Choose Your Own Disaster
A friend of mine, we'll call him Herb, finds the Titanic disaster fascinating. I do too. I can't tell you why the Titanic has held my attention since the time I was a kid, but it has. Shipwrecks in general have always been interesting to me.
One year, Herb held a party on the anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (April 14th... the start of the sinking, for all you nerds out there). This was in 2020, at the beginning of the American COVID shutdown, and we lived in a government town. We weren't supposed to go in each other's houses. So he held it on his lawn. We all had to sit in a circle six feet away from each other. It was a big deal to be around other people; the neighborhood had eyes. We didn't dare get close to each other for fear of being reported.
The party went normally enough. He had a framed poster of the Titanic in the center of the circle, and he changed the orientation of the poster from horizontal to more vertical as the party progressed. The timing wasn't exact with the sinking, but we got the idea.
We all got battery powered candles to hold too, and of course it was BYOB. You couldn't share drinks at this time in history. We sat in a socially distanced circle, the poster being adjusted every so often, our candles on, talking about the Titanic, and other horrible things.
Someone brought up Saving Private Ryan, and Herb told us that he'd first seen it when he was a kid. Or at least he'd tried to see it as a kid. He said that he'd gone to the theater with his dad and it had been a big deal. He then told us that the first scene was so violent, he'd projectile vomited everywhere, and they'd had to leave.
Then another party goer, we will call her Maddie, told us she remembered the first time she saw Saving Private Ryan. She said was the first time she'd had a sexual experience. She described seeing Matt Damon, and realizing she was a woman, and he was hot, and then she started to get feelings, and not just in her mind, but you know, down there.
This was an interesting turn for the story, and I was entertained. I imagined Herb spewing vomit all over the carpeted theater seats while men got their legs and heads blown up in the background, while Maddie gasped as quietly as she could in the dark, her parents trying to ignore her while more people cried and bled on screen.
These stories were being told while we watched a cheap poster of the Titanic slowly go ass up in the air, and it struck me that this entire thing was incredibly f'ed up, but so was the time we were living in. Then I wondered, would this, the pandemic (later adjusted in my head to the 2020's in general), be the time which everyone in fifty years wrote about? Instead of World War 2 fiction, will we be steeped in pandemic fiction? Will the disaster of choosing be the turbulent 2020's?
Will a girl in fifty years have a sexual experience to a fictional doctor demanding more ventilators? Will a boy projectile vomit to a scene involving makeshift morgue, a nurse without PPE sagging in the foreground? And will they talk about this at a party hosted on the eve of a different great disaster? Maybe a 9/11 party with a poster of the Twin Towers slowly falling?
It feels too soon to even type this, but the point is, one day, it won't be.