“Are you coming tonight?” Sadie read the text message aloud to herself, considering it to be more of a question to her soul than anything else. The cell phone’s glow illuminated her face within the dimly lit living room, causing her visibility of anything else to essentially disappear, pulling her focus solely to the phone. Her friend Maggie may have been the one sending the text, but Sadie found herself asking the same question. Are you coming tonight? She looked around at her poorly lit room, the tv now off for the first time in three hours, the slightest glow still visible on the screen as it adjusted to being off. The used dishes had started to take up too much room on the coffee table in front of her, every effort to pick them up had been thwarted by her newly forming habit to pick up one dish but add two more in the process. I can do those later. Sadie looked down at herself, wishing she could comfortably leave the house wearing the same robe she had on now, hoping to avoid getting dressed, putting on makeup, or engaging in anything that required her to try and look a certain way. Are you coming tonight?
She tapped the power button on her phone once, deactivating its illumination, and then again to display the lock screen which reminded her of the day’s date, May 21st. It was nearly two months since Matt had called to break up, two months since her boyfriend of nearly a year had called her to let her know it was over. One call, one conversation, and then nothing, as if the relationship had never happened, a relationship that felt like it was only moving forward until it was cut off. Since that day, Sadie had made every effort possible to avoid getting out, to avoid the chance of having to explain what happened, why Matt wasn’t around, and she had little interest in opening that wound again and again. Despite her thought process, Sadie couldn’t stop feeling ashamed that she was refusing to go out. A voice in her head kept telling her that it was okay to grieve, and that it was okay to not want to take on the burden of explaining her situation to everyone, and she believed it half the time, which only helped her so much. At times like this, alone in her robe with the lights down low, she felt ashamed of being ashamed, which often turned into a spiral that she had only just begun to consciously notice. She had recently started to feel sick, thinking that there was no choice she could make that would help her start feeling better. I have to go out. She thought, knowing that every time she didn’t it would stack onto her pain. Sadie didn’t want to go out, but she didn’t want to be alone, it felt like a Catch-22 of pain, both choices would be hard, but for entirely different reasons. Are you coming tonight?
She thought of Matt and how much they used to love going out together on Friday evenings. Almost like clockwork, they would head out as the sun went down, always going for a drive to start the evening, wasting too much gas before ultimately deciding where they would be eating that night, and it was always some form of fast food. They would make the decision, sometimes joyfully and sometimes after an unnecessarily confrontational argument, but it was always fast food, and, despite their fights, almost always from the same three places. Fast food never inspired Sadie to want a sit-down meal at an in -and-out style restaurant, if you could even call them restaurants, instead she would ceaselessly recommend taking it back to one of their apartments and eating in front of some random movie, granted they were able to get to the point of agreeing on one. On the Friday’s that Matt was unavailable, Maggie would practically leap on the opportunity to spend time with her friend, always finding a way to bring excitement to the evening. The two of them would rarely get fast food and come home, instead opting for sit down restaurants, fork and screen film viewings, or even the occasional roller-skating nights. Maggie was always able to reignite Sadie’s joyful spirit on the nights Matt was unavailable.
Maggie did everything she could to be present for Sadie these past two months and was trying her hardest to help her feel a semblance of normalcy, while beautifully reminding Sadie that there isn’t always a right answer for any given day or evening. Maggie, who supported Sadie through all of the emotional and psychological waves of her relationship. Maggie, who never gave Sadie an ‘I told you so’ or ‘I never liked him anyway’ or a ‘you’ve abandoned our friendship for some boy’. Maggie, who has always been one simple thing, Sadie’s friend, not a parent, nor mentor, nor hindrance, nor stressor, though she would elicit those experiences in Sadie from time to time, as most humans do. Am I letting down Maggie by not going out? I can’t keep cancelling. No option offered a relief to the pain and apathy felt inside of Sadie. Her thoughts began to elicit a slight quivering of her lips and a light swelling of her eyes. Are you coming tonight?
Sadie remembered the texts she would get from Matt, sometimes loving, sometimes frustrated. Matt would always text her endearing messages, often once or twice a day, little things to let her know that he was thinking about her. Those messages never ceased in bringing joy to Sadie, always accompanied by a slight rush of excitement in knowing that she was on someone’s mind, Matt’s mind. Despite his sweet messages, Matt was also the type of person who needed plans to be made promptly and then kept well, with little to no variation. Sadie didn’t mind dating a particular and punctual person, but Matt would often take some of that frustration out on her. There was rarely a week where Sadie wouldn’t receive a text of disappointment or frustration from Matt, usually about something that Sadie felt wasn’t a big deal, and especially that wasn’t her fault.
The cell phone vibrated in Sadie’s hand, lighting back up to reveal a new text from Maggie. “I can bring you something to go if that’s easier. Maybe watch a movie or play a board game. My evening is open so let me know what works best. I’ll be heading out in like fifteen minutes.” A part of Sadie just wanted Maggie to tell her what they were doing so that she didn’t have to try and decide on her own, but that would crash and burn if Maggie made the wrong choice. What even is the wrong choice? Sometimes freedom was harder than constraint, but it was also more empowering, and Sadie appreciated the struggle between the two, having learned enough about herself to know that she wasn’t going to start being herself again through force, she’d have to make those decisions on her own.
Are you coming tonight? Sadie stared at her phone, the light now off, offering only her reflection within the black mirror. She saw something in the reflection, the face of a woman who was living in her grief but at the same time not defined by that grief. A voice whispered in her mind, “You don’t have to leave the house. You don’t have to be ready to go out again, but if you decide to, you will be okay.” Sadie took a deep breath and acknowledged the truth of the voice. She decided to throw on a hoodie and a pair of joggers, topping the outfit off with a pair of sliders and a baseball cap. A slight smile started to form on Sadie’s face as she realized how she was feeling. The pain wasn’t gone, but it was now accompanied with a small hint of joy, which told her she was far from feeling happy again, but she was one step closer to it than she had been. Sadie closed her eyes and thought to herself, Maybe I’ll be alright. She maintained her slight smile as she turned her phone back on and opened her messaging app to reply to Maggie. “I’ll be there, see you soon.”