Maybe it was the pandemic, or the SCOTUS vacancy, or the election itself, but I think at some point all of us wished we could go back. Back to the life of venti nonfat lattes, weekly manicures, designer dresses, public transportation. That’s what my life was. I had a stylish apartment in downtown New Orleans that was way overpriced but worth it. I woke up at the same time every day to go to the gym then styled my long blond hair perfectly. Then I picked out the perfect outfit, walked to Starbucks, then across the to the bank where I worked as a loan officer. I loved my job; it was all organized and orderly and my office had the perfect design aesthetic. It was like clockwork and I loved my life. Until everything changed.
It was Election Day, so I wore a fitted white dress and red heels. I did my civic duty by voting and posted a selfie to Instagram with the “I Voted” sticker. Of course, I voted for Trump, I wanted my money in my bank account, where it belonged, not going to outrageously high taxes. The office was buzzing with excitement; we didn’t get much work done, I remember thinking we could make up for it tomorrow. That’s funny, now. I checked the exit polls and it appeared Trump was winning and by a landslide. I started to leave the office when I heard a distant booming sound. It made me take pause, I asked a colleague, “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” she said.
“Oh, nothing, I thought I heard something,” I said, with a dismissive wave.
I walked toward the elevators when I didn’t just hear an explosion, I felt it. The whole building rocked and alarms started going off. I pressed the button repeatedly, hoping it would come quicker, but the elevators stopped when the alarms went off. I knew if I could get to the west side of the building there was a rarely used stairwell that was more accessible, so I ran the opposite way of the crowd, hearing booms, screaming, and shattering glass. Is this a terrorist attack? I wondered as I sprinted to the door.
I ran down the stairs but when I got to the second floor I met with a group of people, maybe looters, flying up the stairs and holding guns, screaming. One of them swung their rifle at my face while running by, knocking me to my knees where I could see droplets of blood falling from my face. I lifted a shaky hand to assess the damage, I couldn’t tell how badly I was hurt but I knew I needed to get out. I got to my feet as another huge explosion rocked the building, cutting the power. I scrambled down the stairs but fell again as I reached the bottom. I saw people getting shot, stealing money from the registers, it was complete chaos. From behind me I heard, “Here, come with me.”
I turned around, crying, and saw a tall black man wearing cargo pants and a fitted black t-shirt. He had on a backwards cap with a rifle slung across his chest. He did not look like a safe person, but I had no choice, so I took his hand. We ran out a back door and I cried, “What is going on?” He didn’t answer, he was looking around desperately then pulled on my hand again. “Aha! Yes!” he said, eyeing a motorcycle.
“No,” I said firmly. “I’m not getting on that.” This was all too much. Just then, the Starbucks I went to every morning burst into flames.
The man rolled his eyes and handed me a helmet. I put it on quickly and climbed on. I wrapped my arms around his waist and he revved up the bike and tore down the street at a terrifying pace. It looked like the entire city was burning and all the residents were hell bent on destruction. We made it out of city limits and into a quiet suburb and I climbed off the bike and fell to the ground crying.
“What happened?” I asked, sniffing.
“I think the election was the tipping point, people on both sides were so scared of the other side winning that they just started fighting it out. I’m not really sure, but that’s what it looked like to me,” he said. He had a soothing deep voice, I thought maybe he was a safe person after all. I mean, he did get me out of the city.
“Where are we going to go?” I asked. The suburb looked deserted.
“I have a place a little north of here, we might be able to ride this out.” He assumed I would go with him. That’s pretty bold.
“Oh, and you just assume I’m coming?” I said defiantly.
He laughed for a moment. “Really? I saved your life back there! If you want to try to walk on home in your heels go for it but I’m doing you a favor, Princess.”
Princess?! “Excuse me,” I started, raising a manicured finger, but he pulled me to the ground and whipped his weapon up firing three quick rounds. I saw a man across the street lying face down on a well-maintained lawn, holding a pistol. “Ok, now we can go. If you choose, your highness,” he said sarcastically. I sighed and pulled the helmet on. What choice did I have?
We headed south. Entire neighborhoods were on fire, it was complete anarchy. We pulled up to the lake, where he parked. “We’ll have to walk from here. This could get dangerous, so be ready,” he said. I nodded and kicked off my heels and thought I saw a glimmer of a smile as he started walking toward the docks. “There,” he said, pointing to a small houseboat at the end of the marina. We still had a way to go, crossing a parking lot then down the dock.
