We survive on vegetables from gardens we make in the backyards of strangers.
Blasting music with all the windows open, raiding closets, setting food bowls on porches just in case our tabby, rottweiler, ferret, hamster, or goldfish come home.
We are the last people on Earth.
You say this every night before you go to your room and I go to mine in a house that was never ours.
We survive on secrets.
Over breakfast I admit that sometimes I wish you’d come to my room. You say you wish you’d known sooner. That you’ve met someone and wasn’t sure when to tell me. I try to remember all the times we’ve been apart, wonder how you managed to meet someone when we are the last people on earth.
I want you to meet her, you say, and I nod because I don’t know what else to do.
We survive on a series of miscommunications.
You take me to the nearby sex shop and tell me her name’s Lorraine. I look for evidence of another human, someone I could be friends with. Someone I could envy, address hateful letters to that I’ll never send but burn in the fire pit while you sleep. Someone I could have rebound sex with—to stop pretending like you and I have ever had sex. I start building a life with this woman you’ve met named Lorraine.
You walk to the display window (I take a moment to admire your ass and think maybe I have a chance) and carry a mannequin towards me.
Meet Lorraine, you say.
We survive on fuck ups and moments of doubt.
Like how did I fuck up this badly? How did you fuck a—Lorraine?
Lorraine has blue hair and eyes that never shut. She’s wearing a black latex catsuit that accentuates her hips and legs in a way I can’t hate, and is made of fucking plaster.
Don’t embarrass me, you hiss.
I shake her hand. Nice to meet you, I say, while thinking about all the things I didn’t do that drove you to Lorraine.
We survive on privacy.
Lorraine starts coming home with you after we meet, and I hear you two through the walls. You tell her about your life before we were the last people on earth, and everyone you miss. I hear you two having sex when I’m trying to sleep. Sometimes, I hear my door creak open and think you’ve come to apologize. Instead, I see Lorraine, leaning in the doorframe, naked and frozen in her shop window pose.
We survive on new experiences.
You ask me to move out. Say, it’s nothing personal, just that you and Lorraine need your privacy. I consider telling you about Lorraine in my doorway but you’re babbling about how new everything is with her. You hear birds singing (there are none), music playing (you keep Rick Rolling me), and everything is so much brighter. It’s not. It’s not because, as the last people on earth, everything is still the same.
We survive on small moments.
Since being evicted, I’ve decided to house hop. I want to find this brightness—or newness—you’ve found so I migrate from one house to the next. Somehow you find me, and I think I feel a little bit of that brightness you’ve found.
Lorraine’s throwing a party, you say, and hand me an invitation.
I invite you inside. You back away.
Sorry, Lorraine’s waiting.
We survive on disappointments.
I find a dress in someone’s basement that fits and heels that I hope I can walk in. Your house is somehow crowded by the time I arrive. Lorraine is wearing a pink tutu over a red leather catsuit, and she’s surrounded by other mannequins I recognize from department stories and the sex shop. Even the one from the auto body shop is here. I make my way over to him and try to start a conversation, but he doesn’t respond, so I lean against him and imagine our lives together.
We survive on possibilities.
My husband—the mannequin from the auto body shop—would address me as his partner instead of wife. He would take my last name, never comment on my age, how many pills I take, the diapers I’ll eventually need. He’d hold my hand, kiss me often, and tell me how much he loves me. He’d tell me he loves me so often that I’d forget about the party, Lorraine, and you asking Lorraine to marry you.
We survive on the promise of the future.
You invite me to the wedding, and I come. Lorraine wears a white pantsuit and you—a wedding gown. The mannequin from the auto body shop is there but he sits far away from me. You whisper your vows, kiss Lorraine, and announce that you are now Mr. Lorraine. You thank everyone for coming. You thank me for coming. I have a few drinks and make my way to the backyard. You find me, like you always do, and ask if you can have a taste.
We survive on missed opportunities.
You ask why we—I tell you I don’t know. That’s a lie, but you’ve had one too many, and this conversation seems inappropriate on your wedding night. I tell you I’m leaving, and you tell me you know. You say you’ve noticed all the times I’ve moved, each time farther away from you; how I flirted with the guy from the auto body shop only to now pretend he doesn’t exist.
I tell you I think you’re beautiful. Handsome. That I don’t know which you would prefer.
I guess that’s why we never—
I press my finger to your lips. You’re crying, which shouldn’t be happening. I look for Lorraine. You grab my hand and I know, if you asked me to stay, my answer would destroy everything.
K.B. Carle lives and writes outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her stories have appeared in HAD Magazine, Good River Review, Waxwing Magazine, and have been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and the Pushcart Prize. She can be found online at http://kbcarle.com or on Twitter @kbcarle.