I sat down on the street corner and started thinking about my 16 years of life and whether they were well spent or not. The more I got into the mundane details of my life, the more I wanted to stop thinking about it. “My life is meaningless. I haven’t ever accomplished anything, so why am I still alive? Why am I still struggling, when I don’t even have a purpose?” After coming to that realization I found I just wanted to give up; to end my life all together. I walked to the nearest bridge and stood on the edge looking down at the great emptiness that used to be the Hudson River. Not wanting to see the end before it came, I turned back to walk off the bridge. Then I slipped.

The fall ended strangely soft. I opened my eyes found myself back in my room, in my own bed. I threw off my blankets and turned over to check the date on my phone. Tuesday, March 20th 2007. I reached for the glass of water perched on my bedside table. I downed the glass in seconds.