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This is How You Stop the World from Ending

Part I

By Howra Salaheddin

29th April 2019

Dearest Margaret,

The world is ending.

Now don’t go panicking, it’s not the entire world. Just your own little world with all the names you know and the words you learned in Saturday crosswords and your memories, your precious untold memories. You see Margaret, when Jo came over last month and told me we have to go see the doctor I thought she was being an anxious little thing, you know how she is. Then today she came with her lanky boyfriend who looked at anything in the house but my eyes and broke it down to me very gently and sweetly as if the words changed meanings if they were told at a slower pace. These words sadly didn’t. I was or better say you were diagnosed with the most ridiculous illness there possibly could be, Alzheimer’s. Have you ever heard of anything more idiotic? If there is a higher being out there I’d really like to ask him what in the world was he thinking by creating this abomination. 

Regardless, Margaret, we need to work together. I’m going to write to you everything that you want to remember, every first and last and all the in-betweens that helped us go through far worst things. And you need to find them. The letters and the box I’m putting under the loose tile near the cupboard and read them and if I already haven’t put an X on any of the things we have to do before the world completely ends, you will have to try and remember and do it for me. Jo is thinking about making me go live with her, I’m putting this in our favorite collection of poems by Forough Farrokhzad so I know I’ll take it with me where ever I go. 

And after everything, I need you to find her if I already haven’t. I really need you to find her and talk to her.

All the love, Margaret

1st January 2020

Wes didn’t know where to go. His friend told him she’ll get the drinks and he should buy the gift but she didn’t say what to buy and buying bad gifts that made people force out a smile while everyone else in the room shared glances wasn’t really a moment Wes was ready to live through. The only things he knew about the guy were that a) he was born on admittedly the weirdest time possible and b) he was studying Persian Studies and liked poetry. He thought about buying a hat, it was going to be cold for a while and nothing can really go wrong with hats except nobody really liked hats.

So he decided to buy a book, a collection of Persian poetry maybe, just to make a good impression but the problem was Americans didn’t care about Middle Eastern poetry or the Middle East or even poetry so finding a new copy was almost impossible. Wes promised himself if he didn’t find anything in this new shop either he’d just go buy a hat. The cashier looked so uninterested that Wes figured asking them about their collection of Persian poetry books takes more time than just looking for it himself. It was a small shop after all.  There were signs on each shelf explaining the genres so he had only two shelves to look into, poetry and foreign works. He was just starting to look at foreign titles when his eyes caught sight of a black book nearly new condition. If you ever had to buy a second-hand book you know how rare those things were so he momentarily abandoned his search and picked up the book. It was a poetry collection by a woman named Forough Farrokhzad who according to the very first page was an Iranian poet. Apparently fate liked Wes, who would’ve guessed?

It was only after paying and getting out of the shop that he noticed the yellow paper. It was positioned right in the middle of the book and stuck out a little, like a bookmark. But when he opened the book he found an envelope, it had an address and everything, did the shop put it there? Or maybe the original owner? He thought about going back and giving the letter to the cashier but he was close to the bus stop and if it was from the original owner he could just send it back to them himself, no reason to waste more time. 

But when he finally read the letter on the bus, it made no sense. Not the letter itself but rather why did it end up in his hands. Margaret obviously loved this book, why would she sell it? Or did she perhaps forget? Maybe it got lost in the process of her moving out? Either way, it was with Wes and Margaret apparently needed it so bad. He didn’t want to think that she might’ve passed away in the eight-month gap between them.

So he made a stupid decision, the kind that French movie protagonists make and you think ‘wow, what goes on in their little heads?’ He was going to go to the address and hand it over himself. He wanted to see Margaret and give her his favorite book back. She also needed to find someone, was it her daughter? An old friend? Perhaps a lover? She obviously needed the letter back. More than anything though, Wes kind of wanted to help her, he knew how hard was it to have an endless battle with your brain and never winning. He wanted to help her win. So he texted his friend and said he had things to do and pulled up Maps, it would take an hour and a half to get there by bus and Wes kind of just cleared his whole night for this mission. No matter what he was going to save the world tonight.

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