You Don’t Have to Go Home, but You Can’t Stay Here


by Ed Simon

Whisky somehow tastes both sweeter and harsher when you suspect that it might be the last glass in existence. Overtones of something almost like chocolate, slight undercurrent of medicinal peat, and of course the burning, forever the burning. Gunther, Chalky, and I normally avoided the hard-stuff, not because of any propensity towards clean leaving (of course not that), but rather that there was something affected about sitting in the Dew Drop Inn here on New Street in rusty bucolic Pastorius, Pennsylvania, sipping amber alchemy from a snifter (or whatever people drink single malt from). No, for us, Yuengling was fine, cheap, and two or three or twenty normally had the desired result. It all served the same purpose, and ended with the same conclusion. But tonight (was it night?) our palates were a bit more discerning, for it’s not every day that you sit with your friends (or at least those that you can sometimes stand), who are the last two other people in existence, awaiting the inevitable apocalypse (or whatever it was that was slouching its head towards Bethlehem).

And I, Franklin Mercer, was comfortable in ratty tweed (elbow patches and all) making me already pretentious enough for the Dew Drop Inn on New Street in rusty bucolic Pastorius, Pennsylvania, so lager got me drunk just fine, thank you very much. I was a poet for God’s sake – admittedly not one who was published for more than a decade, but runner up for the Yale Younger Poet’s Prize when I was 25, and with an MFA from NYU I was more poet than anyone else in the Dew Drop Inn. Hell, Chalky probably thought that Toby Keith was poetry. We called Chalky “Chalky” on account of just how goddamn white he was (both literally and figuratively). I say this, and my first name is “Franklin,” though that’s a different type of white – Chalky’s has a bit more rouge around the throat.

Somehow teaching a few freshman comp classes at Petra College made me an “elitist” by Chalky’s standards. We’d been sort-of-friends once, bound in that confraternity of those who are united in Dutch courage and the inability to properly recognize a bad idea for what it was. He’d even taken me hunting once. I never shot the gun and spent the whole time drunkenly quoting Coleridge to him, but we’d still muddled on in as close an imitation to friendly intimacy as people like us were capable of (and if you’re not paying attention, it can feel pretty real).Then came the election and he started with the red hat at the bar, and I just couldn’t anymore. Still tipped a dollar every third drink though, letting it pile up in front of me before last call, like a little heap of ill-gotten casino winnings. Now why Gunther wasn’t seen as more elitist than me I don’t know, he was German and a physicist at Petra, so I think that my redding up terrible student essays made me less a pointy headed intellectual than him, but Gunther seemed to have a touch of the autism, so I think he maybe fit in better with these junkies and addicts who couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to anyone who wasn’t pouring them a drink or giving them money to pay someone to pour them a drink. He was also generally pretty generous with the rounds.

He and I sat at the Dew Drop’s scuffed and scarred bar, focusing on the condensation on my sweating tumbler. I was thinking to myself about all of those little sensory things, stuff like what beads of water felt like on a dirty glass tightly gripped by a clammy hand, or how satisfying it was to use the edge of a piece of paper to scoop out the grey detritus that collected under an aborted fingernail that had been permanently stunted after getting crushed in a car door when I was in college, or how when I was particularly shit-faced I could place my untied, busted, broken, dirty wing tips on the brass-rail of the bar without moving except for when I had to take a leak about every half hour, and that in those moments it felt like heaven to almost be dead.

I tried to focus on what the twinkling Technicolor Christmas lights which Chalky kept draped over the mirror behind the bar (inexplicably twelve months a year) looked like, and how focusing on one, green or red, and just thinking about it was like a kind of peace. I thought about the hydrogen jukebox – once the best in the town and now probably the only one which still played anywhere, indeed the only one that still existed period (or if Gunther is right had ever existed for that matter). Tom Waits, the Pogues, Cash, a veritable alcoholic’s aural buffet, and now, for one of our last songs ever, was appropriately enough Warren Zevon’s “Desperado’s Under the Eaves,” the generator in the ally way out back giving us a bit of time until whatever it was that had been erasing everything contracted into the final singularity of the universe, here at the Dew Drop Inn (in bucolic Pastorius, Pennsylvania).

