“You still mean to go through with it then?” she asked.
He nodded. “I do.” They were sitting together in the tiny kitchen of their little trailer, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. She was wearing her witnessing uniform and preparing to go pull another double shift, her third this week. He had long since abandoned the facade of gainful employment and was still in his boxers.
“When do you plan on doing it?” she asked after a pause.
“Sometime today. Probably around lunchtime.”
“Have you decided how?”
“Pills seem the easiest. Just fall asleep and wake up somewhere else. Less messy too.”
She lit another cigarette and exhaled blue smoke. Sunlight filtered thickly in the air between them.
“And what if where you wake up isn’t such a nice place to be?” she pointed out. “What then?”
“You mean like Hell?” said with a small smile. “You know I don’t believe in that kind of stuff.”
“But what if it’s true anyway?” she insisted. “What if it’s all true and your fixing to commit a mortal sin?”
He sighed and poured them both more coffee. It was their third pot that morning. “If there is such a thing as eternal damnation then I’m probably headed there anyways. This just cuts out all the stops .”
She stared at him in open disbelief for a few seconds then shook her head.
“You’re throwing your whole damn life away. Every bit of it.”
He shrugged. “Some people just aren’t cut out for this life. I think I’m one of them.” She started to interrupt but he held up his hand to stop her. “Think about it. I’ve never had any close friends, not even as a child. As an adult, I’ve had no motivation to do anything with my life. It’s like I’m waiting for something to happen, to take me away from all this and give me a purpose.”
She reached across the table and gripped his hand. It was steady and dry, she noticed, while hers was cold and sweaty.
“But we’re still so young,” she said urgently. “We can find a purpose together. We can get married. Travel. We can leave right now. Just don’t do this. Not now. Wait a year. Maybe just six months.”
“And after that I would feel exactly as I do now.” He sighed in frustration. “This is the only way.”
She removed her hand. “What if I’m pregnant?” There it was. Her trump card. He glanced at her over the top of his coffee cup.
“Are you?” For a moment she was tempted to lie. But he would know. She was a terrible liar.
“No,” she admitted. “But I could be. We could have a family together. How’s that for purpose?”
He sighed in frustration. “Temporary.” Her face grew hard.
“I can stop you,” she said angrily. “I can sit right here and watch you. Maybe even call the police and have you committed until this craziness passes.”
“You can’t baby sit me forever,” he said in a maddeningly reasonable tone of voice. “And even if you do end up putting me away in some mental institution, I’ll just smile and nod when the doctor comes around. I’ll pretend I’ve seen the error of my ways and we’ll all have a great big laugh at my silliness. Then they’ll let me go.” He leaned closer to her. “Isn’t it easier this way? Without anyone else getting involved?”
“But why won’t you let them help you?” she sobbed. She didn’t think she would have anymore tears to spare, but now a fresh torrent cascaded down her cheeks. He pulled his chair around to sit next to her.
“Baby, they can’t help me,” he said, cupping her chin in his hand and forcing her to meet his gaze. “No one can help me because I don’t need help. I’ve seen some of the best doctor’s and therapists in the state. They all say I’m not depressed or delusional. I don’t hear voices or think I’m God. I’m just as sane and rational as you are.”
“You mean aside from wanting to kill yourself,” she spat, jerking away from him.
“I’m guess I’m just not cut out for this life,” he said, and for the first time she thought she could detect a trace of helplessness in his voice. “Have you ever been late for an appointment, but you have a thousand other places to go before you get there? Maybe you’re on your way to the doctor’s office but first you have to go by the grocery store and pick up something for dinner. Then by the movie store because you have to drop off a couple of movies you rented last night. Then maybe the library to return some books before they’re late.”
“Sure I have,” she snapped, cutting him off. “Everyone’s had those kind of days.” He nodded.
“That’s what I feel like every day. Like every second I spend here, takes away from where I’m really supposed to be.”
She got up and began to pace the length of their kitchen, tears still streaming angrily down her face. She was dimly aware that it was past time for her to leave for work. She didn’t care. He watched her impassively.
Finally, she whirled to face him and he was surprised to see that the tears had stopped and a look of calm deference on her face. When she spoke, her tone was cold as ice and sliced like razors.
“Fine,” she said. “You’re convinced that this is the only option left to you. So be it. I won’t pretend to know what you’re feeling. I don’t. But if you do this, if you really do this, then take all your things with you.” He looked at her in confusion for a moment.
“I mean it. If you go through with this, then I want every thing you own out of here by the time I get back. Just take it and leave. Then you can do whatever you need to.”
“But…why?” he asked.
“Because, if I come home and your stuff isn’t here, maybe I can pretend that you just moved on. That you found another life and you moved out. And that won’t be so bad.” Her voice cracked again, and for a moment he was afraid that she was about to start crying again. But she just looked at him a moment longer with an expression that broke his heart, then gathered her coat and left. She had a life to live.
Daniel Wilson lives in the foothills of North Carolina with his wife, one child and two dogs.
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