What I Know is This

by Terry Paul Pearce

What I know is this:
The world ended at 6:02 last Friday in the flat next door. The noise woke me, and I slipped downstairs, leaving you there in your half of the bed, marked off by the invisible line down the middle.

After things had quietened down, it ended again at 6:35. Listening to the kid wailing through the wall, I would have given anything to be its parent, hurrying down the hall to comfort it, bringing the planet back to its right axis. The words were indistinct, but the tones calming. I stood alone in my kitchen, the only warmth the steam from my coffee, bleeding into the air. You slept on, unaware.

What I know is this:

Things change. My commanding officer told me so, just before he discharged me. When I went into hospital, a job in the forces was a job for life.

I always thought they took care of their own. I always thought that if you weren’t up to the job you signed up for, they’d find a use for you. I never worried about getting hurt because I thought those I was fighting for would see me right. It must have changed while I was away.

What I know is this:

Stepping outside just as dawn had broken one day last week, I looked up at the building opposite. The radiant, uniform blue of the breaking day was reflected so perfectly in its windows that it took on the appearance of a façade, as if I were looking through the windows of a wall without a building behind it, into yet more sky.

The perfect illusion was shattered when a window of sky opened, revealing a squalid darkness behind. From the gloom a woman’s arm appeared, flicking cigarette ash into the previously untainted air.

What I know is this:

The big poker game last year, losing was the furthest thing from my mind as I slid my entire chip stack into the pot. The Queen, Ten, Eight of spades on table and Ace Two of spades in hand meant I had the best flush available. Danny was betting strong, but hesitant; I was betting on him holding a flush to the King.

When he flipped the Jack Nine for a straight flush, the three disparate spades on the table rearranged themselves before me into an inexorable sequence: always, obviously and only ever missing a couple of links.

What I know is this:

Yesterday, you were lying when you said it didn’t matter that I couldn’t have kids any more. Lying when you said you could live without what you’d always wanted. I looked at your shoulders as you looked the other way, and I could see that you were crying, holding yourself and the tears in. After you left, I looked for our old letters, wrapping myself in a litany of unused names.Polly. Jake. Annabel. Then I found a different, more recent letter, addressed to you. The unfamiliar scrawl told me new things that somehow, I already knew. It told me everything had changed while I was away. It told me the sky was broken. It told me I’d read the cards wrong.

What I know is this:

One day, you’ll do what I never will, now—reassure your own child that the world isn’t ending. However much it feels like it.

BIO: Terry Paul Pearce lives in London, where he works as a freelance consultant in learning and development. He would like to live somewhere with more sunlight and less tabloid press. For example, he thinks it would be nice to spend his days writing on a beach in Laos or India. However, he currently contents himself with writing about people writing on beaches in Laos or India, amongst other things.