We had been silent for about the space of half an hour. Chalky, never a bright man even during the best of circumstances had been wiping down the bar that whole time, as if customers who had already been swallowed by the encroaching void (and thus, again, if Gunther is right, had never existed in the first place) were going to wander up to the bar and order a Bud Light Lime. As if one of the coeds from the college I’d been atrophying at for that decade were going to pull open that dented metal door any minute now, survey the old drunks with their passed out heads on the bar and with their hands mid-pilfer in a bowl of cashews, the old framed black-and-white photographs of steel workers whose names nobody remembered nailed crookedly to the wall, and the inexplicable-for-small-town-central-Pennsylvania shrine to Ted Williams next to the jukebox, then turn on tasteful strapy shoed heel and venture out towards bars that have Jell-O shots.

Gunther pushed himself up by his elbows, and unsteadily walked towards the front door. Paunchy, bloated, bearded and bespectacled, Gunther’s plaid shirt with pocket protector was always half untucked, either drunk or not. He weakly tried to pull the door open.

“You planning on taking a piss on the front steps now that there are no more Pastorius cops to bust you Gunther?”

As he heaved the door open, Chalky and I could finally see the latest view that reality afforded the last three men in the universe. If you looked right out the front door of the Dew Drop Inn you could see, maybe three hundred yards away the back door of the Dew Drop Inn, all of reality contracting in, everything becoming tighter and tighter. To walk around the entire world, or rather the entire universe, or rather all of existence would now only take walking out the front door of the Dew Drop, crossing New Street, walking a few hundred feet to the back of the bar you just left laying across from its front door, walking in and saddling right up to the bar you left a minute before.

“It won’t be long now. We can finally see around the entire circumference of the Bubble,” Gunther matter of factly said with that flat, emotionless intonation he famously put students to sleep with, only a slight hint of a Rhineland childhood still lurking in the shadows of that voice. He ambled back towards the bar.

“Chalky, what do I owe you for another Laphroaig?’

“I told you, it’s on the house Dr. Neinschweig, but we’re almost out of that label. Will have to start breaking into the weird liquors soon,” Chalky says, pausing to resituate the Skoal he had planted between cheek and gum. My heart sank a bit at the thought that as the very waves of Being rushed into drown us here in the last bit of reality which existed in all of the universe, and I’d probably have to go out with a slainte drinking vile Sambuca, Ouzo, or that Nyquil colored clove-flavored Becherovka. At least I knew that I wouldn’t have a hangover.

“Frank, want to kill the bottle?” Chalky asks me.

“Nah, give it to Gunther. Maybe I’ll get purgatory points if that still exists after the Bubble contracts in here.”

“It is difficult to ascertain in the Nth quantum matrix in the space-time continuum if there could be an adjunct spatial-temporal matrix known as ‘purgatory,’ or if our current fluctuation could expand a space into a different dimension upon the ultimate contraction of the meta-quantum restructructuring event of this Nth magnitude. Probably depends on if Copenhagen or Everett were ultimately correct,” Gunther unhelpfully says.

“On second thought, give me the rest of the scotch Chalky,” I say. Chalky tops off my tumbler with the dregs as best he can, and wordlessly turns by muscle memory to look up at the television bolted over the left-hand side of the bar above an Eagles pennant, as if his beloved FOX News would still be broadcasting, but of course wherever they headquartered the station had all at once been eliminated about a week ago when the singularity had happened. It was after that initial event that we learned that Pastorius’ sparing at the hands of this metaphysical thing was only momentary.

I first realized something was amiss that Tuesday morning a week ago when my cable suddenly clicked off. As happens whenever the world actually changes, and not when you think that it has, I didn’t understand that I was living through one of those hinge moments, and that indeed it was such a hinge moment that there would never be another hinge moment again. Hungover, per usual for most days that I didn’t teach (and most days that I did), I lay in my underwear on my sad, stained brown couch, with a head that felt like Satan had defecated inside of my skull, watching Rachel Maddow reruns on MSNBC, who, despite her lesbianism, I held an incurable crush on. When the TV clicked to that cosmic background radiation static, all old Happy Days reruns, alien signals, and the Big Bang, I simply assumed that I forgot to pay the cable bill again.

Only that afternoon, when I finally strolled into my office to sit at my desk opening and closing drawers and pretending to do work under the watchful eye of a framed picture of a nude Uncle Walt and several free posters from the National Poetry Foundation, that I ran into a shaken colleague pacing the hall of the shabby English department. Chester was naturally anxious, as most of the island of misfit toys was, sleight and thin and taken to dressing as if he was a drinking buddy of James Joyce.

