The table was set. Dinner was served. Laughter and conversation chased the hour. Hardly a glance was given to the vacant chair or the placemat before it. The utensils were left untouched and the napkin undisturbed. Nobody noticed for it was like this every night, and we were tired of waiting for her. Or the hollow promises of her return.
Shortly after, we would escape into the living room. We would melt before the television set, drinking in rivers of imagination. Time slipped by, but we hardly blinked. It was only when the hours faded into darkness that reality sunk in, and slowly did we open the glass, wooden door back into the world that we tried to leave behind. But she was never there, awaiting our return, and we were tired of waiting for her. Or the small words that tomorrow would be a new day because it was the same day over and over and over again.
During the days that passed, I would bury my head in work. Endless tasks chewed my thoughts away. I drifted into oblivion as my fingers danced the dance across the keyboard, typing memos and letters. I didn’t care. I stopped caring a long time ago when she cut out my heart. I never knew happiness, and my memories were now bitter of her. And this job was my escape until five o’clock, and then it would be time to play the rush hour. And then I would come home to find her still gone. But I don’t care.
When I first returned home, I saw that depression had set in. I sat beside her, and we watched Will and Grace late into the night. We hardly spoke, and when I dared speak, she would cry. And I would sit there, angry for what I said, but she had to have known. She had to have known that she was going to disappear, but didn’t she care? Didn’t she care that she was killing this family?
She nearly destroyed me. Her depression was too much to bear, and my foundation cracked. I was slipping away, drowning in misery, and nobody was going to save me. And I failed to save her. I had to find a way to survive, or I was going to disappear. And I’ve wasted years of my life on depression, and I can’t take that time back. This is why I am always at square one, but not anymore. I will not waste my life like her, so for me to survive, keep my heart from slicing my chest, I built a wall and blocked her out. Her cries once tore at my soul, but no more. Her screams would break me down, but no more. Her misery was the poison now denied, and our nights on the couch ended. Her depression was too much too bear, and I can’t save her. Nobody will.
I’ve been home for almost six years now. Nothing has changed. I saw the woman I once knew less and less. Our conversations were bitter, and anger lingered between us. I was seen as the selfish child, but the joke was on her. She was the one running away, and I was standing here, waiting for her. But she won’t return. Cloud nine is her residence, and I can’t remain standing still. But I can’t leave either. I can’t leave my family alone with her.
My father sat on the porch. An issue of Newsweek rested against his lap. His eyes followed the kids that laughed and played while making their way up the hill. He wanted grandchildren, but he wouldn’t get them from me. I was still searching for myself, but my brothers were now married. Maybe they could grant his wish, but what about the other wish? He wanted his wife back. He wanted to go back to his bedroom to find her awake, waiting for him, but instead, she remained lying in bed with the covers buried over her. Only every now and then, he would see the woman that he married and eagerly speak with her, but those moments grew rarer and rarer. And as he turned off the lights to another night, she would slip like a shadow from his hand and whisper out past the door.
The stairs gently creaked under her bare feet. Slender fingers slid down the wooden banister. Eyes cast about the darkness, hoping to not be discovered. Her skin was pale, soft. Her brown hair was a mess. Satisfied that we were all tucked in our rooms for the rest of the night, she would proceed to the kitchen and snack on what she could find. Armed with a water bottle, she would return to the stairs and make her way back up to her bedroom, but every now and then, she would find me waiting for her. Sometimes, a bitter word would slip from her lips or a gentle good-night, but that would be the extent of our conversations. And I watch her disappear without a trace back behind the door.
Nothing has changed. It is time for me to leave, and my father knows that. I tell him that everything will be alright, but my words are as hollow as her promises. I see the despair in his eyes, but he never cries. He remains strong, waiting still, but I am done waiting. I am done trying to save her because she has to understand that the only one that will save her is her, but she has given up. And we all know that. This is how it will always be, and my father will suffer for her misery. This family will suffer because of her need to escape this world, her life. We can’t save her. We tried, and we failed. And she killed hope.
I stand outside her door now. I want to tell her that the day will come, where I will be gone. I will be out there, living my life, but she may not care. Or will she ask, “Are you leaving today,” and I will answer, “No.” And then she will disappear back underneath those covers. Maybe when I do leave, I won’t say good-bye. Maybe if I just leave her, she will notice, and she will wake up. But I doubt that. I know different. We all know different, and life goes on. But not for her. She is left behind, but she will never blame herself. She will only sink further and further into oblivion, becoming nothing more than a ghost of her.