You’re at a vegetarian restaurant with Julie, the hippie chick from your fitness club. It’s your first date, and things are going nicely when, across the room, there’s a loud clank of silverware. You glance over and see the environment stagger away from its table, grasping its throat.
A seemingly endless moment passes as the diners watch in stunned horror. Even the waiter is frozen. You’re the first to take action. Leaping out of your chair, you race over and successfully perform the Heimlich.
The environment, shaken but okay, expresses its gratitude. Several people pat you on the back. Julie calls you a hero, but you tell her not to exaggerate, you were just doing what you could. It’s this more than anything, however, that gets you to third base by the end of the evening.
You and Julie are sunning yourselves poolside at a local resort. Although it’s been only three weeks, you feel the two of you could have a real future together. Julie is obsessive about sunscreen (and can go on about the ozone), but who are you to complain about putting more lotion on her back?
As you’re performing this very act, there comes a scream. A woman points into the pool, where the environment floats face-down.
Swiftly, you dive in and come to its rescue again, pulling it from the water. But there’s no response. People gather around. One of them asks if anyone knows CPR. Julie looks at you hopefully, but CPR is far more complicated than the Heimlich Maneuver. You never really learned the steps, despite all those hours of “Baywatch.”
Thankfully a man rushes onto the scene and starts working on the environment. He seems to know what he’s doing, and within moments the environment is coughing up water. For the remainder of the weekend you can sense Julie’s disappointment, and you vow to yourself to take some CPR classes in the future.
Two months later, you and Julie have just moved in together. You’re riding in her hybrid on your way to pick out eco-friendly furniture when you hear a faint cry for help. You tell her to pull over, and then both of you spot it at once — thick black smoke pouring from the upstairs window of a house across the street. The environment is leaning out of the window, waving desperately.
You race to the front door, which is unlocked. But the flames are everywhere, making it impossible to reach the stairs. Retreating from the doorway, you join Julie on the front lawn and shrug helplessly. You’re only one person, after all. It’s out of your hands.
Nevertheless, you get out your cell phone so you can call the fire department. Julie tells you not to bother. She’s already called. Good, you say, but you can tell by the look on her face, nothing is good here.
It’s 2:15 a.m. when the phone rings. Julie grabs it from the nightstand, listens for a moment, then hands it to you. It’s the environment. It realizes how late it is, but it really wants you to know it doesn’t blame you for failing to come to its rescue, even though it suffered third-degree burns over forty percent of its body. I’m only one man, you mumble groggily, and even in the dark you can see Julie frown.
For several minutes you try to get off the line as the environment rambles on and on about things you’re too drowsy to understand. Your only coherent thought is to wonder how it got this number. Finally, you disconnect in the middle of its monologue and immediately fall asleep again. The next afternoon, Julie calls you at work to tell you the news. The environment overdosed on sleeping pills, but will pull through.
Did you not notice or not care that it must have been reaching out to you last night? I was too tired, you say. I couldn’t concentrate. And it’s the truth, of course. However, when you get home you discover that Julie has moved out. She’ll pick up her things over the weekend. Suddenly you’re glad you never went through with the CPR thing.
Six months later you’re driving along in your gas-guzzling SUV when you see a car on the side of the road, its hazard lights flashing, steam billowing from its open hood. The environment sits forlornly on the curb. Your eyes meet for a split-second and then you’re speeding past, and not feeling the least bit guilty about it.