“Frank, Frank, something is wrong….” I suspected he had also been drinking, which several members of the department were known to do at Petra.

“Something is always wrong Chester. Was Fiona upset that the departmental college style guide committee hasn’t allowed the use of the gender neutral collective third person pronoun ‘they?’” Chester’s face was the color of a glass of warming rosé left out on a spring deck after you’ve passed out in the Jacuzzi. He was shaking and shaken and probably stirred. I suddenly knew that this wasn’t the normal war of attrition in irrelevant battles played out by the squadrons and legions of the Kingdom of Academe.

“What happened?” I asked, my voice the only sober thing about me. What Chester proceeded to tell me was that one of his students, the rare working class local kid at the college and not one of those trust-funders from New York two hours to the east, had stayed over at his girlfriend’s in one of the Petra dorms, and wanted to drive a few miles out of town to where he lived with his mother to make sure that his little brother was showered and ready for school (his mom, as I gathered from Chester’s rambling, was an initiate in that proud unseen faith of opioid, and the boy had taken to raising his brother as best as an 18 year old can. It’s why I don’t touch drugs). The student headed west in his pickup on Fourth Street towards the run-down, weedy, trailer parks which dotted the suburbs around Pastorius, which was easily only a ten minute drive from Petra’s red-brick colonial walls.

As Chester recounted, his student drove for about that ten minutes before he got confused and wondered if in his sleep bleariness he had headed the wrong direction or somehow circled back around, for in driving those few short miles to the west he found himself having traced back to the east, still on Fourth Street and driving back through the center of Pastorius, past the dozen or so odd bars, the old Polish church, the solitary Wawa, and the front heavily fortified gate of the Petra campus. Chester told me that the student was initially frustrated, having not noticed the other confused citizens of the town who had lost all contact with the outside world, save for the college radio station WXCX which was still trumpeting out The Shins, Arcade Fire, the Lumineers and tribal chanting from its radio tower on top of Falckner Mountain. Rather, Chester’s working class hero once again simply drove that ten minutes to the west towards his mother’s trailer only to find twenty minutes later that a straight line took him right back to where he had started from. The valley was shrinking in for everyone, that chasm folding in to everything.

Panic only broke out in the town as dozens and then hundreds of stories like Chester’s student’s started to proliferate. Fiona Appledew, our one-woman Art History department and owner of more scarves north of the Susquehanna than anyone else, and equal in wait to the copious faux Navajo jewelry she wore, claimed that from her back porch at the far eastern edge of Pastorius she could now see in the direction of the rising sun the western boundary of the town. Folks quickly noticed that the Pastorius River was now more of a long finger shaped lake, all of the water which flowed from the Susquehanna and then into the Delaware now trapped within this bubble, our own fjord for the end of days. Chalky, who lived in a cabin he built in the woods which ringed the northern side of Falckner Mountain a few miles from Pastorius (refusing, as he put it, to live in “some queer big city”) had gotten tanked at work and spent the night on an inflatable mattress in the office of the Dew Drop Inn. It was only in the morning, heading north to home that he discovered that he kept on finding himself reentering the town at the southern edge. He tried several times, confused as to why reality didn’t work no more, figured to hell with it and opened the Dew Drop early (which is where I found him a few hours later, already in his cups, mouthful of chew and that abominable red hat pulled over his red eyes). Anyone trying to leave the town found that reality had pinched itself off from everything, that we were stuck in some sort of ontological island, a dimension circumscribed unto itself, some possibly fifteen miles, at most, in diameter. The full contours of our new domain were measured before we realized that it was shrinking.

A few hours is all it took for the good people of Pastorius, Pennsylvania to figure out that they were now completely exiled from the rest of reality, or that the rest of reality no longer existed. Gunther, who understood the metaphysico-theologo-cosmoronological implications of such things hewed to the later interpretation, claiming that a massive quantum fluctuation was simply erasing all things as if they had never even existed in the first place, and that Pastorius happened to simply be a bubble in that field that had yet to vanish. Whether physics or magic, accident or providence, the new parameters of Pastorius could be strictly measured. Radiating from the center of town, it appeared that all of which remained of Being was roughly ten miles in each direction, cutting off the peak of Falckner Mountain at the north, extending south to a bit beyond the river, west to right before the closest town of Zion, and to the east the very edge of the Lehigh Valley which laid beyond Pastorius. Everything had evaporated, the great globe itself vanished as into pure air, as such stuff as nightmares are made of. The dark weird sisters that were the peaks of the Poconos up north, the expanse of farmland stretching west towards the Alleghenies, Philly to the south and New York to the east all evaporated.

