A lover and a fighter. That’s all a man is.
Our world gets destroyed all the time.
Shattered by our choices, the choices of others, or things completely out of our control.
As I drove my car down the broken, empty road, I realized the truth. As a man, I am fueled and driven by only two impulses. The need to love, to build a family, and the need to fight for something.
That one day a year ago, the love I had for so many years was gone. Shattered by so many choices and things outside our control. I thought I would be with her for the rest of my life. I knew what kind of ring she wanted. But as hard as we fought for each other it wasn’t enough. Our love had died. Like our world is now, I was broken and fighting to mend into something that resembled myself.
All I could do then was fight. Not wanton, hateful conflict, or violence for its own sake. I needed to fight for something, some cause, something meaningful. But I had nothing to fight for. I had no hobbies, no passions, I felt no fire inside me though I knew I wanted one. I had been one half of a whole, but she was gone. Now I was just alive.
Memories are your enemy.
As it would happen, the world was really destroyed not long after. It didn’t take long. I’m not exactly sure how it happened. Supposedly The oceans died and crops everywhere failed and food suddenly became a precious resource. In a few months the whole world tore itself apart in hunger. Civilization in all its majesty undone by the most primal of impulses: feed.
I had my cause to fight. It wasn’t a complicated one, but it made me feel alive. I woke up every day with purpose. I was empty no more. I fought to survive, to protect the people around me. They were good people. I only knew one of them before the end of civilization–My neighbor, Keith. He always wore the same hat both before the world ended and after. Black baseball cap with the Red Sox logo. At least he’s consistent. Pretty funny too. He’s a glue guy. Keeps smiles on the faces of everyone when we’re venturing forth under the hot sun, into unknown territory hoping to find friendly faces instead of hateful ones.
These are the kind of thoughts that make me reach for my AR-15 propped up against the driver’s side door just to feel the smooth metal body, just to know it’s there. I don’t like firing it. I don’t like that it is a part of my life. But knowing its there to keep me alive, so that I can use it to keep the others alive when necessary, that’s a feeling I can’t be without.
I had fired it too many times two days ago. We lost Angela in the fighting. Only ten feet from the truck. God, it’s the kind of thing that will drive you crazy.
I don’t know why they opened fire on us, even. Not like we have any food. Not like we wanted to fight them. Unless they wanted us for food. If so, then Angela… No, I can’t think about that. That way lies madness. Only thing we have is what’s in front of us.
But of all the things I’ve seen, there’s one thing I can’t shake. One memory that will not escape me. If it is even a memory, or some ghost of my mind. At this point, I don’t even know anymore. We were passing through this refugee town. We didn’t even stop. We’ve seen them before. Groups of starving people, no will left to fight and nowhere to go. They roam in packs and scavenge for food like old world hunter-gatherers. We drove through the crowd of people who rose to clamor at our truck, but were smart enough not to step in front. Most survivors didn’t think twice of running over someone in their way.
I looked out the driver’s side window and in the crowd I swear I saw her face. I think it was her. It looked like her. Tired, but steely eyed and surviving. At the time I thought it was just someone that looked like her. I didn’t even stop the truck. How could I? But I think… I think it was her. I think I saw the recognition in her eyes when she saw me. But she made no move. She just stared.
We drove on. We still drive on. Every day I feel the urge to turn around and go back. I want to find her. But there is no going back.
Memories are my enemy.
Lover and a fighter. That’s all I am.
Ah, what a classic jam. Sounds like childhood.
If you could picture yourself on the timeline of your life, and you could climb up a great tower and take a longview in all directions, what might you see?
- Backwards, we can see the path we’ve taken here. Messy, bending, rife with good times and bad. Hopefully more bad than good. This way lies madness. A short look back might bring a smile and some warm thoughts. But the longer you look the more obsessed you become with the choices you made.
- To the left and right, we see what could have been. The places and people we might have gone and met, some catastrophic, some fantastic, some wildly different then what we know now, but probably many that are just different incarnations of our own life. This is a matter of curiosity, of warnings and possibilities, but still it only serves us to consider our choices now.
- Ahead, we strain to see forward, but the fog, the great fog clouds what we can see. We think we see shapes and possibilities, we make guesses as to what is and plan what paths we might take through the fog, but we cannot see clearly no matter how much we try. Still, this is the direction we must face moving forward, pushing blindly into the fog and trusting our reactions and instincts to find one of many right ways on.
I’ve lived most of my life thinking little of the future, enjoying the present and trusting in myself. I’m blessed to be able to do this, and it is by in large a good thing. But there is a caveat. It is vital, I believe, to be proactive in the present, and to imagine the kind of future-present we hope to have. And to be unrelenting in our pursuit of whatever it is. Our imagination is a weapon used for or against ourselves, and we must use it to envision the truly good and valuable things we want and purse them.
It’s easy to imagine all the things that can go wrong, all the reasons not to do something. But through our imagination of what can be is where we can achieve all great things.
Our lives are some small percent the perception of the present moment around us, and a huge percent all the things we imagine about ourselves; the stories we tell ourselves about our past and our future and what could have been.
Your thoughts can be a weapon used for or against you. Don’t let them cut you so deep you can’t push on. Longviews can be necessary, but don’t linger there too long. There’s plenty more to be enjoyed and done right now.