People sometimes make choices that don't make any sense. Of course, that's not quite true. To the person, the choice is always the only option.
She blinks, but the edges of her vision are getting blurry. Standing up, she feels the weakness in her muscles like a kick to the back of the knees. With a small sigh, she runs her hands down her thighs, feeling the way that the skin covering her thin legs presses into her bone at the pressure. She waves her right arm in front of the television as a gesture to her friend beside her. He sits up straight at once, his eyes focusing on her instead of the serious detective on the screen across the room.
“Are you okay?”
She says no but nods her head. Her fingers are trembling. Her mind has been reeling for too long. It flashes between yesterday and today, when she tried to buy food at the grocery store and found that her EBT card had nothing on it anymore. She told them that she’d come back with cash, but she never did. Instead, she sits laying in bed, thinking about not buying her food and the poor person who would have to put it all back on the shelf for her. She hopes they didn’t leave the milk out too long waiting for her. Of course, spoiled milk is not the only thing that she is thinking of. She has been “considering her options for ages,” much like her high school counselor once told her to do. And that leaves her turning things over and over again in her mind. She wonders how much longer she can stand to sit around, thinking about yesterday and today and how the two should be more connected.
Instead, the only connections between the two that she can find is with things like spoiled milk.
Nothing good, though. Knowing this, she stands up.
“I’m going to go for a walk.”
How does one person make this kind of choice? She thinks back to a time where things were much easier: her friends sang love songs in their cars together under the moonlight, she knew how to dance when people were watching, and coffee was the only thing she needed to get through the day. Of course, there were even better times before that, times when she could nap in school and always had to be shared with and gained people’s affection merely by being nice. Where had such simple times gone? She believes that they are lost forever; indeed, her future leaves nothing to be desired. She eats her food alone (if she has any) and she sits by her windows every night and looks out to the sky, wishing that she had a car to drive because if she did, maybe she could go and find some friends to sing loud songs with and then just maybe, she wouldn’t feel so unhappy anymore.
“I’m going for a walk,” she repeats, but they both can see the lie. They’ve seen it ever since she started dating that loser back in high school, who told her love was better when it was physical. And then she had that kid who ended up dying somewhere in a trash can. She lies because she does not know how her baby got there. She does not know how she got so fat so quickly. She does not know how her life changed so fast and so much. The only truth that she can find is that once upon a time she thought she fell in love with a boy, and now she really did. The only truth is sitting beside her, daring to be her friend, instead of a lover. She dreams about him every night. Every night. She wishes that she could give him anything he wants, but the truth is that he is just a friend. He wants her to be happy, not to let her make him happy. The truth about love (wild, harsh, selfish and passionate love) and the truth about the boy of her dreams would never be able to fit together.
She stares at her friend, wishing and willing for him to grab her and kiss her and touch her everywhere. She wants him to see her differently; past her hollow eyes and dark skin that was dry at the hairline. She wants more than his worryingly glance as she sways when she stands.
Secretly, she wants the love that she got as her child was planted inside her, because that’s the only kind of love that she’s ever known: that wild and passionate and selfish kind.
But she knows that those are only dreams. And this, she figures, is where a person makes this kind of choice: when everything seems lost and the only things that you could ever hope for will never happen.
“I’m gonna go get some air.”
With a whisper, she’s pushing her door open and she can barely walk, but she isn’t stopping. She feels his gaze on her back but there are no hands on her shoulders.
“You need to lie down.” he says, his voice jolting her world. It is much too loud. “You look ill.”
“Ill,” she murmurs to herself, breathing deeply and taking in the autumn air. She had her baby in the fall. She went to homecoming in the fall and fell asleep in the back of her date’s friend’s brother’s trailer and woke up with bruises and feeling light headed. She met the man she is in love with in the fall, in the middle of a Wal-Mart where she was three dollars short on the bra that she was buying, and the stranger behind her lent it to her, with a promise that she go out to dinner with him. Promising dinners for favors was not entirely new to her, but a pleasant dinner with civil topics and no groping was. And she was smart enough to know when someone wasn’t really interested.
She thought she could handle it.
"I’m not ill,” she says firmly, and she’s at the side of the road, watching the cars fly by her and shake her to the bone. She lets the moving cars push her bangs away from her forehead. Closing her eyes, she breathes in the sounds of the street. Underneath her eyelids, she can see the flashing brake lights and the changing stoplights down the street. She keeps breathing deeply, in case her breath would catch in her throat too early.
“Katie,” the low voice behind her says. He puts his hand on the small of her back. In her mind, she is asking him everything, begging him for answers. In her mind, she is speaking louder than ever before.
“Do you love me”?”
The hand on her back is warm and firm and when she hears no answer, it feels like a push.
She falls into the street before the next swooshing car has a chance to pass her by.