Day 3: Go on a coffee date with the person you were 2 years ago.
You know that feeling, that anxious, gut rumbling feeling when you’re about to face something you’ve been putting off? That’s how I felt the day that I saw her again. That was the day I saw me again, a Sara from 2 years ago. The Sara I had hoped was gone forever.
As I sat in my car and waited at Stewart’s for her to pull in, I thought about what I would say to her. Would I give her advice? Simply be a shoulder? I couldn’t know. I checked the clock on my cell phone-3:05. She was late.
At 3:07, a burgundy Saturn wagon pulled into the parking lot and parked next to me. I looked over and made eye contact with her; she was wearing a teal hooded sweatshirt, and her short, chestnut hair was styled in messy faux hawk. She opened the door, and so did I. We rose from our cars at the same time, and I nodded at her. “You made it.”
We walked into Stewart’s quietly. It wasn’t a busy time for the shop; the coffee was full and the tables were empty. We silently poured our coffee, and when we got to the counter, I paid. I knew she didn’t have the money.
We sat across from each other and studied each other. Her brown eyes were mine, but they were vacant. Her face was mine, but it was devoid of any light. She looked down at her cup, absently playing with the stirring straw.
“I can’t believe you…I…we…made it.” She said quietly. I nodded. “I know.” She lifted her gaze to mine, and I could see the pain and hopelessness in her eyes. “How?” She asked.
I shook my head. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you.” I began. “It was hard. We almost didn’t make it-there were a few times I thought the end was imminent. But we remembered that life isn’t always about what makes us happy, and that we get joy from seeing our family happy, and our family wouldn’t be happy if we weren’t there.”
She processed this for a moment, then took a sip of her coffee before speaking. “Do Isaac and I make it?” She asked, her voice cracking. I smiled and shook my head, which startled her. I raised a hand to pause her thoughts.
“Isaac and I will always make it.” I said. “There isn’t an Isaac without a Sara, not a Sara without an Isaac. You’re going to learn that again, and he’s going to learn it again, and when you do, when you both realize it again after so long, it will be like someone flipped a switch and your heart is going to start beating again.” She smiled slightly, almost imperceptibly, but I saw it.
She looked at my cell phone, my clothing and my purse, then to my face. “Do you have a job?” She asked. I nodded. “I do. The same job you have, and right now, you don’t feel like you’re worth much to them but hang on. Don’t give up when your mind tells you you’re failing, because you’re not. Learn from them, and don’t be afraid to be yourself with them. They are going to inadvertently be some of the best support you’ve had. You’re going to see places you’ve never seen, experience things you’ve never experienced, but more importantly, you’re going to find yourself again there.” Her eyes widened, and I took a deep breath.
“Its not going to be easy though. You’re going to struggle a lot, and most of it will be a struggle you’ll have to face alone. You won’t know how to feel, and it will frustrate you. You won’t understand why you’re here, and that will make you angry. You’ll hurt yourself, you’ll hurt people around you; for every one step forward you take in your recovery, you’ll fall three steps back the next day. You’ll compare yourself to the people around you, and that will make you feel inferior. More than once, you’ll make a plan to end it all, but you’ll crumple up the paper and fight through the urge. Eventually, you’ll come to terms with the fact that life doesn’t always have purpose, but you’ll be optimistic that you’ll find one someday.” We sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity, watching cars pull in and out of the parking lot before she spoke again.
“What about Dylan? Is he….he’s still…alive, yes?” She asked cautiously.
“Yes. Dylan is still alive, and you still talk to him like he’s a human. You talk to him while you’re cooking dinner, you talk to him before bed, and in the morning if you see him. He doesn’t sleep on your head as much anymore, but you always give him a kiss on the head when you see him. And, he still loves it.”
I knew that our time was coming to a close, and I reached out and took her hand. “You can’t fight the battles that have already been fought. You’re going to find peace in meditation, in your art work, in helping the people around you. Please, when you feel like you’re lost and there’s no turning back, take a minute and think about the sound of Evelyn’s voice, or the way Adelaide’s eyes crinkle when she smiles. Hold on to these things tightly and don’t let go of them. They seem small, but they are enough to keep you here.”
We walked out the door, and I watched her get into the Saturn. She watched me for a few moments before she pulled out of her spot and left the parking lot. I stood there, leaning against the Volkswagen, my mind racing. Had I said enough? Had I said too much? I see her occasionally, her darkness and emptiness haunts me every time. I see her less frequently these days, but she’s still there-the girl in the broken down car, with a broken down soul.
I’m glad that she is still there to remind me how far I’ve come, but someday, I hope I never see her again.