It was reaching nine in the morning the following Saturday, and she was sitting at the same table, iced coffee in hand. I stood for a moment in the doorway, watching her bent head, noting her closed eyes, thin fingers curled around a pencil, a blank sheet in front of her, tracing the thin white wires of the iPod snaking out of her ears down to her pocket. I picked up a Mocha at the counter, selected two croissants, and quietly slipped into the seat opposite her.
"You came," she said, smiling with her eyes still closed.
"Yes, I did. Why wouldn't I?"
"Why? I hoped you would, but I was afraid you wouldn't."
"Now why would you think that?"
She shrugged, opening her eyes. They had the reddish tinge of tears, faint enough to be fading, but clear enough to be seen.
"Had a bad morning? Although it's too early in the day to have felt anything."
"Is it that obvious?"
"Hardly, but I can tell. So tell me about it." I tried to give her an encouraging look, but I must have been pretty awful about it, because she laughed and said, "Stop trying."
"But do tell, I want to listen. If that's what you need."
She took the ear pieces out, slowly and deliberately, winding them into little tight circles. Then she said, "Must we want to leave to desire to stay? Because I've wanted to leave for a long time, and just when I have the opportunity, it seems as if I must stay."
"Where are you going? Or where are you intending to go?"
"I don't know."
"But you said you have the opportunity. It should be something knowable if the opportunity is there."
"It's more like a open ended kind of thing? Of a more metaphorical rather than physical thing?"
"Okay, so how you will know if you've gotten there?"
"Wrong question. How will I know if I've left?"
I looked from her face to the coffee and croissants and back up again. "This will be a long one, I see. Elaborate."
"You know, it's often easier to feel it than to describe it."
"You've got all morning."
She started doodling for a while on the white notepad in front of her. I bit into the yummy freshness of the croissant.
"Where am I leaving from?" she said, looking up at me.
I shrugged. "You tell me. I don't know."
"Let's say I am metaphorically leaving from here," she held out her left hand at chest level, "And to all purposes and intents, I think that I should be going somewhere here." With her right hand, she indicated a spot somewhere towards the right at eye level.
I nodded to indicate my understanding.
"And the problem really is I don't really know where I am. I think I've kind of left here, but I haven't quite reached there. The other problem, I figure, is that I don't really know where there is, so I don't quite know whether I've reached it."
"But you should know if you've left. Something must have changed."
"Life doesn't always work the way you want it to, does it? Like I told God to make it easy if - this thing happens, I'll take it that He wants me there. And then it does happen, but then I don't want it anymore. So do you take that as I should be there or I should not?"
"You shouldn't test God."
"I'm not trying to test God."
"It sounds as if you are."
"Well I don't think I am. I just want Him to be clear, because I don't know what I want! I want to go, but then I act as if I am going to stay. It doesn't make sense. I don't make sense. I thought that that would maybe add some clarity into the whole mess."
"So do you want to go or stay?"
"You tell me."
"I can't. I'm not you. I don't know what you really want."
"But you're so good at analyzing the situation, aren't you?"
"Must you always look for the easy way out?"
"What easy way out? I haven't been able to find an easy way out."
There was a fire in her eyes, an anguish I could hardly fathom. I took a gulp, trying to formulate the words in my mind.
"And yet you must see, don't you, that you keep looking at others to make the decision for you?"
"Is that the easy way out? It's hardly easy."
"It's easier than deciding for yourself, isn't it?"
She sighed. "Maybe." She drummed her fingers on the table. "So what do you think I should do?"
I laughed. "At it again, are you? Look, I don't really know what's happening."
"Like I said, getting from here to there."
"Literally or physically?"
"That's a little difficult to explain. It's a combination of a lot of things happening at the same time and I'm just at a loss as to how to interpret all of it. I m restless. That's all. It's like, I need to go, and yet I'm working to stay. Over and over again. Every time I am about ready to leave, to move, to change, I commit to something that makes me stay all over again. I don't know why."
