Darryl handed Patricia a rectangularish box wrapped in the reddest foil that she had ever seen. “Go ahead and open it. This one’s from me.” He was practically vibrating from excitement.
This was the first Christmas they had been together, so the idea of going to his parent’s house for the holiday seemed a bit much. She preferred to keep things at arm’s length for longer, sort of to feel things out before getting too attached. Still, he seemed so sweet on the idea that she decided to give in.
Patricia took the offering and tried to muster up a smile. This container hurt her engineering soul. She had gone to college for years studying the best way to package products. She had won numerous awards for her ability to design the stuff that everything is put into. She made it to be not only functional, but beautiful. It was something she took immense pride in.
And yet the gift her boyfriend had given her was in a sorry state. The top and one of the sides were bulging, ruining the angular pleasing aesthetic most boxes had. He had undersized the box by at least two, two and a half centimeters on the long side. Not only that, but she could feel that the cardboard selected was too thin for the amount of weight the poor reinforced paper had been asked to hold. It practically buckled as she placed it on her lap.
Yeah, this wasn’t going well. He probably had gone overboard, picking out something expensive to impress her. People put too much emphasis on what was inside the box. She knew what mattered was the thought that went into the product as a whole. That’s why packaging was her passion.
Well, there was only one way to get this over with.
Patricia deftly pealed back the cellophane tape. She folded it upon itself and placed it on the side table next to her. She could tell that Darryl wanted her to hurry up, but she wanted to honor the materials others carelessly discarded. That is why she preferred to use bags to hold gifts. They had a life, post present, with the probability of many regiftings in their future.
If they had a future together she would have to train him better.
She unfolded the wrapping paper cocoon and laid it on top of the tape. There was crafting supplies in its future if she could pawn it off on Darryl’s niece as long as Darryl’s sister didn’t notice till that crew was in the car on the ride home. She would think of a way to entice the ten-year-old that origami roses were just a few folds away.
She contemplated the box. Yes, that poor box was at death’s door. There would be no upcycling this, at least without major reconstructive surgery. Alas, you couldn’t save them all.
She looked into Darryl’s eager eyes as she opened the box. He nodded, almost exploding with emotion. She looked at what had been entombed just moments ago. Inside there was a vast swath of Kelly green. He at least had picked her favorite color. She lifted the object out and shook loose sleaves. She stared at a sweater unlike anything she had seen before. There were occasional oblong holes, a few loops of yarn that didn’t attach to anything, and the left sleave was about a half inch longer than the right. It was not what she had been expecting for sure.
She looked back at Darryl.
“I knitted it myself. You said you always were getting cold at the apartment. I thought it might be cool if I designed a package for you.” He put air quotes around the word package. “I love listening to you talk about that stuff, so you inspired me to do this. You should have seen the three previous attempts.”
She took a closer look at the sweater and noticed how the stiches did get better the farther along they went. He was really starting to get the hang of it by the end. How much time did he put into this? How many nights had he worked on this while they were on the phone? He had sounded slightly distracted, but she put it up to him being annoyingly male. Now she thought she knew why. She stared at what was inside the package with a new appreciation for what was inside.
“Look, I know it’s not that good, but I ran out of time and…”
She collapsed the sweater to her chest as she interrupted him. “It’s perfect.” And in that moment, she knew he was a keeper.
I stood in the middle of the ruined city and wondered if there were any survivors. I had been in the mountains when my cell phone suddenly didn’t have any signal. I didn’t care then. It was part of the reason I love hiking the Adirondacks.
I figured when I drove to the gas station after my hike that I would check in with my roommate, but there had been still no signal. The gas station had been empty. The place was open, but no one was home. Hell, the lights didn’t work.
I drove empty roads all the way back to my dorm, but I didn’t meet another moving car. Hell, I didn’t see another human.
Now I stand here and wonder if I was the last person here on Earth.