“Wait!” I said. I spotted a little bait shop across the parking lot, so, I jogged over quickly. I grabbed one of the landscaping stones and threw it through the window. I reached through and opened the door, stepping over the broken glass, found some bags and grabbed all the boxes of .223 and some food and water. I came out of the bait shop with three bags full, the man looked surprised. “Wow…good thinking,” he said, shaking his head, laughing. We headed toward the dock but saw a mob approaching. “Run!” he screamed and fired a few rounds before running behind me. He quickly passed me and jumped on the boat, fumbling with the key.
He ran to the controls and the boat roared to life. We pulled away from the dock and out into the lake just before the mob reached us. Realizing we were safe, I sat down and marveled at the genius of this idea. It would get us isolated, safe. “By the way, this was a damn good idea, dude,” I told the man.
“Its Jeremiah. And thanks,” he said.
“I’m Angelica,” I told him. I got up to find a bathroom. I was horrified at what I saw in the mirror. My hair was a frizzy, bloody mess. The cut on my face was deep enough that it might need stitches, And my white dress was covered in blood and dirt. I found a rubber band in a cabinet and tied my hair back and washed my face.
“Jeremiah? I don’t suppose you have any clothes here, do you?” I asked, gesturing toward my stained dress.
He scoffed. “No designer dresses, if that’s what you want.”
“Hey, I’m not asking for much, just something clean! You don’t have to be hateful about it!” I said petulantly.
Jeremiah rolled his eyes and stopped the boat. He went into the bedroom and came out with jeans and a t-shirt. “Your majesty,” he said sarcastically.
I was fuming at this point. “Look, I don’t know what your problem is, but there’s no need for that.” I started changing. “I have no idea what the hell is going on, all I know is our whole world just fell apart and you have the nerve to make fun of my dress?”
He was looking at me wide-eyed, then looked away quickly. Oh. I just stripped in front of a stranger. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It just seems like you’re a little high-maintenance, which I don’t see going well for you if our world is turning into this,” he gestured toward the city.
“Ok, I might be ‘high-maintenance’ but I didn’t see you walking over broken glass to get ammo for your gun. Your welcome, by the way,” I said angrily as I sat down to assess the damage to my feet.
I heard him sigh then rummage through a cabinet. He came back with some peroxide, gauze, and band aids. “Let me help,” he grabbed my foot and cradled it in his lap, cleaning it gently and applying bandaids to the scrapes. “That was pretty smart, I’ll give you that,” he said as he cleaned my other foot.
“Jeremiah, what do you do? I mean, for work?” He looked like the kind of guy who did some kind of hard labor, muscular but lean.
“It doesn’t matter now, what I did, we all just survive now, right?” he smiled, it was nice.
“No. This has to be temporary. Trump will call the National Guard and get New Orleans back on track,” I said shaking my head.
“I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t just here. Haven’t you watched the news? Its everywhere! The power grid is gone, people started assassinating politicians. Society as we know it is over.” This was all a shock to me. I ran onto the deck of the boat, desperate for air.
I heard him come onto the deck. We stood silently watching the lights from our beloved city burning reflecting off the water. How was I going to survive this? He was right, I wasn’t made for survival, I was made for air-conditioning and happy hour.
“Are you ok?” he asked.
“No. I don’t think I ever was. Everything I am is in that city burning. My apartment, clothes, my job, fucking Instagram. That’s literally who I am, ok? And now…its just gone.” I couldn’t help but cry. “You might be made for this but I’m not. Now I’m just an empty shell of a person with no idea who I am anymore.”
He rested his hand on my shoulder. “You know, you reacted quickly when we needed supplies. Maybe you just need to re-think who you are, because I think you might have it in you to survive after all.” I laid my head on his shoulder and we stood watching the world burn from the safety of the lake.
The houseboat only had one bedroom, so we decided to share the bed so we could both sleep comfortably. He took off his shirt and I took off my jeans and climbed into the bed next to him. We laid there for a few minutes but I realized I was sleeping next to someone who knew plenty about me, where I worked, what I looked like in normal clothes, that I was a Conservative. I knew nothing about him, though, and it was killing me.
I rolled over to face him. “Jeremiah, where do you live?”
He looked at me quizzically, “Why?”
“Well, I’m sleeping next to you and I know very little about you. Like, what are your hobbies?”
He laughed, “Angie, you don’t need to know all that. You know everything about me that you need to know to just sleep next to me.”
“Please?” I begged.
“Let me tell you some things you need to know, then. I was blown away when you broke into that bait shop. Most people don’t surprise me, but you did. And…” he hesitated, then brushed a stray wisp of hair out of my face gently, “I think you are much prettier without makeup. Also, I may have peeked at that lingerie when you were changing,” he cringed and laughed.
