I had only known her for twenty-six days when she called me and told me that she didn’t know where she was. It was the Friday after the first semester, as Christmas Break started, and I thought she was lost on her way home. Winter had made the days dark so easily, evening felt like midnight. She got sad with the weather. The lack of light reflected in her soul. I had not realized that a person could cry so much until that week. It had been five days of exams, and there was so much hinging on the way that she would twist her mind around assessments. Sitting down at desks, drumming fingers on the steering wheel at traffic lights, even in coffee shop conversations, she always had to know that she was in control. But something about this final test, someone had said something that gave her an excuse to affirm any extremes that were currently bubbling within.
She didn’t know where she was because had taken exits headed north until she was too tired to keep going. There was something in there about how beautiful she had found the sunset, how subtle yet stunning it was, how it blended with pale pastels with colors that should not have been found in the sky. She said she had almost driven off the road, staring so intently at the road in front of herself as a landscape, the lights blurring to glowing orbs, the cars becoming background to a painting. She talked about a tree that she saw that was bare on one side, with its back turned to the road, growing to chase the sun. There was something that she wanted to chase, there was something that she was chasing, and those two were not the same thing.
I had only just met her when I found that I wanted to talk to her all the time. When I heard her talk for the first time, I did not realize any of the other sides of her. But there was a joyful intensity to her. The way that she talked about the ants that came to play with the sugar spilled from the packets tapped into her latte. It was the same way she spoke of her grandmother’s dimples and her tapestries tacked up the inside of her car. She teased me for the way I said words too crisply, she told me that my coughs were as telling as anyone else’s laughs, that while I thought her silly, I’d soon see the thrill of her ways.
The first impression caught me off guard with how attached I became. I called her seven times the next day. I wanted to know about her name and I wanted to tell her about mine. I wanted her to listen to me as I talked, just to watch her face and see her eyes widen and trace the lines in my face as they distorted to tell the story. She told me about her aspirations and I would see the passion stain her eyes and blossom as she visualized her dreams.
It was a week later when she started spilling secrets. Not that she considered them secrets. She took conversation as a platform, even if there was no one listening. But I liked listening, and stories would come out of me in response. The blatant way she was overly excited about everything inspired me. I wanted to love something as much as she loved life. Because even in her sadness, even in the intensity of her self-hatred, there was a base fervor, something that rooted itself in love. Love for everything in the way that she engulfed every emmitted ray of feeling, embodied every emotion, so completely threw herself into everything. She was mad with the way that she lived, she was mad with a love for life, a propensity to being wrecked over the smallest things, a tendency to be uplifted by the simplest things.
Once, she ran out of gas and I had to drive to find her. This was two weeks in. I remember finding her car sitting in the ditch, and she had opened her small little trunk and spread out a blanket and was swinging her feet from the end of the bed. It was what she called a day of positive sun rays, a rare day of warmth in imminent winter. Unfazed by the effort I had put into rescuing her, she invited me to sit with her and watch the sunset. She mentioned that she had driven into the ditch a little fast. Probably at sixty. Maybe more. There was a brief moment before she ran out of gas, before the car stopped itself for her, there was a tangential relief of life. She was thrilled with the idea of no longer existing. I hate that thought, she knew I hated the thought of ever ending your own existence. But she gave me no valid chance to be taken aback, she just continued on to tell me the other things that had happened in her day.
There was a fleeting moment where I felt singularly responsible. She would find symbolism in everything, internalize everything, second guess everything. Each tiny detail resonated within her to birth a clashing cacophony of every possible disaster. Twenty-six days in, I told her to hang up and call me again from the gas station’s phone. I traced her area code to somewhere a little too far to drive to and back in one night. But I went anyway. The way that she was, I knew that any self-doubt she had of herself I had added to by the inches of separation of the way that she had grown to rely on me. The teeter tottering of our dependence on each other had started to shift in her disfavor, and I had pushed down any confrontation of the fact. So I went, hoping it was not too late.