Some weeks back, a colleague of mine - whom I shall call Victoria in this article (for reasons you'd be better off not knowing... but will also fnd out eventually, anyway hehehe) - told me something unusual during our lunch break.
We were walking around the Aviary in Hong Kong Park, something we both enjoyed doing much more than eating during our lunch hour. We thought our time would be better suited to getting some leg movement and birdwatching, compared to sitting down to lunch.
This was a no-brainer, actually, because we were both the type who kept little snacks squirreled away somewhere on or near our person. She, in her purse, and me, in my desk drawer. And of course, we would munch away throughout the day as we worked, effectively killing our appetite.
Anyway, while meandering around and talking about this and that, ordinary things such as comparing how much we paid on our utility bills, and how Maude, my old car, was doing (she had no name for her car and so I didn't ask about it. Besides she had a much newer model than mine), Victoria suddenly asked me a very consequential question.
Yeah, consequential as opposed to inconsequential, in the sense of her question, and my answer, being tied up together unfathomably.
Victoria said, "David, have you ever given thought to 12/21/12?"
At first, I didn't understand what she meant. The way it sounded, she seemed to be asking me about a specific number combination, but for what? It couldn't have been lotto, as at least two numbers were repeated and...
She cut into my thoughts just before they would have gone merrily hopping away to distant shores where algebra, lotto, probabilities and colossal migraines ruled.
"Well, have you thought about how near we are to having the world end?"
Oh! That 12/21/12! December 21, 2012!
Hmm... no, not really, I haven't thought about it much. In fact, before she raised the topic, I had been oblivious that it was nearing.
"Do you believe it will happen?"
"What, that the world would end? Oh, sure, I do..."
Her eyes narrowed like George's, the cat.
"But I don't think it will happen on December 12 of this year. Um, no, change that. What I mean is, it could happen, it might not, I don't know, really. No idea at all. What I know is that the world will surely end. Someday. But I don't know when."
Her brows furrowed just the tiniest bit. But her lips, well, they twisted in such a way as to distort her lovely features. It was becoming obvious to me that she felt very deeply about the matter and one word kept running through my head: uh-oh.
"Why aren't you concerned? The world is about to end in just a couple of months or so, and you aren't worried at all?"
"Will it help things any, if I worry? Assuming that it's true, of course."
She sighed and looked at her feet. "I don't know, David. I just think that your reaction is very shallow."
"What do you expect me to do? Run around screaming 'Repent! The end is near!' Should I do that?"
Suddenly, I had a mental image of myself doing exactly that and I started to giggle. The giggle turned into a chuckle, then into a chortle, and finally into uncontrollable laughter that had me wheezing and holding onto my sides that had begun to hurt from pinpoint jabs induced by too much laughter.
She stared at me all throughout and finally threw up her hands and started to walk away.
I ran after her, still chuckling now and then. "Victoria! Wait! We still have 25 minutes on our lunch break!"
She whirled around and looked at me angrily. Hah! She sure looked so pretty when she was angry.
"You're concerned about 25 minutes but uncaring about the end of time! David, you're such a disappointment!"
"What is it that you are really worried about, Victoria? I mean, if the world ends, then the world ends. Nothing much we can do about it."
She shook her head and for the time since I had known her, I saw a side of her that she had kept way hidden from others. I knew Victoria as a competent Account Executive. She was one of those in charge of getting clients to hop on board with us. She was also one of the reasons that I had decided to go back on a regular work schedule, instead of remaining a per-project consultant. I liked working with her, I liked being around her, because she was efficient, smart, and level-headed.
But the Victoria that stood before me in Hong Kong Park didn't look at all like her regular self. She looked like a child. A very frightened child.
"Do you know William Butler Yeats? He wrote this poem, you see, it was titled the Second Coming..."
"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold... Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world... And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"
"Oh! You know it!"
"Yeah. I had to memorize that and recite it before my classmates way back when I was still in grade school."
"Grade school? Wow! For what?"
"How should I know? Maybe our teacher was crazy or something. All I recall is that she asked me to do it. Perfectly. I had to memorize the whole poem to be able to do it without a hitch. And it has stuck in my mind ever since. Anyway. So, it's a poem about Europe, post-war. Why are you..."
"Huh? No! It's about the apocalypse!"
I shook my head. "No, Victoria. It's an allegorical poem. Sure, it uses some Christian imagery about the anti-Christ, but in reality, it was a poem about what Europe was going through, after World War I."
She became more upset after I said those things, that we ended up arguing all the way back to the office and didn't speak to each other after.
I wouldn't have any of that.
I decided to pay her a visit at home.
That was a big mistake.
(to be continued)