“What this is.” By: Meeah Williams

This is only a test. Gasp. Sigh. The old Boo-Hoo. Boo Who? This is only a test. (sound of voice clearing). If this were an actual emergency. If. (sound of laughter) We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast. Well, if this were an actual emergency. A test, did we say that? Yeah, this is only a test. It’s a test of…what…your patience, your intestinal fortitude, your sanity? It’s a test of the Emergency Broadcasting System. That’s what it is. If this were an actual emergency, you would have been given instructions of where to turn. He nudges me and points to a table: there’s her coat, some petite plaid thing. She’s probably claimed the table and gotten up to get her food. Just seeing her coat I feel instantly panicked and nervous. I decide to try to find her before she gets back to the table in order to say just a few words in private. You see now, if this were an actual emergency, you would have been given instructions of where to turn in your own neighborhood. We would be telling you, you see, what to do in an actual emergency. I walk around and around but I can’t find her. Finally I start back to the table and I see she’s sitting there already. I back up into the hallway and I can barely breathe. I can barely stand. I’m gasping. I’m touching the wall for balance. I tell myself, “Well at least when she sees you like this she’ll realize how much you love her. She’ll be touched. She can’t help but be touched.” You would have been given a lot of instructions, a lot of gobbledygook about what to do, where to go, and all that jazz by someone who doesn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. This is what happens in an actual emergency. Because right then the exact opposite thought occurs to me. “No, she won’t be touched at all. She’ll see you as weak, as exactly the kind of man she didn’t want in the first place and rejected.” You see, Plato said that we are all looking for the other half of us, that the spell of tenderness, trust, and unselfishness with which we fall under is a miracle; lovers no longer want to be apart, not even for a moment. And in this way all true lovers spend their lives as one, without ever being able to say what they expect from one another; for it’s not the dear one’s body, or resources, or even their own self-interest that these two lovers seek in each other. But something else…and what it is they cannot say, cannot ever say, and that never-answered-question, that is love. Sorry about that. The fucking aforementioned regularly scheduled programming. Goddammit, it’s hard to get it off the air. You have no idea. Listen, like we said, we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to bring you a test. A test of the Emergency Broadcast System. We’re really proud of this test, it’s stood us in good stead for a long time, you really have no idea. No clue. You see, in an actual emergency. She’s sort of slouched in her chair, a wool cap on her head. She looks up and gives a polite little “oh it’s nice to see you smile” like you’d smile at a puppy. Her face is beautiful, more beautiful than in real life, like its being shot with a soft-focus camera. I can barely talk. I manage to ask her if I can have a few words with her alone. She doesn’t think that’s a good idea. Does she think I’m going to hurt her? Is she afraid of me now? I just want to talk to her. I just want three minutes. Cut the fucking tape, Maynard. Jesus H. Stop clowning around. This is an emergency. (clearing of throat) You see, in an actual emergency you would have been told where to turn. Where to turn? (laughter) Where to turn? (laughter, two, three, four voices, monkey-house stuff) Oh who am I kidding? Let me be honest for a change. There ain’t nowhere to turn. We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast to report that massive explosions have rocked the center of our world, our major cities have crumbled to the ground, the sky is on fire, and the water is poisoned. You can kiss your asses goodbye, suckers! People are killing each other indiscriminately in the street. The army is indistinguishable from the citizenry. When has it not been? Everything is out of control. You tell me, when has it not been? Escape is impossible. You tell me, When has it ever been? There is no Law. It was all a sham, all an illusion, all of it. We admit it. This is an actual emergency. When has it not been? Okay? Happy now? You wanted the truth, you got it. You’ve been practicing for it all your life. This is it. Stop being such a goddamn victim. Get up off your ass. Figure it out yourself. We’ve been giving you instructions for years. Have they ever helped? Think about it. Have they? The truth is, it’s been an actual emergency all along. We can’t tell you where to go or what to do. We don’t know ourselves. You’re on your own. You always have been. Everything is falling apart. You are the chair which is falling through the floor which is the soil under your feet which is the bedrock of the earth which is swallowed by the sun which is exploding forever and ever into the cold oblivion of empty space. Empty space. Everything is everything. This is an actual emergency. It is so, so, so over. You would have been given instructions on where to turn if it weren’t. Trust me. You would have been told a lot of lies. You would have been told what to do. When have you not been? If there were an actual emergency. You would have been told. In your area. To turn. Where? There is no where to turn. You are turning in on yourself. Good luck.

[long silence].
[uninterrupted tone].

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