“It’s different this time,” she says to me, out of nowhere. We’ve been talking about movies we’ve missed over the summer.
“What’s different,” I ask, although I know what she’s going to say.
“I don’t think I’ll make it out this time.”
A dozen glib comments come to mind, but I don’t say them, because I think she’s right. Even though I’ve seen her this way before. The long slide into nothingness, into a sleep that she never quite wakes from. She has a hard time hearing, a deafness caused by the pressure of unreleased thoughts. The slide is longer this time. Deeper. Usually by now there are tears, rages against the unfairness of living because other people say to do otherwise is selfish.
There’s none of the anger this time, just the sadness, growing. Her eyes are empty. It’s even in the way she talks, flat, with an economy of breath, like she knows she’s running out of air.
She’s leaving. She’ll save her breath for the good-bye.
I lean away from her. I have to leave now. I can’t let her drag me down into that abyss with her. I can’t go there again. I have too much to do. I have a house to maintain. I have a man to love. I have a job. My life is good now, dammit. It is good. There is nothing to be depressed about. Not anymore. I’ve made all the changes. I have the mantras. I know the signs to look for. Deep breaths and exercise and plenty of sun.
They’ll keep her here for a while. But not forever. Eventually she will go home, and this time she’ll do it for real, and there is nothing anyone can do to stop her.
She’s already gone.
Not me. Not me. I pick up my purse from the tiled floor. I stand up, my thighs peel away from the plastic chair. She stands too and misinterprets my pulling away from the chair as a lean towards her. She puts out her arms for a hug, limply, a habit of motion only.
I don’t want to touch her, but I also respond to the habit of the hug. My arms go around her and suddenly we are both hugging tight, too tight. We are each others lifelines but we are both drowning.
I can’t save you, I scream at her, at myself.
At home, he asks me how it went. I shrug. I won’t say my thoughts aloud. It might make them come true.
He kisses the top of my head and tells me he loves me. “I know,“ I say. Our little joke. Because sometimes I can’t say those words.
“I’m proud of you,” he says.
I feel sick to my stomach. “Why?”
“I know how hard it is for you to go there.”
“I’m not going back.”
“I know,” he says.
Our little joke. Because that is what I said yesterday.
Daily Prompt: Proud – When was the last time someone told you they were proud of you?