You and I, we should go to the tar pits. Let’s stare at what was once life. We’ll inch closer together, becoming one creature, an unconscious attempt to metastasize in the face of ancient grandeur. I’ll wonder if they – the mastodons – ever thought about the end of the world. You and I do, all the time, but alone. Doomsday would take on the lure of a sunset if we endured it together, I’m convinced.

A conversation I sometimes imagine begins:

I’m so glad you take care of yourself. My father died when he was younger than you.

More staring at life.

I’m so sorry, you’ll say. Doesn’t everyone start there? But you’ll mean it, understand it, because,

You know my mother – you’ll begin.

I know, I’ll say, her death unspoken.

How old were you when you lost…? you’ll ask, holding up the shared weight between us.


You’ll say too young, though we both know you were younger. Our first apocalypses.

We’ll stare at each other for a moment before turning our attention back to life, and then I’ll say, Are you okay, by the way? You’ve been through a lot this year.

Most of it was my fault, you’ll say, because that’s how you talk sometimes.

I doubt it’s that simple, I’ll tell you. Nothing ever is.

We’ll stare, dark bubbles challenging our silence. The creatures, I’ll realize, hulking and tusked, were simple. Or were they? I wonder if they feared this outcome, if they ever had primal regrets.

One of us will say, “imagine dying like that,” and the other will say, “these fucking tar pits.”

When books live on after the authors’ death, is it like preserving writers in tar? I’ll watch the dark bubbles without offering the thought. (Is it strange that even in my imaginings there are words I don’t say to you?)

One day we will be what was once life.

Who will be the creatures who stare?


Sarah Neilson is a writer, educator, and avid drinker of both coffee and tea. She’s on Twitter @SarahMNeilson.

Cover art credit: Bubbling Asphalt by amanderson2 (Flickr / Creative Commons).