by Daniel Boscaljon
“the tomorrow after world’s end” is the eighth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”
your tears were reluctant to fall, but the way that your body trembled announced to me that the world was about to end. i held you in my arms, a tight embrace, hoping that you could jolt me to your state, so that i could share in it with you. but my arms did nothing: weak, lifeless, they simply encircled you adding neither strength nor comfort. your words came forth: they were not indictments of me, the messenger. i know that you understood the situation fully. you know that i, too, sense that the end of the world is beginning to dawn and that we see the red sky brimming as a token of doom. the difference lies not in what we see, but how we react. i am envious of your tears and trembles, for the sight does nothing for me but create a numbed sense of cold death. tears, at least, express something. my weak arms and straight face do nothing but stare straight ahead.
of course, the tragedy lies not in the world’s end but precisely within its failure to do so. were it truly to end, tonight, i feel we could both (with joy) embrace each other and accept annihilation. it would be a moment of relaxation where we could reflect on the past–leading up to today. it would not be hypocritical to overlook the moments of torments and tragedies. the world should end with a bang, not a whimper, after all. so we would light the fireworks we never saw when the world was young, and lay on a blanket under the moon and have bread and cheese and wine. at the last moments, we could hold onto each other, and with one last kiss yield our bodies and lives to the horizon of annihilation. …if only the world were ending.
instead, we’re left with the taste of a world which stubbornly persists beyond its ending. having tasted and accepted the end, there is nothing worse than the arrival of a new tomorrow. embarrassed, the empty wine bottle reveals the futility of last night’s celebration. insects and rodents enjoy our bread despite the fact that it has hardened–but even they ignore the cheese. tomorrow forces itself upon us with an unrelenting presence.
when you had begun to cry, i had thought your tears were an act of mourning the failures of the past. when you continued to cry, i interpreted them as betokening the futility of fighting fate. now, i think, i understand that you understood the true nature of the tragedy from the beginning.
there is nothing worse than being forced to accept a series of tomorrows without a future. there is nothing emptier than time without hope, when duration and repetition are indistinguishable. Emptiness arrives when one is given the form of a day and is simultaneously forbidden to fill it with any sort of content. The future spreads itself as a numb, blank, empty, dumb canvas and its blankness is an expression of our soul.
had the world ended last night, i could have rested in the fulfillment of joy. instead, i merely endure through time.
Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World was published by the University of Virginia Press this past August.