When Chalky heard the full implications of the later bit he pretended to joke about being better off without the last two places I listed, but even he seemed a bit whiter than normal, and less apt to share the full contours of his own lack of knowledge as he normally did. For the most part the people of Pastorius reacted not with a predictable shock exactly – for who can predict reality itself collapsing in on itself to a one dimensional point? – but with shock all the same. The type of shock that if you’ve got beer goggles on you can confuse for stoicism.

The president of Petra, who after our football coach was the de facto most powerful man in Pastorius (and the coach had been in the terra incognito zone on the day that reality ruptured, and thus no longer existed, or never had as Gunther had it) convened a university town-hall for us all to discuss our feelings. Now, a week after that hastily organized meeting, wondering whether I was willing to ask Chalky to break into that vial Robitussin flavored Czech liquor called Becherovka, I thought back to how Gunther had stood up and calmly explained the full implications of the Bubble. He of his calm robotic Teutonic demeanor, all stained sweater and untucked shirt, walked to the front of the auditorium after Fiona had suggested that we might have to schedule a teach-in to discuss the social constructivist implications of the shrinking Bubble, and explained what was currently baring down on the good, pious Christian folk of Pastorius.

Grabbing the microphone, what Gunther said in his slightly metallic tasting Kraut accent, which always reminded me of the experience of sucking blood from a cut inside of your mouth, was “I’ve been doing some calculations, and I believe that what we’re currently experience is a Meta-Quantum Restructuring Event of Nth Magnitude, with an infinite quotient. What this means is that there has been a quantum fluctuation on a massive scale across not just the physical universe, but indeed all of reality in a metaphysical sense. If reality is like a clear liquid, it’s suddenly ruptured into an infinite number of Monads of varying size, which are themselves shrinking together, rupturing and then disappearing into one another, like a head of foamy beer that suddenly settles into flatness.”

There was a bit of a stunned silence, till Chester from somewhere in the back and affecting the brogue he always did when he was nervous (even though he was from Jersey originally), asked “Neinschweig, what does any of that mean?”

“Oh, it’s really quite fascinating, it’s a full confirmation of the Gamow-Chandra Conjecture. None of the bubbles are in any sense real to one another, so it’s not as if the universe has disappeared per se, more that now it never existed to begin with, and pretty soon won’t exist at all. Not that reality wasn’t real in the past, but now in the present it is not, and from the perspective we’re in now it was never real back then either, even though it was once real back then, but now it isn’t, and oh, oh, oh, it’s all very hard to explain without higher order mathematics.” Or poetry I thought to myself, but we’ve already established that I’m a bit of a ponce.

The president, a blustery fellow with a shock of slicked back blonde hair and a Bachelors in Business Marketing Communication Synergistic Solutions spoke up in his flat accent, normally so enthused over extolling the virtues of funding the student climbing wall with funds procured from eliminating the Classics Department.

“Yes, but Dr. Neinschweig, what can we do about it?”

“That’s an interesting question, this had actually been a topic discussed by Dr. Chandra and myself back when I had my post-doc at CERN. We had considered various possibilities about how one could react to such a massive change in the quantum subspace field should a Bubble arise from a fluctuation, but my request for summer funding to continue my work in Switzerland was cancelled in favor of building that new dorm where every student got a water bed.” Gunther said this without malice or rancor, simply matter-of-factly as he always did, but the president was quiet. Gunther continued,

“Of course the Bubble is constricting in more and more, erasing reality as it were, as it moves towards the central point. I expect this collapse to accelerate as time goes on, meaning that at some point relatively soon it will completely fold in on itself into a one dimensional singularity and then completely disappear from existence, as indeed everything not already in the Bubble has already done so. It is, and I say this genuinely, really rather fascinating, and quite an honor to see.”

Fiona cried out from some place in the front of the auditorium, clearly so stressed that she only had on two scarves and one set of Navajo jewelry (earnings shaped like dream catchers).

“But, but how long do we have?”

“From my analysis? I’d say that the Bubble will pop in on itself probably around 1:50 in the morning next Wednesday.” Right in time for last call I thought.

