I have known Carrie for seventeen years, ever since we met in the second grade. She was always smarter than I was, or at least she always worked harder; her sister said she had "perfect" study habits; others said she was like a "machine," always doing what she was "programmed" to do. It was hard to get her to do something spontaneous, something crazy; she always seemed to have everything all planned out in advance. When she took aim at something, she went for it and figured out all the steps along the way -- like a calculator. She always helped me though, especially when we took algebra. In fact, she always seemed to find ways to help everyone. She hated talking about herself, even when her father left her mother. I remember when it happened; she just got back to work, buried herself in her studies. Maybe I should have asked her about it. She was deeply religious. She didn't like Church; she said that God was everywhere and took care of everyone. When we were together, she always seemed to do the listening, and I always seemed to do the talking. I had lots of problems at school, and my parents didn't understand me.
I was really shocked, when I saw her in the cafeteria. She said her husband had left her. She was crying the whole time. She kept saying that he would be sorry, if something happened to her. She had done everything for him, worked so he could get his law degree. She quit graduate school to work full-time at Sears. She had wanted to finish her M.A. in Psychology; she wanted to be a marriage counselor. But she stopped registering and would have to start over. She said her mother might lend her the money, but really couldn't afford it. "Oh, what's the use," she said. "I'm too old to go back to school. I don't know how to study anymore." She was alone in the house, and it was driving her crazy. "What did I do wrong?" she asked. She looked real thin, like she hadn't eaten in days. Listening to her made me depressed. I wanted to run away. I looked at my watch and was about to say I had to be going, when she dropped the real bomb. She said she was going to kill herself. She had a bottle of prescription tranquilizers in her pocket. Her doctor gave them to her for anxiety attacks.
I wanted to help her, but I didn't know what to do. After all, I'm not "social services." Besides, a lot of people talk about killing themselves, and they don't mean it. I figured she'd probably get over it. My parents raised me as a Christian, and took me to Church every Sunday. Carrie said I'm the only one she can trust. Her mother never approved of the marriage in the first place. "Good thing you never had any children to fight over," her mother had told her when Carrie gave her the bad news over the phone. Carrie said she doesn't believe in God anymore. She said the future looks like a long dark corridor, with no light and no way out. She said, "It's wrong to hurt others, but what you do with your own life is your business. What am I supposed to do, go on living now so I can die later, with a whole lot of suffering in between? What am I waiting for? There's no way out. Everything's impossible." I excused myself to get a cup of coffee. I said I'd be right back. I passed a telephone in the hallway. I looked at my watch. I was five minutes late for my interview. It was for a good position in personnel -- the first interview I got since I was laid off. I said to myself, "I really want that job." I saw the exit. I stopped. I asked myself, "What do I do? If I go back to Carrie, what do I do? What do I say?"
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