You are going to fall in love. After the world ends, the cities fall, you are going to meet someone. You are going to fall in love.
Maybe he will have thick eyebrows and two missing teeth. So many people will be missing teeth then, hollow mouths. Maybe he’ll have an inadvertent whistle whenever he says south, sky, sea, turn his head, redden.
It doesn’t matter, you’ll say. You’ll still have most of your teeth, wiggle them gingerly at night, lying on your back in the dark. Look up at the sky, remember flossing, remember braces.
Do you remember dentists? you’ll say to the man you love.
Yes, he’ll say. I remember dentists.
Maybe he’ll have a scar on his forehead, the back of his right hand, the left side of his torso. Maybe he’ll carry a sharpened stick in his hand. That’s all that will be left then, sharpened sticks and butter knives, lighters that flick and flick and never catch. Cans of onion cream soup, more water than flavor. You will have mastered the art of opening a can of onion cream soup with a butter knife, the sharp edge of a rock.
Maybe he’ll smile when he sees you. People will still smile then, more out of habit than anything. Smile, hiding their missing teeth behind their lips. Maybe he will smile; maybe he will call out to you.
Or you will call out to him.
When you were young, you used to fall in love. Teenage kisses in movie theater, clammy hands clasped together. Whispered endearments: darlings, honeys, dears. Whispered I will always love yous. Even if the world ends. Except you didn’t think it would end, really. Not the world, or the love either. Everything felt so permanent, felt so solid.
We’ll always be in love, you said, right? and traced your shaking hand over their collarbones.
Look, you said. I’m trembling.
After the world ends, you are going to fall in love again.
Maybe he will have a disease that is killing him, something quiet and devastating. Maybe you will, a devouring from the inside. Maybe you will both be healthy, as healthy as any people at the end of the world can be. Maybe you will just be hungry, hands catching on a can of onion cream soup in an otherwise empty convenience store.
We’ll share? he’ll say. We’ll share?
Maybe there won’t be enough onion cream soup for sharing. Maybe in this withered, dying world, it will be dog eat dog, every man for himself. Your hands will brush as you both reach for the last can of onion cream soup on the dusty shelf. Your butter knives will clatter as they hang on your waist.
When your hands meet, you will feel it: a coming apart, a spasming of atoms. He’ll reach for his sharpened stick. You’ll clutch a butter knife in your hand.
Look, you’ll say. I’m trembling.
Cathy Ulrich makes a creamy onion soup that is really yummy. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Whiskey Paper, Wigleaf and jmww.