In the days ahead, in the week ahead (for that word could no longer be altered by a plural), people acted as you would expect them to act with the prospect of this sort of thing. Or maybe, for what was this thing, this ever shrinking cell dehydrating itself and shriveling up into the last dry remnants of the very substance of reality? If there was an asteroid or a nuclear bomb or whatever, that would be an end to civilization you could conceive of, that would be a story which you could always add more narrative to after its conclusion, which are the only stories humans have ever told, but what the hell was this? Those previously mentioned possibilities allowed for some sort of survival, some hope. But not this, the Bubble just ever shrunk in, mile after mile, and faster as the week went on, just like Gunther predicted.

Some people killed themselves, there was a rash of suicides in the little town of Pastorius, folks unable to conceive of what it would be like as the Bubble folded in, quietly and unassumingly erasing them, like watching the cursor rapidly unspool a sentence that you’ve written, editing it to oblivion. These people found solace in eating a gun, or downing a handle of Scobeyville Vodka with a half vial of pills, clinging onto that agency still afforded them as the universe crunched in on itself. Others chose the life of licentious libertinism, a decadence of drugs and sex, an ecstasy of fumbling as the old poet put it. That was, surprisingly, Chester’s route, when he was caught fucking the common law wife of one of the adjunct professors in the geology department (poor bastard only had an MS) who promptly ended Chester’s corporeal existence with a geode to the back of the skull before the Bubble could revise that particular sentence out of reality’s manuscript. Perhaps the police would have investigated, if that stretch of First Street they had been located on hadn’t been deleted the day before. I was mostly grateful that I didn’t have to respond to the peer reviewer’s comments on my paper “Chiasmatic Rhetorical Tropes in the Subjunctive across American Modernist Lyric.”

Surprisingly, at least to ever-cynical me, most of the citizens of Pastorius (whom I had never particular respected, what for their bigotries and insecurities and provincialism) reacted with a degree of heroism and even beauty as we saw the edges of the town blur, fray, and disappear altogether, like watching the bubbly, blotchy, flux of dust get sucked into the world’s most quiet and gentle vacuum cleaner. These men and women either went about their day, loving their families, living with a final dignity, until in a moment they got swept up in that invisible shrinking, as the domain of our existence became ever smaller.

Gunther explained to me that the key to walking near the edge was to keep on moving, and then you came around on the other end, but the stationary ones, those would be the people who were consumed. So some people moved, some people stood still (and thus ultimately moved all the more for it). Those people reacted with what I saw as a poignant faith, purposefully situating themselves closer to where the unraveling was moving inward. There was the old woman who lived in a half-way house I would pass on my stumbles towards work (for I was not allowed to drive), who I saw in a tent close to the edge of the Bubble’s border, so close that she must have been able to see herself on the other side, and for those two days she sat vigil there like some old desert father praying atop his stalactite, and she waited with the most subtle and knowing smile until that grand entropy consumed her.

In its way this was a type of suicide, but this extinction I saw as more of a leap into that unknown, an acknowledgement that there may no longer be more things in heaven and earth than what we have dreamt of because there is no longer a heaven or earth, but maybe there is still something, somewhere. And perhaps it is better. These people, I noted, lived there last days in which reality had any meaning with a degree of peace, giving themselves over to this power so much greater than themselves.

By the Tuesday after the event (or whatever we want to call it) and a walk down Fourth Street could take only five minutes on foot, some eight blocks of bars, takeout restaurants, pizza joints, check cashing places, liquor stores, pawn shops, bodegas, and gun shops. To walk east to west on that street was to find one looping back around and walking east again, the street repeating over and over like an O-ring collapsing in on itself, a Möbius street rapidly unraveling thread by thread. Fourth Street looked like a panoramic photograph with its two edges taped together making one never ending circle, or a noose. At those edges reality looked a bit fuzzy, as if the tape hadn’t been quite lined up right, just the slightest little discrepancy in the no-fuss orderly whimper of the apocalypse. Oh, to be bound inside of a walnut shell and be the king of infinite space and all the rest of it.

It was, in that last day, and now these last hours, the silence which most struck. No cars driving from anywhere as space became eliminated, no birds or even insets flying into what remained of Pastorius, all of reality circumscribed into a few blocks of this Pennsylvania town, all of that which remained of not just history, but even the possibility of history. No weather patterns able to move in from a larger world which no longer existed, no sound of rain moving in down from Lake Erie, no sound of storms rolling in from over the western mountains. No radio stations from Philly, or Jersey, or New York. No peels of cars tearing down those pockmarked streets late at night. No eerie deer wandering in off of Falckner Mountain like ghosts silhouetted by the headlights of a midnight car. The rest was silence.

