In my mind, I was reliving my whole life again----
slowly, taking my time. Delaying.
Because I knew, sooner or later, I’d get to her.
And then… Well, I’d already died once. I couldn’t live through it again.
The guards lost interest in me after a while.
In the quiet, and the dark, I got stronger. Eventually she came. She appeared suddenly, exactly like she’d done that day----she stepped into the sunshine, she jumped, she laughed and threw her head back, so her long ponytail nearly grazed the waistband of her jeans.
After that, I couldn’t think about anything else. The mole on the inside of her right elbow, like a dark blot of ink. The way she ripped her nails to shreds when she was nervous. Her eyes, deep as a promise. Her stomach, pale and soft and gorgeous, and the tiny dark cavity of her belly button.
I nearly went crazy. I knew she must think I was dead.
What had happened to her after crossing the fence? Has she made it? She had nothing, no tools, no food, no idea where to go. I imagined her weak, and lost. I imagined her dead.
She might as well be.
I told myself that if she was alive she would move on, she would forget me, she would be happy again. I tried to tell myself that was what I wanted for her.
I knew I would never see her again.
But hope got in, no matter how hard and fast I tried to stomp it out. Like these tiny fire ants we used to get in Portland. No matter how fast you killed them, there were always more, a steady stream of them, resistant, ever-multiplying.
Maybe, the hope said. Maybe.
How did I love her?
Let me count the ways.
The freckles on her nose like the shadow of a shadow; the way she chewed on her lower lip when she was thinking and the way her ponytail swung when she walked and how when she ran she looked like she was born going fast and how she fit perfectly against my chest; her smell and the touch of her lips and her skin, which was always warm, and how she smiled. Like she had a secret.
How she always made up words during Scrabble.
Hyddym (secret music). Grofp (cafeteria food). Quaw (the sound a baby duck makes). How she burped her way through the alphabet once, and I laughed so hard I spat out soda through my nose.
And how she looked at me like I could save her from everything bad in the world.
This was my secret: she was the one who saved me.
That’s what it was like waking up in the Crypts. No-longer-dead. But without her.
Like burning alive.
I have nothing to say about my months there. Imagine it, then imagine worse, then give up and know you can’t imagine it.
You think you want to know, but you don’t.
No one expected me to live, so it was like a game to the guards to see how much I could take. One guy, Roman, was the worst. He was ugly----fat lips, eyes glassed over like a fish on ice in the grocery store----and mean as hell.
He liked to put his cigarettes out on my tongue. He cut the insides of my eyelids with razors. Every time I blinked, I felt like my eyes were exploding. I used to lie awake at night and imagine wrapping my hands around his throat, killing him slowly.
See? I told you. You don’t want to know.
But the worst was where they put me. The old cell where I’d once stood with Lena, staring at the words etched into the stone. A single word, actually. Just love, over and over.
“Sometimes I think maybe they were right all along, the people on the other side in Zombieland. Maybe it would be better if we didn't love. If we didn't lose, either. If we didn't get our hearts stomped on, shattered; if we didn't have to patch and repatch until we're like Frankenstein monsters, all sewn together and bound up by who knows what.
If we could just float along, like snow.
That's what Zombieland is: frozen, calm, quiet. It's the world after a blizzard, the peacefulness that comes with it, the muffled silence and the sense that nothing in the world is moving. It's beautiful, in its own way.
Maybe we'd be better off.
But how could anyone who's ever seen a summer - big explosions of green and skies lit up electric with splashy sunsets, a riot of flowers and wind
that smells like honey - pick the snow?”
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