WE'RE ALIVE

It takes me by surprise to find no one at all on the track
of the rec center at my usual time around ten-thirty when usually
I’m surrounded by dozens of walking wounded, folks in varied stages
of disarray and diminishment, the Geezer Club, people walking
or hobbling or even jogging tenderly for their lives, to add a year
or so, to feel better, who knows why?  But today there’s nobody
and at first I feel elated, the whole place to myself!  I can break
all the rules, I can trek in the opposite direction, lie down and roll
if I want, take baby steps, giant steps, do the Mashed Potato, I can
sing out in dissonant hallelujahs and belch and make chicken noises,
I can spit on the floor, anything, I can do anything . . . but I figure
surely someone will show up any moment, the traffic is usually constant,
but no, no one arrives and I’m on my third lap now, and I start feeling
a bit creeped out, like that movie when todo el mundo disappears
except for this one guy who resorts to making cardboard people to talk to,
not that I ever want to talk much with anybody, but hey, you like to think
there are others, even only one other, not just your sorry, desolate self
trudging the lonely road, no Whitman procession, nobody home,
and it’s getting to me big time around the fifth lap, and the place is still
empty, and my imagination takes a nose dive and I’m thinking maybe
everybody on earth has in fact vanished and it’s just me now, for, see,
this has never happened before, never, not in decades, not even janitors
or the fat gimp Chuckie who handles the basketball court down below,
nada, nada, and so I figure they all got hit, some angel of death
sweeping through, but missing my envelope, some swift-acting virus
or finally the atomic conflagration we’ve all awaited since Hiroshima
and I know it’s crazy but I now espy slight hairlines in the track itself,
fuzzy tendrils of antediluvian vegetation sprouting from the walls,
though a smack to my forehead clears up the horrendous visions,
but still no joggers or walkers and I’m reaching for the eleventh lap now,
and I’m worried about my wife and daughters, have they too disappeared?
and my half-crippled old mother down in New Orleans, has another Katrina
swept through?  and Greg down at University BP and that nubile cashier
at Wades, and Mr. Evil down the street and Daisy and Peaches and Sweetie
and Baby, and even Banjo, the stupidest cat in the world, and my sister
and all the school children and the president and the fleeing Icelanders, 
are they all just suddenly gone?  and it’s getting to the point that I think
I have no choice but to break my stride, head for the stairwell and do some snooping
around outside, like Hume opening the door to make sure the world still existed,
look for passing automobiles, birds in flight, the garbage men
(because today is Monday after all), when at my back I hear the west wing door
creak open, and I spin on my toes and see this hunched old soul waddle in,
struggling with getting off her coat over by the racks, and I rush hastily toward her
and she sharply turns, alarmed at my pace, and I throw my arms around her
crying, “Thank God, thank God you’re alive, thank God you’re here and we’re
all still here, everything’s ok because you’re here, do you understand, I must hug
you, please forgive me, I thought the world had ended, everyone but me . . .”
and of course she thinks I’m crazy and maybe dangerous, so I back off, beg pardon,
beg pardon, I even do the little Japanese prayer thing with my hands, and I hasten
toward the exit sign and, with one last breath, cry back at her, “Oh thank you
for being here, you have saved the city, the state, the planet, maybe the universe,
thank you, thank you, thank you,” and I leap down the stairs with more energy
than I’ve summoned in about a year and want to rush outside and exclaim to all
I see that, yes, we’re still here, maybe not for long, you know how time flies,
but at this precious iota in spacetime, we’re definitely, finally alive!

 

 

About the Author: Louis Gallo’s work has appeared or will shortly appear in Southern Literary Review, Fiction Fix, Glimmer Train, Hollins Critic, Rattle, Southern Quarterly, Litro, New Orleans Review, Xavier Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Missouri Review, Mississippi Review, Texas Review, Baltimore Review, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Ledge, storySouth, Houston Literary Review, Tampa Review, Raving Dove, The Journal (Ohio), Greensboro Review,and many others. Chapbooks include The Truth Change, The Abomination of Fascination, Status Updates and The Ten Most Important Questions. He is the founding editor of the now defunct journals, The Barataria Review and Books: A New Orleans Review. He teaches at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.