Gunther had put on Wait’s The Heart of Saturday Night, the whole album. He’d just been feeding quarters into the jukebox like a slot machine junkie, having calculated that we had a little less than the play time of the whole album before the Bubble finally closed in here, at the nexus of reality, the Dew Drop Inn, where the vortex would flush us, and where existence would finally, irretrievably pop like a beautiful rain bowed bubble blown by a child on the first spring day.

“I have to cut something so we have time to listen to everything, do either of you object to leaving off ‘San Diego Serenade?’” Gunther asked Chalky and me.

We were non responsive, which Gunther (correctly I believe) interpreted as assent, and Wait’s razor blade gargle cranked out of the jukebox, the last bit of music to ever play while the word “music” still had a definition. We sat in silence for song after song, thinking of promises we made, and even worse, of promises that we kept, till finally I decided to get up and take a leak. On my way back from the bathroom I ventured over to that place that this whole night I feared to go, that place where I somehow knew that if I was willing to look into it I might be forced to see a reflection of myself. I, with conviction but apparently no agency, walked to that front door and opened it to see what there was to see.

Ajar, the view from the front door went straight through the back door and then through the entire length of the Dew Drop Inn. From my breast pocket I drew a Zippo lighter I had once bought in Butler (emblazoned with an ironic kitsch bald eagle bursting out of the Stars and Stripes, which I got because I thought it was funny) and I threw it through the opening, hearing it land some fifty feet behind me with a clatter as it hit the hard black floor near the back door. I of course walked through that now opened front door and instantly entered through the back door of the bar, traversed the entire length of the establishment once again and went through the front door and came out the back door one more time for good measure, traipsing across the cracked tiles of the old crumbling dive bar before pausing again at the front door only to stare outside into this limited inside.

There was something horrific about it obviously, but in our collapsing in on ourselves perhaps there remains the promise of something better? I began to chant under my breath: “Bubble, bubble breaking bright, in the forests of the night, what shall shatter your fearful symmetry?”

Gunther, with nothing but earnestness asks, “Is that one of your poems?” And without breaking my gaze from the shrinking infinity through this door I simply answered “Fuck you Gunther.”

I return like a triumphant conquistador, which I normally felt like no matter what I had done by this hour of the night and whether I deserved it or not (I never did). I saddled up to the bar with its uncashed ashtrays and its bowls of cashews and its periodic table of empty liquor bottles in front of that smudged and filthy mirror, and sat there, these last few moments in quiet.

To the right and to the left of me I saw existence folding in ever closer and closer, reminding me of how your vision folds in those moments before you pass out and hit the pavement, everything becoming claustrophobically telescopic or microscopic or monocular or whatever the word was. Doesn’t matter anymore. Now the doors were gone, and in either direction the bar looked like an infinity of repetition. Gunther was right, the last moments would be fast.

Finally, I look to my right and I see myself. Then I look to my left and see myself. Nothing but myself, just my paunchy, jowly, pockmarked face staring right back into my eyes either direction I turn. The abyss finally stared back and I discover that it was only me the whole time. Like two mirrors placed back to back creating that illusion of limitless yous who move whichever way you do. I no longer see Gunther’s dumb peach fuzzed face, but rather my own slab of ham repeated on down the continuum like a bunch of identical mees on an assembly line.

“Must almost be last call,” I think, and I ready myself to ask Chalky for that Becherovka after all, but he has already been swallowed by the Bubble just before me. I anticipate, and somehow know, that maybe there is some freedom on the other side, whatever that side may be, or whatever sides may even mean anymore.

“Well, you shouldn’t let it go to waste,” I say out loud to myself, the last man in existence, the only man who has ever existed. I reach over the chipped wooden bar to the wet rubber mesh mat where Chalky, when he still existed, had left the green bottle of elixir, and I put it directly up to my lips, having reached both the point of the night and the point in metaphysics where such distinctions hardly matter anymore, and I say “Might as well have one last glass for the road,” before I discover that it was all finished.

Image by Mustafa Kurtuldu.

About the Author:

Ed Simon is the associate editor at The Marginalia Review of Books, a channel of The Los Angeles Review of Books. A regular contributor at several different sites, he holds a PhD in English from Lehigh University. He can be followed at his website, or on Twitter @WithEdSimon.