First and last

By | 1 September 2023

I don’t want to watch the new hit series
inspired by the action-adventure-survival-horror
video game franchise about the zombie end
of the world, which everyone is raving about
because even though the gays still die in the end
they have a long and tender relationship
before their tear-jerking conclusion.
I don’t want to watch it, even though as a teen
I was keen on post-apocalyptic fiction
about atom bombs and nuclear winters
and shadows burnt on walls in (what I called)
Hiro-shee-ma, though I knew the threat
was real and terrifying and afterwards
I couldn’t sleep or had radioactive dreams.
Back then I had the confidence or naivete
to identify with the lead, the character
we travelled with and felt for and who might
see terrible things and may suffer and might
behave pathetically and/or heroically but
would somehow see it through to the end.
I am more easily scared now, it feels too close –
not the zombies, just the preposterous frailty of it all
and with more perspective I know in my liver
I could just as easily, in fact, am even more likely
to be a bit-part: perhaps ‘Woman on Street no. 2’,
who is not even the first to be bitten or infected,
or stabbed or eaten, just a nameless sacrifice
to the plot exposition. I don’t want to watch
disaster movies either when my safety so far
feels like dumb luck and I know that bushfires
and floods don’t discriminate. Yesterday I watched
the glorious rococo towers of a thunderstorm
steaming in from the south-west at sunset and
the gum trees waving new growth from this year’s rain
and the green beads of fruit forming on
the tomato plants in the garden and the limbs
of children. Even though the children aren’t mine
and the notion of beauty in the ephemeral is
oh-so-tired, their beauty isn’t. The transience
is a seasoning so piquant I can’t swallow it
and in the dramatic light I remember that you
and I and ‘Woman on Street No.2’ are each
the main character in our own limited series
and sometimes we travel with or feel for each other
and I might see terrible things and I may suffer
and I might behave pathetically and/or heroically
and somehow I will see it through to the end.

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