In my gray joggers and Harvard sweatshirt, running my hands
over the vegetables to find the good ones, the same way
my mother did all those years ago. In the cart: cereal
that no one will ever eat, my aunt’s favorite chocolate,
a carton of eggs that I checked three times over
to make sure none were cracked. The dairy aisle is empty;
I walk back and forth and back and forth, listless. At this point,
everyone in the movies always prays. Maybe I would too,
if I knew how. There’s no one left willing to teach me, anyway.
I imagine it goes something like this: Dear God. I hope you’ll
remember me, even if no one else does. I’ll admit that I haven’t
made my peace with death. Who has? I made so many plans
and never followed through on any of them. Maybe I should be
bungee jumping right now, or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.
Why not? The clock is ticking. Might as well get some
bang for my—oh, okay. There’s the brand of oat milk
I was looking for. In the cart: three oranges, a box of crackers,
hot chocolate mix. What would your last meal on Earth be? I still haven’t
decided mine and it’s in an hour. Go figure. It’s not like I didn’t
know this was coming, but who feels like cooking during
the apocalypse? Certainly not me. In the cart: hummus, Oreos,
my broken heart. I’ve never believed in regret, but maybe that
was a mistake. Maybe if I did I would’ve said screw it and
lived recklessly, danced in the rain, told people I loved
them while I still had the chance. I mean, it isn’t too late yet,
but who would want to hear my voice if I called? Maybe if
I had believed in regret I would’ve thought things through.
Wouldn’t have pushed everyone away. Maybe I’d be holding
something other than my own sleeve right now. It’s the end of the world
and more than anything, I want a nap. I haven’t been sleeping well
recently, but I haven’t cried either, unlike almost everyone I know.
I’ve been too busy sticking my head in the sand and
staunchly not thinking about anything too painful. What’s the use?
My tears can’t stop a tsunami. In the cart: orange juice,
frozen pizza, cough syrup. Better safe than sorry, right?
I’ve never thought of myself as particularly optimistic,
but maybe sometimes you have to be: the alternative
is simply too overwhelming. In the cart: cheese, tomatoes, bread.
Dragging my finger down the list of things I never did, dates
I never went on, songs I never heard. Check, check, check.
It’s the end of the world and nothing matters except
the two hundred dollars worth of food I’ll never touch.
While he scans my cashews, the boy manning the register
smiles at me. Later, in the parking lot as I watch the sky fall,
I’ll wish I smiled back. Wish I had stood there and told him
I loved him. Who cares? We’re all dying anyway. Maybe I do.
Leela Raj-Sankar is an Indian-American teenager from Arizona. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gastropoda Lit, Rejection Letters, and Full House Literary, among others. In his spare time, he can usually be found watching bad television or taking long naps. Say hi to her on Twitter @sickgirlisms.