Beulah. That’s my name, for a grandmother I never met. The kids at school called me Boo or Booey or Blue. I liked Blue so this is who I became. Blue Carter Smith. Got a ring to it, doesn’t it? Sounds like I should be a singer or a musician or something creative like that, but I’m a — rather, I was a waitress, plain and simple. Would you like some dessert, sir? Ezra’s apple pie’s the best in the county, guaranteed.
That was about two years ago. I’m still Blue Carter Smith, but there’s nobody calling me by my name anymore. There’s nobody, period. Overnight, gone. I woke up to a warm, fresh, sunny morning, the kind that makes you want to play hooky and go down by the creek, sit on a sun-streaked rock, bare feet in the cold mountain water, feeling the quiet stroking your skin while you sip hot coffee from a stainless steel thermos and eat a chocolate donut you got from Mama Jean’s Bakery. Yep, that was the kind of morning it was when the world ended.
I don’t know why I’m writing this down in this empty notebook I found in a vacant house, it so still, so soundless, like a silent memorial to the young couple in the photos, them so full of life and promise and belief in a good and fulfilling life, now and in the future. I wish I was a god who could have given them all that, but I’m just a waitress.
I never finished high school and now I wish I had for some stupid reason. Who cares? Are the trees going to ask me for my resume? Is the river going to question why I left school in the 11th grade? I can hear my mama now. “Beulah, you ARE NOT quittin’ school! Don’t you be shamin’ me like that. You be better than me. Go to college. Make somethin’ of yourself.” Sorry, mama. Sometimes a girl just has to get the hell out of school because she’s not good at it, she hates it, and there’s no money for college anyway. She wants the excitement of earning her own money and living in her own apartment, free from rules and homework and mean kids who make her feel like she’s worth but a penny. Joke’s on me, isn’t it, mama? There’s nobody who cares what I do now, is there? Live or die, it’s all up to me.
The silence in this non-human world screeches in my skin, my mind, my very soul. I was never one for liking people a whole lot, but now I want a human voice to call “hey, waitress, can I get a refill?” Yeah, you can get a refill. All you have to do is come back, be alive, be anything you want, but be breathing and talking and needing me. I want to smell the cigarette sourness of your body, I want to hear you cough like you mean it, I want you to look me in the eyes and tell me your cheeseburger and fries were damn good, best you ever ate.
What I crave to know is how a whole world of people can disappear overnight, how everyone but me can just vanish. Is this even possible? Am I stuck in some twisted nightmare? Am I right now slumped in a wheelchair, drooling down my dirty flowery nightie, my hands clenched on my lap, my eyes bloodshot and unfocused, staring at the wall, waiting for it to give me answers to questions I don’t know how to ask? It’s something to consider.
My only hope, the reason I still allow myself to draw breath, is that there’s someone else out there, someone alive who’s looking for me. Another human voice, a person who can make me laugh, a person I can touch, someone to breathe with. It’ll take me centuries to search all the places a human being might be living on this planet, but what else do I have but time. It’s sad the way we go — went — through life, taking everything for granted as if it’ll always be there for the taking.
Sometimes I think I can’t go on, sometimes I don’t want to go on, but I’m my mama’s child, stubborn, hell-bent, hardworking, so on I go, step by dogged step deeper into an inconceivable life. I’m only 26 years old. I should have had a better life, damn it.