Things I want: I want a cup of coffee.
My feet trudge down the stairs. There is only one Nespresso capsule left before I will have to start using the percolator. I can't get more capsules. No one is stocking the supermarkets anymore, and the shelves are emptying. It won't be long before there is nothing left and we will be forced to return to an existence as hunter-gatherers, if at least we aren't all gone by then.
I guess I'll have to figure out how a percolator works.
There is a loud tap on the kitchen window, startling me. I see my cousin Dion's face floating in front of the glass, grinning the grin I always thought made him look like a serial killer.
"Hey, douchebag. Just stopping by. I'm sure you don't mind."
I would much rather not see anyone, lock myself inside my room until the world ends, but I think it would be good to have someone else around. (And considering how I've been feeling these past two days it's probably safer – to prevent me from doing anything stupid.) So I nod and move to open the door for him.
Dion pushes past me and sticks his nose in the air, sniffing. "Coffee?"
Without waiting for my reply, he walks into the kitchen and pulls my coffee cup from beneath the machine. With longing eyes I follow the vapor trail dancing around his face, trying to catch a whiff of the scent before he takes a large sip. Holding the mug against his lips, his eyes search the room. "Where are your folks?"
I can't get the words out, so I just shrug.
Dion slams the mug down with so much force that coffee splashes on the back of his hand. I cringe. "When?"
"Day before last."
"God damn." He swallows the rest of his coffee in one big gulp, as if it's a shot of tequila, and rubs his hand through his black crewcut. "God damn."
"And your parents?" It feels polite to ask, even though I haven't seen them in years.
"Good riddance. They had nothing but debts anyway, so they're as useless as ever."
There is a silence. Dion plants his elbows on the counter and gazes at me searchingly across the collar of his bomber jacket.
"And what've you been up to since ...?" he finally asks.
"You know. Just hanging around."
He lifts an eyebrow. "You know what I mean."
I shrug again.
"Do you want to go after your parents or something?"
"Of course not," I sputter, but my words lack conviction. Families often disappear together, and some part of me had hoped the same thing would happen to us. Instead, I just stood there like a dork until the therapist said he was off and shook my hand with one last deepest condolence. "I'm doing stuff, you know."
"I tried making a list."
"That tree-hugger bullshit? What next, planning on soaking up daylight on the beach, like those sun cultists?" Dion pushes himself off from the counter and closes the distance between us in two strides. "I think you've been cooped up in here a bit too long, Jonas." He pokes me, a Dion-poke: too gentle to hurt, too rough to be playful. His grin dances above my face when he looks down at me. "You have extra rooms, don't you?" He doesn't wait for an answer, but shrugs off his jacket and tosses it across the backrest of the couch.
"There's no food left in the house," I warn him.
"Don't worry, I'll handle that." Dion throws himself on the couch and dangles his feet across the armrest. "Mind if we watch the Champions League?"
I never watch football, but I don't care much either way, so I say nothing.
"Fucking Atlético," Dion grumbles as if I'm supposed to understand what that means. He grabs the remote and flips past a few stations airing nothing but re-runs now before he finds the sports channel. On the screen, men in blue shirts and red-and-white striped shirts are running after a ball. I wonder what they are still doing there, but Dion is immediately engrossed in the game, commenting loudly on every move. "Why did you let him go, you moron Brazilian!" And: "Pass that ball!"
I find myself not watching the game itself, but looking at the grandstand. The cameraman is trying to make it seem as if the stadium is packed, but the cameras following the players on the field reveal the reality when they flash past the stands: they are half empty, as if the lowest division of the local football team were playing. Sometimes they show a close-up of someone in the audience, a face painted red and white, or a group yelling something unintelligible, and I wonder if the cameraman is thinking the same thing I am: don't these people have better things to do than watch a football game? Is that on their list of things they still want to do before the world ends: join their voices in the choruses at Bayern Munich vs Atlético?
During halftime, I go get two bottles of Coke from the basement. ("Haven't you got anything stronger?" Dion asks, but my father had seen his own father drinking and therefore never touched a drop – exactly the same reason, for that matter, why Dion's father guzzled the stuff.)
Side by side on the couch, we watch the last few minutes of overtime. I gather it's all very thrilling, since Dion is leaning forward in his seat with his white-knuckled hand clenched so tightly around his glass I worry he'll shatter it.
The screen shows a brief close-up of a sweaty football player in a blue shirt – Dion's age, a few years older than I am. Dion yells, "Get that ball, Coman, you ass!" The young man sweeps his foot in front of his opponent's, stealing the ball and passing it to another player in blue, and Dion makes a satisfied noise.
"Ribéry!" the commentator yells. "And then on to Lewandowski! Lewandowski! Lewandowski takes the ball and ...!"
The ball hurls into the goal within an inch of the keeper's hands and the small audience starts roaring triumphantly, just like Dion on the couch, raising both fists in the air as if he has personally kicked the ball into the goal. On the screen, soundlessly cheering football players run into each other's arms and start hugging and jumping around.
The commentator's hysterical voice echoes around my living room: "Bayern! Bayern Munich has won the semi-finals and will next appear in Milan for the finals of the Cha--"
And then, right before the eyes of all of the football-watching world, half the cup players disappear from the field.
Lewandowski, carried on the shoulders of his team mates, topples backwards and crashes into the one man still holding him up, a dark twenty-something-year-old with a surprised look on his face. He scrambles up quickly and then stands there, his fingers laced against the back of his head as if he can't believe what he is seeing. A man with short, dark blond hair and the number 13 on his shirt stumbles forward, his hands grasping nothing but air when his team mate disappears. And then, abruptly, the camera swoops down, sailing across a section with empty seats and people tripping across each other, open-mouthed and dazed, before the image settles on a fallen Coke bottle slowly emptying out on the stadium steps.
YOU ARE READING
To Be HereShort Story
Jonas threatens to lose himself to depression after his parents fall victim to a world-wide pandemic of sudden and abrupt disappearances that no one knows the cause or reason of. When his troublesome cousin Dion comes to check up on him, Jonas is fo...