Trigger Warnings at the end. Please take care of yourself.
Deanna sits me down on July 25th, the day after my little sister’s third birthday. She grabs me by the shoulders and steers me to the couch, gentle, like I’m a porcelain doll that she needs to take care of so she can sell me to a consignment shop. She’s perched on the coffee table across from me–determined, grim–and I haven’t been this nervous since senior-year-Zach and sophomore-year-me made out behind the Waffle House.
“Is this a sex talk?” I joke. “Cause like, I did get the talk, but it was a really straight one, so if you wanted to give me the gay version I’d actually really appreciate–”
“Kip, are you suicidal?”
“Um.” Wherever I thought she was going with this, I was wrong. “I’m…”
“We don’t talk about–well–that stuff.” Deanna rubs her eyes. “At least not like we should. And that’s shitty, and… I just. I don’t want to not talk and not talk and then… I don’t know. Something happens. And I’ll think, what if you had just said something, you know?”
“Yeah, sure.” I can feel myself retreating, distancing myself from the intensity of her gaze.
Maybe she can sense that, because she continues to ramble, “I’m not trying to be confrontational, but… I can’t just like, casually bring it up. Or like, I could, but I’m too much of a coward so I gotta like, psych myself up, and–”
“I get it.” I don’t get it, but I want to shut her up. I don’t know why she has to bring this up, why she has to see me. Why can’t she ignore it?
“Oh good. So like, if you wanna talk about anything… um. I’m listening.”
I fidget in my seat. “What do you want me to talk about?”
“Whatever you’re thinking?”
“Wellllll, I was thinking about washing the dishes. Might even dry them if I’m feeling really feisty.”
Deanna sighs. Bites her lip. “Kip, c’mon.”
“I’m just trying to make sure you’re okay.”
“Cool. I’m fine.”
She sits back and crosses her arms. “You’re fine.”
“I’m fine, and you’re deaf, apparently.”
“Kip, stop it.”
“Stop what, Deanna? You wanted to know how I’m doing. I appreciate that, really, but I told you, I’m–”
“Fine,” She scoffs.
“Yeah. That’s the one.”
“That’s such bullshit, Kip. Why can’t you talk about it? Why won’t you let me help?”
“If this is you helping, I’d hate to see how you hurt.”
Her frown deepens. “Hey–”
“Also, if you wanna help someone why don’t you start with yourself? You spend every fucking day of your life in a stupor, you don’t remember half the conversations we have because you’re never here. You just wander through your life like it doesn’t even matter. That’s not healthy.”
“This isn’t about–”
“You keep saying you’re going to get your shit together, that you’re going to get a real job or whatever, but you can barely get out of bed most days.”
I’m standing now, hands clenched at my sides. “You spent your teens and twenties fucking wasting away, waiting for life to come and pick you up off the ground. You’re such a hypocrite, Deanna. You’re a fucking–”
“Hey!” Deanna slams her fist down on the coffee table, and the violent sound jolts me out of my anger. I sink back into the couch, fold in on myself. “Oh. Hey.” Deanna’s voice softens. “Hey, sorry.”
I nod, but I can’t look up. It’s not safe yet.
We sit in silence for a minute while Deanna plucks fuzz off her sweatpants and I sit stock-still, waiting for the numbness to wash over me so we can brush past this. When three minutes tick by and still my pounding heart doesn’t settle into a slow, indifferent beat, I begin to panic; indifference is a necessity, the only thing that keeps me from paralyzing anxiety at all times.
“Kip, sweetie, try to calm down, okay?”
I shake my head.
“You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to, I swear. I’m sorry, I’m really not very good at this.”
She’s sorry? I’m the one who–
I run to the only other room in the apartment–Deanna’s room, since I don’t have one. I’m still sleeping on Deanna’s couch, in Deanna’s apartment, another reminder that she’s done so much for me and all I can do is yell at her and judge her life like mine isn’t a dumpster fire.
I close the door. Lock it. Even in my panic I feel absurd, like Lucy having one of her temper tantrums.
There’s a muffled thump against the door, and the shadow through the crack lets me know she leaning on it with her full body. “Kip. You don’t… you don’t have to let me in or anything, but um. If you need anything…” She groans. “I’m so fucking bad at this. I don’t know how to make you understand that I honestly just want you to feel better. I didn’t mean to lose my temper, and I’m not mad about the things you said to me either, okay? A little hurt, but not mad. So just–I don’t know–take a nap? And then maybe we can talk about this later. Or not, if you don’t want to…”
I nod my head as if she can see me, lowering myself onto the floor and curling up at the mere mention of sleep. “Okay,” I mumble.
Her sigh is muffled, but I can hear her relief even through the door. “I care about you, Kip.”
My chance to let her know it’s reciprocated slips by as her footsteps fade away.
Trigger warnings: discussion of suicide and depressive episodes.