James Tadd Adcox

You Continue To List Each Thing I Do And One By One I Stop Doing Them

I will live in a cabin with you and you will live in a cabin with me. We will blend until we no longer know which of us is which. When I say a sentence you will have thought that sentence, and thought the next. We will go to the library and print out lists from the internet of supplies for the end of the world. From ready.gov: One gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days (we know it will be more than three days); at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food (ditto); hand-crank radio, flashlight, first-aid kit, whistle, map, dust mask, moist towelletes, garbage bags and twist-ties. From survivalx.com: snare wire, fishhooks, purification tablets, signaling mirror, non- lubricated condoms for carrying water, butterfly sutures, surgical blade. SurvivalX cautions us to “include a weapon only if the situation so dictates.” We add to the list axes, machetes, hunting knives, rifle. SurvivalX tells us as well that “imagination may be the largest part of your kit.” We will huddle together in our cabin late at night, imagining what will happen when the machine fails, we are convinced it will fail, nothing so big can keep increasing, it is not possible for something we made to keep making us so much smaller.

We will watch DVDs on our portable DVD player, movies about the end of the world or the end of some world: On the Beach, La jetée, Dr. Strangelove, Planet of the Apes, Grizzly Man. We will make lists of things we do each day, we will continue to make lists NOW because when the machine fails lists will no longer be possible, thinking maybe will no longer be possible or we’re not sure what it will be like.

We will try to find new things to do with our bodies at night and during the day. Ultimately we will give up, disgusted, and look for new ways to say how together we are.

I will pour whatever we have on hand into my coffee in the morning, whiskey, vodka, peppermint schnapps, and I will tell you the story for the fifteenth or sixteenth or seventieth time about how I used to go to school with a thermos full of coffee and alcohol on standardized testing days, it was a tradition, I would mix whatever alcohol I could find around my mother’s cabinets (which meant as often as not a thermos of half coffee half white zin), and this from middle school on till the start of college. You will make lists because you are better at list-making than I am, more dedicated, you will make lists of the things I put into my coffee and the things we have tried to do to each other’s bodies and the things we have called each other, or tried to, and I will say that all of this data could eventually be a person itself, could add up to one, if someone had the right machine to run it through. You will list that as a possibility, one among an infinite list of possibilities that you are working on, that will keep you going until the end.

When I think of the end of the world, I want to be with you. When I think that things might go on, the idea of them going on, and on, with you, is terrifying. When I think about the world going on the way it is I was wrong to ever say I love you.

I am working through these things the best I can.

Here is a scene of us, going through the woods, trying to remember which plants are which, you are better at this than me, you have a list, I say that in the future once the world is destroyed they will be able to reconstruct the entire world from your lists, neither of us knows who they are but we always assume, in the way we speak about it, that there is a they. This feels like a form of cheating. If it is the end of the world, the complete and utter end, there is no they. But it is hard to talk without adding a they somewhere.

I am beginning to understand how the act of listing can be an act of erasure.

We tell each other stories of things that haven’t yet happened in the hope that telling will crowd out the possibility of happening. I make little babies out of paper and cloth in the hope that you won’t get pregnant. I scan the floor for bits of your hair to attach to these babies, to make them more real (therefore less). I search through the garbage after you have cut your nails.

You continue to list each thing I do and one by one I stop doing them.


James Tadd Adcox‘s work has appeared in The Collagist, Untoward, and TriQuarterly, among other places. His first book, The Map of the System of Human Knowledge, is available here. He lives here.