I hadn’t seen her in a while. Her social media feeds were swamped with dark and cryptic one-liners. I wondered how she was doing. So, finally, after she got into the car with me, I asked: How’s adulthood treating you?
Her face relaxed, like she was suddenly overcome with a peculiar kind of peacefulness. “Oh, it’s great! I’m finding creative and exciting ways to kill myself.” She lowered her voice, “The trick is do it gradually so you’re still alive in case something good happens; and do it discretely so you don’t draw too much attention.”
I nodded, digesting every word like my mother’s cooking – I wasn’t sure how to react, whether showing distaste would be appropriate, but I simply took it in and nodded.
A moment passed before I finally responded. “The weird thing is,” I said as I stopped at the traffic lights and waited for the robot to turn green, “I can’t tell if you’re serious or what.”
“No,” she shook her head slowly – pensive. “The messy thing is, I can’t even cry. About anything, nothing at all – no, sir. These tear ducts are as dry as Mother Theresa’s labia. Bless her soul.”
Again, my words failed me. From the back of my head, I pulled a line from a hat of the memories from my visits to a shrink years before. I cleared my throat, and pressed my foot cautiously on the accelerator. “And how does that make you feel?”
I frowned. “Death?”
“Yes, you’re right! It makes me feel like death.” All the while her face maintain its tranquility, and she only beamed when she thought I had helped her find a better description.
Her words were no longer like any of my mother’s dishes. They were heavy, and they evoked more than an awkward kind of sympathy.
I wanted to help her save herself, I wanted it more than I knew how to.
“Your name is Zoë,” I said. “Zoë means life–”
“Yes,” she said; “but life means very little to me.”
Her face went blank and she fixed her gaze on the moving images out the window. I knew she was gone. I knew she had quit herself a while ago.
I only continued to drive.