I laughed too, feeling reckless. “What, this lingerie?” I whipped off my t-shirt and straddled him. His eyes widened as he looked over my body, his hands slowly moving up my thighs, “Yes. That’s it,” he said nodding. He smiled at me again, that heart-melting smile.
“Then I have one more question: are you married?”
He shook his head, “You?” I shook my head.
I looked into his deep brown eyes and kissed him fiercely as the boat rocked gently, creaking rhythmically with the movement of the lake water.
We spent the next three days on the houseboat. It felt more like a vacation than an escape plan. We swam in the lake naked, we snacked when we were hungry, slept when we were tired, and made love as much as possible. It was exhilarating feeling this free. We spent hours laying in the sun talking about almost nothing, yet everything. We laughed a lot those three days. He called me Angie, which I despised, but the way he said it made me love the name.
That night he told me we would need to go back to New Orleans, he had some people he needed to check in with. “We’ll find a car or something. It’s not too far from the dock.”
“So, tomorrow morning?” I asked. I didn’t want this to end so soon.
“Yes. It won’t take long. Then we can figure things out from there,” he said stopping to look at me. I sighed and nodded. He wrapped his strong arms around me. That’s what I didn’t want to end.
The city looked like it was starting to settle down. Most of the fires were out, but we could still see looting and hear gunfire in the distance. We climbed onto the dock and it was basically empty. It didn’t take us long to find a car. We found a small sports store that hadn’t been looted yet and stopped for supplies. I found a 9mm that I liked and got some shoes. I was trying to think practically, so I put on cargo pants, a t-shirt, and tucked my ponytail through the back of a baseball cap. I strapped the 9mm to my thigh and walked toward Jeremiah and he giggled.
“What?” I said, frowning.
“You’re Apocalypse Barbie,” then he laughed even harder.
I did a little pose, flipping my hair like a Barbie. We were laughing hysterically by the time we got back to the car. We headed south then he turned east and we headed straight onto Tulane campus.
“Um, are you a student?” I asked.
He sighed. “No. I’m…I’m a professor.” What? “Oh. Of what?”
He hesitated, “Sociology. And…liberal studies.” My eyes widened. This meant he was probably pretty progressive politically. We stopped in front of one of the buildings and walked into one of the conference rooms in the building and he stopped me before we went in. “Wait out here, I won’t be long,” he said.
“Just…wait here, ok?” I shrugged. He didn’t close the door all the way, though, so I was able to hear the whole conversation.
“Dr. Price! Where have you been?”
“Laying low. I’m out. I’m heading north and going off the grid—”
“What? Out? You were the one that tweeted, “Lets burn it to the ground”. You’re one of our leaders, you can’t just be ‘out’.”
“I meant figuratively, not literally! Dismantle the system, recall politicians, not burn the whole damn city down!”
“But you were with us at the bank!”
“Look, guys, it doesn’t matter, I’m out…” I heard enough. I ran out of the building quickly. I knew we were close enough to downtown, maybe I could make it home. Maybe my apartment would still be there and I could forget about all this.
“Angie!” I heard from behind me but I only ran faster. I wanted nothing to do with him. He was one of them. Eventually, I think he gave up on following me. I was only a few blocks from my building. The buildings around me were mostly burned down, though, so I didn’t have much hope. I saw the remains of my building and sat in the street, gun in hand.
I contemplated pulling the trigger when I heard, “Angie.” Jeremiah. I dropped the gun and turned and wrapped my arms around him.
“So, you’re one of the ones that started it all?” I asked bluntly.
“Yes. But we never thought it would go this far.”
“What did you think would happen?” I asked angrily.
“We wanted justice, reform, change. But I think some people took the idea away from an intellectual change to a full-blown breakdown of all society.”
“What do you want now? You know I’m the enemy. I’m white, Conservative…do you want to kill me?”
“Angie. I don’t care what you identify as, I only care who you are. I saw who you are, and as much as I didn’t want to, I fell in love with you, and it changed everything about who I thought I was,” he said. My jaw dropped.
“Seriously?” I asked, shocked.
“Yes,” he looked in my eyes, “I love you high-maintenance, Apocalypse Barbie,” he smiled that smile I loved. Yes, I loved him, too.
We drove north with a trunk full of supplies and the windows down listening to a tape that was in the car. We were going to find somewhere off the grid to build a life together with no idea what the future might hold for us. I kicked my bare feet up on the dash and held Jeremiah’s hand while we sang “Under the Boardwalk” and knew that I was finally living the life I was meant to live.