On March 11th, 1986, Jim and Sarah Truman began to die. They didn’t quite know it yet. So they woke up as they did every day. Jim said to his beautiful wife, “Another day, another dollar.” She smiled back. They dressed. They ate. They brushed their teeth in the exact same way that they had been doing for 18 years. They even walked down the street in perfect harmony, as they had done the night after the very first day they met.
Boys hunted girls with their rocket fuel of carnal urgency, and in the 60’s, there was no better place than Ed’s Diner to launch off and snag a shining star of a girl. The diner was filled with smoke, alcohol, and drunken passion; the three essentials Maslow forgot on his hierarchy of needs. As a girl walked in, usually accompanied by a slew of brave friends, they were festooned with the one liners so crappy that couldn’t even attract a dung-beetle, “Hey Baby” “How you doing” or the classic “Did it hurt”. The lines were too common. The real hunters, the alpha males, the astronauts, the slick-haired Shakespeares, waited in the back like peregrine falcons, soaring high above their prey. As the girls found a place to sit, they swooped down even faster than a peregrine falcon; they crash landed to the seats with the speed of an asteroid and with all the flare too. And unlucky for Sarah, Jim, one of the largest asteroid to breach love’s atmosphere since St. Valentine, did not burn out or dematerialize. If he had, perhaps she would’ve died differently. Maybe in a bingo related accident. Or perhaps in some noble roundabout banana incident. You know, a royal death.
But things don’t always work out for the better. It’s always good or bad, nothing more. So with a blink of an eye and a flutter of her wrist, Jim and Sarah became lovers. It was evident Jim fell in love at first sight. This is because love has nothing to do with words, actions or the cardio-elastics a heart can mesh out, but with the eyes. All things essential concern the eyes. If one looks at another by appearing over their shoulder, they are about as interested as a termite would be to an elephant. If they waltz carefully from the feet to the eyes, in a graceful, careful manner, then they were interested, but if they dance around like a mad-man, their eyes bouncing around like a fly on Ritalin, then they are obsessed. Jims’ eyes couldn’t stop slipping and sliding off every curve of Sarah’s face. Like the Venus de Milo, minus not having hands and all, she was perfect. At least, Jim’s eyes thought so.
Jim decided to meet this perfection; a place left unfinished at the time of creation. He slowly made his way to the table like a leopard slowly lurking in the shadows. He pounced, and while he leaned on the table, with his profile puzzling into the space between Sarah’s jaw and shoulder, Jim whispered to Sarah. He could have chosen to say anything within the chamber brimming with smoke, music, and cupids’ imaginary arrows flying like a crazed archer. He could have heatedly uttered pi out to one hundred decimal places, curling the numbers around in some sort of electrifying chant. He could have repeated a Shakespearean sonnet, crying out a ballad of unparalleled beauty and prose. Or, he could have just sat there, with his head nestled in between her jaw and shoulder, and said everything that needed to be said with a deafening silence. Instead, he said, “How is your uncle?” It was an absurd statement. He had never met her uncle. Neither had she.
Never had there been something more anticlimactic and second rate, expect perhaps fourteen-year-old lovers. Yet it worked. Four years later, or in another blink of the eye and a flutter of a wrist, they married, and lived happy lives that were filled with regularity and habits. They traveled. They donated to charity. They were good people.
As they continued on in the regularity of their life, half way around the world, a single screw was forgotten in a Boeing 477. Harvez, who had been working on the plane in Sweden, had had a bad day. His wife left him two weeks before. His shoe-laces had ripped. He had forgotten his lunch. It was a formula for disaster. But that’s not the half of it. If he and his wife had not hired the pool-boy to help “whipz ze pul ento shyaipe” as Harvez broken English willed, if his pool-boy had not taken interest in woman both older and more experienced than him, if Harvez’s wife had not drunken excessively due to her father beating her ages ago, if Harvezs’ shoelaces had not been manufactured cheaply in Taiwan by a boy who was paid little, fed even less yet beaten heavily, if people really cared about little Taiwan boys enough to make a stand, and if Harvez had only had his baloney and mustard sandwich, all of this may have not happened. Jim and Sarah may still have lived. Harvez’s stomach may had been filled. His wife may have not left him. His shoes may have remained tied. The world may have had equality. And so on.
But the world doesn’t turn on “what-ifs”, so Harvez had forgotten the screw that led to a faulty panel on a wing, that led to a slow tear away of the fibre-glass casing around the tiles surrounding the panel, that led to a crack in a iron-frame of the wing, that led to a complete erosion of the left side of the plane after 847 flights, that led to a Boeing 477 plummeting down into New York city, right into the building where Jim and Sarah both worked as accountants.
From their view, they had no idea that death was literally crashing into them before they would be able to “finish their paper work”. Despite that dreadful news, their offices both peered out to the few places in New York where an expanse of green trees and empty land could be seen: Central Park. Looking out at it juxtaposed between the endless pillars of man-made monuments, it made Jim and Sarah sad. It was because as they gazed upon the sprawling expanse of earth, they couldn’t help but consider the impending Armageddon due to the shortages of food, safe water, constant wars, and the shopworn thought of how many people were, at any precise moment, being born, and how many were dying, and that they were simply two people stuck in between these two milestones: milestones that felt earth shattering, but were regular transitions. It made one feel as if one’s life was no more imperative than an acorn rolling around in Central Park.
With each long stare outside their window, they wished for some way to join the never-ending expanse, to have some experience that was a gateway to something else; some brave new understanding of the world. To them, although they certainly never discussed it, this was a place where pines frothed imitating the ocean, birds fluttered like air bubbles into the sky, and humans didn’t suffer, but sang along with the chime of nature. It was this wishful sadness that was woven into the regularity of Jim and Sarah’s life.
It was here, during their last stare into Armageddon, that the plane, in a similar asteroid-esque fashion to Jim’s first move on Sarah, collided into building, exploding the third and fourth floor instantly. On the fifth floor, Jim and Sarah had no escape. They were stuck in between a longer purgatory above and hell brewing below. So in light of their impending death, they found each other, grabbed two chairs, and stared out at Central Park like they had hundreds of times before. Despite their trembling hands, New York city seemed uninterested in their soon to be death. Taxis flew by, searching for their next costumer. Hot dog stands still polluted the streets. People went on, with their regular lives, doing their regular things. This was first Jim’s and Sarah’s mistake: habit.
Yet on their last day, they never did say “I love you”. This was never a phrase worth uttering. They believed, and regularly practiced, that if anything authentic could be used to pin down love, they did not belong to this prefabricated, ready-made phrase, which can be uttered by any person with an iota of verbal skills. So instead they went on their last few seconds, before the floor caved in, wondering what love is, what they could have used to spice up the bedroom, where they youth had gone, and so forth.
One wonders, though, if when staring deep into world outside their offices in their last few seconds, did they wish they had ever found those words for love?