This past week has, without a doubt, been the single worst week of my life.
Up to this point.
Because I am not so stupid as to tempt the gods.
It has been worse than the week my mother and I said goodbye to my Nana. It was been worse than the week we waited to say goodbye to her. It has been worse than the week I didn’t leave my bed, and the week I wished for the end so fiercely that I thought my wishing alone might make it so.
Perhaps time and distance have affected my ability to measure worse against worst, but I doubt it.
It’s been pretty fucking bad.
And, of course, I can’t tell you why. Because the worst weeks are never your own story to tell. The worst weeks are as bad as they are because they are hopelessly tied up in other’s stories, other’s truths, other’s rights to share and not share and tell and not tell.
But this isn’t really the story of the worst week anyway.
This, instead, is the story of surviving the unknown. Of enduring the things you Absolutely Cannot Handle. This is the story of the end of the world, and living to tell about it.
The week started with the apocalypse.
Or rather, the impending apocalypse. I sat on my back porch as the end of the world raced towards me. It was big. It was bad. It would surely be… I guess I knew nothing surely. All I knew was that I had never before been as afraid as I was in that moment.
And it was real. It wasn’t the abstract fear that you sit and torture yourself with sometimes, mentally pushing to see how far you can go. What would I do if… and you push the limits of your emotions before you shake your head, shudder, and cry Uncle. “I can’t even think about it,” you say, and just like that the game is over. The Big Bad vanishes into the ether and you’re safe once again, having banished the things that could happen back into the world of please God, just no.
But there would be no banishing that night. The harder I struggled against it, the faster it rode towards me. The four horsemen galloped, hooves pounding on pavement with terrifying determination. I could hear the unbroken steadiness as they stormed on, unyielding to my cries.
“I can’t. I can’t. I can’t.”
I sobbed. I shook my head, desperate to shake myself out of the horror movie that was intent on invading my life. I thought, surely, that I would die. There was no way I could imagine surviving. There was absolutely no way that I could do this.
I screamed. I shook my head harder. I looked wildly for a place to run.
“I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I can’t.”
The exits were blocked. My legs were gone. There was nowhere to run, and my screams offered mere seconds of relief before the weight of the end of the world came rushing back.
I had to.
The door burst open and the apocalypse came. And there it was. I didn’t choose to face it because I was brave. I was, in fact, anything but. I confronted it only because it hunted me down, pinned me against a wall, lunged at my face with its snarling jaws and growled, “here. I. am.”
Reality exploded in my chest.
“My God, my God,” I wailed. I screamed and cried and pleaded with it not to take me. I closed my eyes against the searing pain that would surely come and rip the life from my body. I clenched my fists, waiting for the hounds of hell to roar as they ravaged every inch of my existence. The earth groaned and doom swelled beneath its surface, surging and pushing and howling as it insisted on being unleashed. And when the earth could take no more, it split in two.
And I drew my next breath.
There is an eerie silence that follows the end of the world. You hear your own words come out of your mouth with surreal clarity, completely devoid of background noise. The contrast between the deafening fury of the explosion and the bizarre serenity of the aftermath is so stark, it’s hard not to look around you in absolute awe.
The world has ended.
And here you are.
And you draw your next breath.
And again and again as you sort through the rubble, you keep drawing breath. You inhale. You exhale. You marvel at the way the oxygen slides down your throat and washes over your lungs. And then it leaves your body again with little more than a hushhhh.
And in facing the worst, you realize you are suddenly less afraid than you ever have been.