"But what do you really want? You must want something. I doubt you can seriously just be ambivalent over everything."
"Can't I?" It was almost bitter.
"What happened this morning?"
She looked down, sipped at her coffee, doodled some more. "I just woke up depressed. I'm not making sense of anything anymore."
"It happens. No need to get all worked up over it."
"You don't understand, do you? It's just the way I am! I get emotional over things that just don't matter and I am over-rational about things that are."
"You imply that having a relationship is somewhat more important than figuring out your way in life?"
She stopped short. "Did I say that? I don't think I did."
"It just seemed that way, if you relate your rationality of love and your emotionality about leaving."
She frowned. "Maybe you're right. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I really am emotional over things that matter, only they don't matter enough for me to realize that they matter. Or maybe..."
"You lost me somewhere," I interrupted her.
"Don't worry, I think I lost myself somewhere too." Abruptly, she got up and started pacing around.
So she said, "So maybe I am just restless. I need to leave because I think I need a change. No, I don't need to leave. I want to leave, because I feel constrained and restless. Which may be a little odd, because I'm usually such a homebody that doing nothing doesn't make much of a difference anyway. But I am restless. Why am I restless?" She stopped pacing and looked pleadingly at me.
I shrugged. "I don't know you well enough to tell you why, my dear."
She looked so miserable, I almost laughed. She glared at me.
"Look, maybe you're restless because you can't make up your mind. Like you said, you feel constrained, so you want to look for something else. Maybe you've found something, I don't know, but you're not sure if it's really better. So while you really want to go, you know that it's safer more comfortable to stay."
"But I really want to go!" she wailed.
"Then go. What's stopping you?"
"I am afraid."
"So you want to go, but you are afraid to. It's nothing to do with desiring to stay."
"I do want to stay."
"You want to stay because you are afraid to go."
"I hate you." She sat down again in silence, glaring with red rimmed eyes at her doodle pad.
"Why are you afraid?" I said softly. She didn t reply, and I thought at first that she hadn t heard me.
"Do you know why I talk to you?"
"I talk to you because whilst I have known you for so long that I am comfortable with you, you don't know anyone that I know."
"I do know..."
"No, I mean you are not close to anyone that I know."
"Are you afraid that I will tattle? I wouldn't."
"It's not a case of tattling or not. It's just a case of..." she fell silent, and I deemed it fit to maintain the silence.
"You're just far removed enough from everything in my life that you can take a clear and unbiased view - well a more unbiased view than other people I tend to rely on."
"What are you afraid of?"
She shook her head.
"But that's the real issue isn't it?"
"Okay, so what if the reason you can't leave is because God doesn't want you to leave?"
"Then he wouldn't have opened those opportunities, would He?"
"I don't know. Maybe they aren't your set of opportunities, but you're taking it as if they are. So he's stopping you somehow."
"Maybe. You think I haven't thought of that before?"
"Then nothing. I guess it just won't come to pass then."
"Why ask when you know all the answers?"
"I shouldn't talk to you," she said sighing.
"You bring everything out that I don't want to acknowledge."
"Isn't that a good thing? Isn't that why you wanted to talk in the first place?"
"I don't know."
"I won't tell, promise."
"It isn't... maybe it is... Oh, I don t know."
"Does it really matter as long as you clear up the mess in your life? I don't mind being your scapegoat. Like I said before, I could possibly dig being furniture in your life."
She looked up at me and squinted. Then she leaned forward and stared into my eyes. I stared right back.
"No, no, no, no. Don't fall in love with me. I'm not worth it. I would just bog down your life and your time and your sanity. I don't like you in that way. I told you, I can t love people. You'll be wasting your time."
"Who said anything about loving you? I just thought you'd be an interesting social project."
"Ouch, that stung."
"You're not suicidal, are you? That would be a very interesting aspect to consider and analyze."
"I hate you."
"I know. That's why I love you."
"I told you not to love me."
"Oh yes, I can manage that."
"Ooh, I really hate you," she said.