Trigger Warning: mental health and allusion to suicide
“Hannah, why are you so embarrassing?! Sit down- oh my God!”
Abigail covered her forehead with her hand to hide her face.
“I have to get the right lighting for this or it will suck ass.” I pulled the overhanging light toward me, half-standing in our booth, so that it shone directly over my strawberry and goat cheese salad.
“If I don’t get this picture posted by today, I will lose follower engagement. If I have to look a little ridiculous in the process,” I snapped the picture of the salad, “so be it.”
I thumped down into the booth and let go of the light, letting it swing roughly. Abigail stood and grasped it quickly, to soften the swinging. She sighed and sat back down. I didn’t look up from my phone. I was busy editing.
“You know, when you asked me to go grab lunch with you, I didn’t realize you would still be working.” Her cheeks were still pink from embarrassment.
“I’m always working.” I answered shortly.
We sat in silence for a few moments, but then the waiter came over to interrupt the slight tension.
“Everything tasting good?”
“All good! Thank you so mu-”
“You can read my review on my Instagram, @HelpfulHannah.” I looked at him, though I noticed Abigail growing pinker in the corner of my eye.
He looked at me for a moment, blinked with a slight nod, then turned and left.
“That was so weird! How can you not want to crawl under the table when he looked at you like that, Han?” She looked at me like I was an alien, and I returned the same expression. I stabbed at my salad, chomped a few dark leaves, and swallowed fully before answering.
“I don’t understand why I am looked down upon for just doing my job. Social media is a job!” I stopped to organize my thoughts. I had a lot of them swimming around, and I had to decide how to word it.
Finally, I gathered myself and began again. “I work every day, planning, reviewing, filming IG Reels and Tiktoks, not to mention editing, and replying to emails. Most people get a lunch break, and I work right through mine. My lunch, my day, is my job.” I stabbed my salad again, squeaking the fork on the white porcelain bowl and making my ears ring more than they already were.
“That’s the thing, Han. You work 24/7. You post multiple times a day to all your platforms, and you do it alone! Since we were seated, you have not looked up from your phone. I love you, girl, since middle school we have always been tight. But since you started gaining a following last year, do you not see how your life has changed, what you have lost?”
I kept my head down while she spoke. I laid my fork down and sipped my tea for the first time since sitting down. Watered down.
“I…can’t stop now.”
“Why not? Surely you can afford to take a bre-”
“I said I can’t.” I spoke a little louder, looking her in the eyes. She stared back, reading what must have been a startling emotion, as her eyes widened, then narrowed.
“Because of Jacob? Is that what this is about?”
I sat silent with my eyes closed now, keeping the tears in. They hadn’t fallen in months, and I didn’t want them to now. Abigail must’ve taken this as an answer to her question, as she began again.
“It wasn’t your fault.” She whispered as she reached across to grab my hand. I didn’t move.
“How could it not be?” I opened my eyes, damn the tears. The overhead light caused my eyes to blur to see a glimmering golden.
“I chased him away with all…this.” I gestured at my phone. I felt the streams down my face, flowing steadily now. “If…if I had been…better. If I had listened when he spoke, looked at him from time to time, fought for him…he…he might still be-”
“Don’t talk like that.” Abigail demanded. “First of all, torturing yourself over what you could have done differently doesn’t bring him back. Secondly, you were not the only one at fault. You both could have communicated better.” I glanced up at her now, and after a moment, took her outstretched hand. I smiled slightly, and then faintly laughed.
“What?” She asked, also smiling now.
“It sounds dumb, and very lame of me, but this is the first time I have had physical contact with someone since Jacob’s funeral.” Abigail broke out in a full on laugh. I laughed too. Little did she probably know it was the first time I’ve done that in a while too.
She squeezed my hand tighter, and her smile almost faded. “So, what are you going to do now? You obviously can’t continue like you have been. You don’t deserve to stay miserable.”
“I’m not miserable all the time,” I amended her words, “I really do love being a critic and I am glad I have had this opportunity that others dream for. I don’t want to quit.” The thought of quitting almost brought tears back.
“Okay, but Han, you don’t have to do it alone, right?”
I sat stunned for a moment. It was such an easy answer to the problem, but I never even considered it before. My face must have been readable, as Abigail continued.
“You wanted to suffer and make yourself so unhappy, the thought of asking for help never occurred to you, did it?”
I thought for a moment. “I didn’t think I needed it.”
“The little evil voice in your head wants you to think that. They want you to think you are all alone, and that you are such a bad person that no one would even help if you asked.” I tried to look down, but she let go of my hand and grasped my face and pulled it back up. “But there are people who do and who will. Do you hear me? Just because you critique restaurants, does not give you authority to critique your self-worth.”