He tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around to face him. Kevin and I were not really friends; we had sixth-period American Literature together, had happened to sit in these seats on the first day of school, and had over the past three months struck up a temperate rapport. I don’t think anyone would call it a friendship, although this was not a particularly bright section of American Lit, so it was anyone’s guess as to how poorly we could use simple words.
“Hey, man,” he said, his untouched copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in front of him, “how do you want to die when the world ends?”
Boy, a lot to unpack here. His question implied a choice and a not-choice and I felt my eyes narrow as I sifted through it word by word. I took a breath and looked back at him, “You know,” I told him, “you seem like you want to keep talking, what are you thinking?”
“Okay.” He slouched back in his chair, channeling a wily, Abercrombie-clad sage. He seemed almost reluctant to tell me now, even though he had brought this whole thing up. “How it’ll work, you know,” Kevin said while I sat and marveled at his certainty, “there will be this massive tidal wave that tears across all the continents.”
I nodded. Objections or reasonable skepticism were clearly not allowed.
“This huge, towering wave,” he continued, “it floods everything. And then it all instantly freezes.”
“Naturally,” I told him, my voice believably reassuring.
“So I want to be frozen—like frozen in time—right as me and a lady are getting down. Like we’d, of course, be naked. I could be standing. There might be a table–dining, pool, or otherwise.” His sly grin slowly spread. “Then in the even more distant future, when the scientists or aliens find us, they’ll be all, ‘Oh, this guy, amiright? Coolest dude we’ve found on this whole dead planet, baby!’”
His head was bobbing now as he kept describing the high fives his cadaver would receive from these space visitors, energy clouds, or mole people. He was perched forward on his chair now and leaning over the desk. I hadn’t given him the glowing reaction I think he was after. “Yeah,” I said, and the word hung there, “I guess I don’t know about me.”
I shrugged and turned back to my book. It was sometimes acceptable to judge people, I thought, so long as these judgments were based off the content of their character and not their social class or skin color.