Originally published in Huck
I’m supposed to be thinking about global warming, but right now all I’m seeing is her reflection in the full-length mirror, standing in her underwear and hooking a pair of earrings on for work, smiling back at me as I bury myself further beneath her covers.
I’m supposed to be thinking about rainforests, but instead I’m recalling the time we crawled breathlessly back onto the stone shelf of a Sussex beach after an ill-advised September swim; how I gave her my jumper and she repaid me by blowing warm air against the back of my neck. The way her mum used to do when they were kids, she said.
I’m supposed to be pondering the plight of polar bears, or whales, or coral reefs, but instead I’m remembering her hair up and her hair down, a tiny bump on the uppermost ridge of her right ear. The way history misses a heartbeat when we find each other half sleeping in the night and curl up together, a pair of airtight commas with limbs overlapping.
I’m supposed to be ruminating on receding snowlines and shrinking winters. But right now I’m thinking about that last glimpse of her over my shoulder as she closed the front door in her dressing gown, tears in her eyes and hair still wet from the bath. About the echo of my footsteps and jump cuts of my reflection in passing night buses between her house and mine.
I’m supposed to be thinking about energy-saving light bulbs and electric cars, about coal reserves and carbon footprints. But instead I’m replaying those last days we spent together, looking for signs in the meals that we shared, the emails we exchanged – anything to tell me how long ago she made up her mind. How long I was Fortune’s fool, stumbling blindly into the unravelling of the only thing that might have saved me.
The stray curl that I tuck behind her ear to no avail. The way she mumbles goodnight on the border of sleep.
I’m supposed to be thinking about tidal waves and hurricanes, about ice crawling in from the poles and returning the earth to a frozen wasteland. And right now there’s nothing I want more than for this whole pointless world to be washed away. For entire cities to be lifted and spun and dumped upside down in the middle of blown deserts and rolling oceans.
For glaciers to creep in and put an end to this misery. To encase me in a dreamless sleep while the stars turn a thousand years in the unblinking blackness overhead. Until the ice begins to melt and the rivers run and the flowers bloom, and I wake and walk out into the world once more. Maybe by then I’ll have the good sense not to squander the most important natural resource of all.