2021 has not been a great year. It might be better than 2020, but let’s be brutally honest, the bar is so low it might be mistaken for lying on the ground. I wrestled with how to write about this surreal tragedy we have been pushing ourselves through. While ranting about each and every baffling and terrifying event might prove cathartic for me, it would undoubtedly be an enormous drag for anyone who had the misfortune to read it. So instead, I offer this very short story that suggests that things possibly might change.
“It doesn’t look good,” he said.
“No,” she replied, “it does not.”
They walked around the piles of debris that towered around them. At the peak of one, a jagged piece fell, bisecting a smaller mound of rubble at its base.
“It’s hard to believe that this could happen.”
“And yet, here we are,” she countered.
He kicked a small, empty plastic bottle. It bounced and clattered away. In the distance, other collapses could be heard. With a sigh, he sat on a container.
“It just keeps getting worse and worse.”
“So it seems.”
“It feels as though there isn’t anything that can be done.”
“Why are you arguing with me?” he sputtered.
“I’m not, but it feels like you’re arguing with me.”
“We’re on the same side,” she reminded him.
A pause followed. Not quite an awkward one but neither a companionable one either.
“I know…” he admitted.
She sat next to him and said, “It’s nice to hear it out loud. Every now and again.”
“I just don’t know where to start. We try to make things better but that just seems to make someone else angry.”
“You’re not wrong. People can be difficult.”
“Do you mean me?” he asked with a sad smile.
“Good to know.”
“You’re much better than most.”
“Please, I’ll blush!”
“I’d love to see that.”
She leaned into him and they sat for a while.
“Do feel better?” she inquired.
“Calmer. Not necessarily better.”
“So… What are we going to do?”
“Well, we’re not going to give up.”
“We aren’t?” he asked.
“Of course not!” she stated with certainty.
“Because that feels like a solid plan.”
“Is that a joke?”
“Not my best work,” he admitted.
“No. But I do get it. It would be easy to just surrender to all this.”
“I like easy.”
“Everybody likes easy. Because it’s…”
“Exactly. But things don’t get better with easy.”
“I don’t suppose they do.”
“So we do the hard thing. Which in this case is continuing.”
“It feels like throwing rocks in the ocean.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“So what’s the point?”
“The point is we aren’t alone.”
He looked around, all he could see were massive piles of garbage.
“No one here but us chickens.”
“Not right here, but I know that we’re not the only ones who care.”
“How? How can you know that?”
She looked him straight in the eye and said, “Because I know that people don’t want to live like this, and if they don’t, they will do something about it. Consider it a leap into the void.”
“That sounds terrifying,” he replied.
“Maybe, but it can’t get much worse than what’s going on now.”
As she said that, a nearby tower of refuse burst into flame. They looked at each other and exploded with laughter. After a few minutes of uncontrolled and inappropriate mirth, they finally stopped.
“If I didn’t laugh…”
“Exactly,” she agreed.
“So what do we do now?”
“We start. Something small.”
“Because it’s where you start. Do one small thing. Then another and so on.”
“I suppose so.”
“I’m glad we’re on the same page.”
“Me too. Though I’m still scared and angry.”
She took his hand and asked, “How about now.”
“Not as much now.”
“That’s all it takes. One small thing. Ready?”
“Yes, I am now.”
And with that, they leapt.