All we have taken

Alexis Perno, Print Editor

I’ve known the Earth for a long time.  

We were friends, once. I like to think we still are, but it’s hard to tell nowadays. She and I haven’t spoken since the last fruit farmers went bankrupt, when an entire industry at the brink finally crossed the line, when I kneeled at the doorstep of pain to come and wept. We haven’t spoken. It might be better that way.  

I don’t have much to hold onto anymore, so I like to hold onto “might be better”. The taste is a bit easier to swallow than “I should have”, which rots in my mouth like the fruit that never grew.  

It’s hard work, not being resentful, but it’s what must be done. Earth is not at fault for man’s desire to embody a god they never understood. Maybe that’s why we’ve made such a mess of things. Earth isn’t at fault for willful ignorance- she gave the world plenty of warnings. The Earth warmed. The powerful denied it. The Earth brought disasters like no other. More excuses. I wasn’t the only one who heard the Earth cry, but still, humanity decided it knew better.  

The fruit went first. Soil dissolved into dirt and then into dust. Vegetables came soon after, and with it, meat industries collapsed under the burden. Even the grain couldn’t grow in a climate it was never born for- how could we blame the seeds? Factory farming made way to lab-grown excuses of meat, and fruits and vegetables found home in a scientist’s backyard, watered with chemical drip. Farms dwindled as scientists found miraculous ways to feed an ever-growing population. Now, only the usual amount of people are starving instead of everyone. At least, there’s that.  

At least. Another rotted phrase. The most pitiful attempt at optimism there is, but that’s all I have left now. Not like there is anything else. Government aid wasn’t enough before, and in this hellscape we’re in now? Lab meat is expensive, lab fruit is expensive, lab vegetables are expensive, and I was just a farmer pushed to the brink of ostracization and politely told to jump. Even before, I was always needed, never wanted. A working man’s burden is to be handled alone, for surely it is his fault. Now, ringed on all sides by “progress,” the dirt is kinder to me than concrete.  

I remember the day they took the house; unbearably hot, sunshine gift to the world turned sour. The bank man stood sweating on the porch, button-up damp and surely uncomfortable. Good.  

I knew it was coming. Knees rooted in sandy dirt like a praying man (I never was), the ghosts of my orange trees dancing on the barren land (that was years ago), the faint smell of rotten citrus twirling with the city smog (so far from the city, and still, the smog weaves itself into the fabric of Earth). I cried out to her, to Earth. A one-sided prayer to an indifferent god.  

Please.  

She didn’t answer. Just like so many times before.  

Sometimes, I wonder if humanity went farther than too far. There is no repair, and science can only delay the inevitable. Frankenstein still died, even if the monster wasn’t the one to kill him. Now, I just wonder if she did, too.  

I miss her. As angry as I was to lose it all, the memories I shared with her were enough. Orange blossom bursting from full-bodied branches of green leaves, air thick and lethargic with humidity, molecules vibrating with the wing beating of birds. Feet, comfortable and happy as they squelch through mud, the heaviness of air before the sky let loose with Florida summer rain, and the lightness that felt like flying that followed. The memories are enough.  

My spine will not know the concrete cell of a skyscraper for my final resting place. Instead, it will know the weathered bark of a tree who tried to keep growing despite it all. A little like me.  

At least, when I go, I’ll go in nature. Maybe this time, she’ll answer me. I like to think the Earth will welcome me when it happens.  

After all, she’s always been a friend.