Saturday 18 June 2022

'The Thing You Are Afraid Of' by Molly Lanzarotta

Words combusted at our wedding—about Jesus—between a distant cousin and my college roommate. I craned my neck to watch them as I swirled around the dance floor.

The cousin’s face blotched, his eyes bulged.

Later, we kept hearing about this cousin, how he acquired a defunct goldmine in a town called Volcano where he stockpiled food and water and—yes—rifles and ammunition.

In short, he was afraid: afraid of the end times, afraid of the present moment, afraid of what feminists were doing to his Jesus. What did the cousin’s wife think? At the bar, at our wedding, she clutched a baby and whispered to me,

“I didn’t know he was—”

They hadn’t been married for that long.

For years, whenever I opened our wedding album to their unsmiling images, I imagined her with the cousin, isolated in some sunbaked California wasteland, not far from Volcano, but not in Volcano. What are the logistics of the apocalypse? What about car-choked highways? What about steep hills and stumbling along footpaths with inadequate shoes? How did they expect to flee to the mineshaft in time?

The cousin died of cancer. I imagine the goldmine, still crammed with canned corn and AR-15s. The thing you are afraid of is never really the thing.

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