We gaze into each other’s eyes, and we say nothing.
We never did need words. We love each other, we both know it, and nothing else needs to be said. Nothing needs to be done. We’re in this together. This is it.
It's been a long day. A difficult one. All we want is to lie in bed, and enjoy the moment. We lie here, in absolute comfort, together. In the morning, everything will be different.
Remember when it all started? Not the apathy, the emptiness that seems to have engulfed everyone else. Us. When we started. It doesn’t matter when we met, or how. It doesn’t matter what we had in common, or what made us different from each other. This was always meant to be. Wasn’t it? Was any of this meant to be?
We both had relatives, loved ones, that were taken from us by cancer. They say that we’re the last generation who will remember what that was like. We’re the youngest who will remember the time before, when the disease killed people, when people still cared. Sad that in our zeal to kill death, we killed mourning along with it.
We were inoculated, of course, and we’re glad. Cancer is hell, and neither of us would wish that hell upon anyone. It’s for the best, it is, but the cost…
It’s hard to recall how it all started. A mother drowned her child. That happens, I suppose, but then it kept happening; murders, abandonment, divorce. But that isn’t what got attention. It was the lowered attendance at concerts, self-help events, parents stopped going to their children’s plays and recitals, coupled with the sudden upswing in online dating. It seemed like everyone was breaking up. Psychologists started raking it in- everyone was depressed. No one was finding joy any longer in the things they loved.
Loved. To have loved. To have once loved. It’s a word that only exists in the past tense now.
But we have each other. We will always have each other. That can't be taken away. I believe in you. No one has ever supported me like you have. Were are each other's answers, each other's completion. We. Us. That still exists.
We are both so glad, so gratified, that no one we know will ever die of cancer. No one will have to endure the torture of chemotherapy. Your father, my mother. No one will have to watch their loved ones wither away and die as the tumors devour their bodies.
But we’d wanted to have children. We still could, but what would be the point?
Parents no longer loving their children. Couples no longer loving each other. Mothers and fathers keep their kids alive out of responsibility. People date only for sex, and maybe some self-validation. We eat because we’re hungry. Oh, we can still enjoy, of course. We haven’t eliminated joy, just the best reason for joy to exist- or despair, for that matter.
Of course we didn’t believe it when they announced the side-effects. A cure for cancer was rushed into production before the long-term effects could be fully understood. No one could have predicted what would happen any more than we can know now what will happen next. Perhaps oxytocin was the first hormone to be gradually, systematically destroyed by the cure. Will dopamine be next? Was it worth it? We may live longer, but is there any point to it, if we cannot love?
Let us marvel at the wonders of so-called human achievement. Not only have we finally cured our deadliest disease, but we’ve successfully eradicated love itself. Yes, the experts tell us that it isn’t “love” exactly, it’s the brain chemical that causes it- actually, it’s more complicated than that, but does it matter? We know it’s only a matter of time.
Remember that cup? You were so attached to it. It was your father’s. He died of prostate cancer when you were fourteen. You always kept it, it moved with you from apartment to apartment, and here, to the house that we share. I loved that cup because you loved that cup. You loved your father, just as you love me. As I love you. It was as if you carried all that love in that cup. It meant everything to you.
When we heard the news, that the cancer cure was not only becoming widely available, but that there was also a vaccine, we were overjoyed. We got our shots, as did everyone. Finally that evil disease was getting its ass kicked. Fuck cancer. We won. It was great. The world celebrated.
We started to become worried when your mother stopped calling. She was fine- recovering from her brush with skin cancer, no big deal- she’d just stopped checking in. We figured she was tired, exhausted from her treatments. But then my uncle, who’d just been cured of his colon cancer, stopped calling my dad. He was also fine. Families just stopped calling each other at any time other than holidays. It took some time to see the pattern. It wasn’t until money became involved that it became a problem. Industries were going under, while others were flourishing. Everyone was lost and confused, and finally, numb. The older people, anyway, the ones who’d taken the cancer cure directly. For those of us who were still young, who’d only received the vaccine, the apathy would hit us later. It could take years. And it did. But finally, the signs began to appear.
You broke your father’s cup, and you didn’t even care.
I saw it smashed upon the floor, glass everywhere. You calmly swept it up, concerned that I might cut my foot. I would have expected to see tears, but you were fine. It’s just a cup, you said. We can replace it. But why even bother, we have enough cups.
I always loved your passion, the way in which you give yourself over completely to what you care about. I love your selflessness. You weren’t gone yet. It takes time, it’s a gradual process. You don’t become completely loveless all at once. Thank god for small favours.
When my favourite singer came to town, you bought me tickets. It hadn’t even occurred to me. Surely there were more important things to spend our money on. I’d never missed a concert by her in my life. She was my idol, my role model, my life. I would have missed her performance, right in our own city, and I didn’t even care. The books and movies I grew up with no longer affected me. I stopped crying when Bino dies. Your mom’s homemade mac and cheese no longer warmed your heart. It was just food now. Or maybe it was missing its secret ingredient.
It’s the little things. We’d been talking about getting a dog, but we stopped. We didn’t even pet them on the street anymore. Never mind having children. But we still loved each other. That wasn’t gone yet. We don’t seem to love anything else anymore, but there’s still each other. There’s still us. There’s still love here. As we gaze into each other’s eyes, there is still love. But we both know it’s coming. We came back from the doctor together. There is almost no oxytocin left in our brains, she said, and what is there will be eradicated within twenty-four hours. So that’s it. This is it. Our final night together. We lay down on the bed, together, always together, like we always promised, always without saying a word. We’ve never needed to tell each other. But now, as I gaze into your eyes, and I know this is my final chance, I feel that I must. Are you getting tired? You seem sleepy. Your eyes are beginning to glaze over. They’re not focusing on mine. You are drifting away from me. I need you. I need you to stay. I need you to love me, as much as I still, for now, for just this moment, love you.
“I love you,” I say.
You say nothing.