That day, the world turned upside down.
We didn’t know why it happened. Some of us wondered whether it was our fault. Whether we had been praying to the wrong gods, or whether we had said the wrong things. But it wasn’t like that – the world simply turned upside down.
Scientists lucky enough to survive the event said that it wasn’t so much that gravity had disappeared, but that it had flipped over, as if our planet had suddenly lost all of its mass and was surrounded by some colossal object. Religious people, unlucky enough to survive the miracle, said that life was give and take, and that God was now, after so many years of giving, finally taking. But there was no colossal object, and being taken by God is a dubious given.
It happened like a bolt from the blue, at ten-o-five AM. There was a moment, one magical moment, when you could see us all floating in mid-air halfway up our living rooms, upside-down in whatever pose we had been in at the time – coffee drinkers drinking coffee from inverted coffee cups, lovers clinging to each other’s falling bodies, old men groping for slipping hairpieces, children crowing and cats screeching, all of us surrounded by the asteroids of our possessions – oh, it was a moment of perfect madness, frozen in time. Then began the groaning and the clattering, the roars and the screams. It was pandemonium. We crashed against ceilings and got crushed beneath the rubble of our old lives. Skulls cracked. Necks broke. Baby’s bounced. Most of us died on the spot or protruded convulsing from holes in plasterboard ceilings. Those who survived lay bewildered on top of them, trying to comprehend what had just happened.
But woe the ones who were outside. Before anyone even realized that the sky was no longer above, but below us, people started falling from the face of the earth. In no time, the sky was dotted with tumbling people, fluttering clothes, floundering dogs, careening cars, clattering roof tiles, mooing cattle, and whirling autumn leaves in colors that set the sky ablaze. People sitting on their porches somersaulted until they landed on creaking awnings and stared out over their rims into fathomless depths. A mole sticking its nose up from the ground was seized by reversed gravity, and a whale jumping from the waves would never dive back into the sea. Tired of her burden, Mother Earth shook off anything that wasn’t tied firmly down to her surface. In one upwards thrust, it all fell into the atmosphere. Planes, satellites, and space stations disappeared into the vacuum, and even Father Moon was pushed away from us. We saw him dwindle and dwindle, until he landed in his own sad orbit around the sun. He never even said goodbye.
I was lying on the couch, not doing anything really. I wasn’t reading a book or watching TV. If the world had come to an end, I wouldn’t even have noticed.
I was staring at my phone, waiting for you to call.
It was the second time in two days that the world had come to an end. The first time was when you lowered your eyes the day before and said: It’s not you, it’s me. It was the last lie between us, or actually the first lie of not-us, because you no longer wanted an us. What I had regarded as the best thing in my life, for you had been a burden weighing you down. Without me. You wanted to be without me.
My heart shattered to pieces on my abdominal wall. Large chunks of deep, staggering hurt and dismay at how calmly you announced these words, without the tiniest clue that this was the most painful thing you’d ever had to tell me, that you would die a thousand deaths rather than having to tell me this. You were the love of my life, and it had never occurred to me that you might take that away from me. I tried to pretend I understood, that I didn’t blame you for not wanting to try anymore, that all my frustration and pain were no match for your frustration and pain. I loved you too much to even be mad at you.
We stood in the corridor as I choked out the words. ‘Are you really, really, really sure?’
‘You said no.’
‘But couldn’t we...’
‘But couldn’t we...’
‘No, Toby. I’m sorry.’
In the silence I heard my shaking breath. You fidgeted nervously with your purse, searching for some way to open the front door. What a horrible, horrible place a corridor is: a midst between staying and leaving. I gathered all of my courage and asked, ‘So we’re no longer...’
Finally you looked at me, with tears in your eyes, and then you slowly shook your head. I struggled to hold back my tears, but they came anyway. That broke you down as well. We held each other for a long time, close and tight, and holding you like that was the hardest thing I had ever done. Then you let go.
I smiled through my tears.
You smiled through your tears.