What If Things Don't Make Sense?
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"What do you mean?"

"I mean, if it turned out that, tomorrow, you woke up, and all the grass was purple, what would you do?"

"I think that's pretty ridiculous. That will never happen."

"That's why I'm asking. What if it did."

I wasn't expecting to go on a date like this. Sammie was losing her mind right in front of my eyes.

"Well, if it did, I would have to rationalize it. I'd figure out a way to do that."

"You're not getting it."

"What am I not getting?"

"Well what if the next day you could walk on the sky. And what if the day after that everyone's names changed. That's what I mean. What if there's no possible way for you to rationalize all these things. What if things don't make sense?"

"Uhh," I figured my two emotional options were confusion or condescension, and the first was more socially acceptable. "I don't know."

She made a motion with her hands as if that was what she was getting at. "Right!"

She left it there. Suddenly, I could hear the few other people in the IHOP, talking over breakfast for late dinner and coffee at an unreasonable hour. We weren't quite in a windowside booth, but I found myself looking out the window over her shoulders anyways. In a way to look… maybe engaged, but still avoiding eye contact. I knew I couldn't make the right expression if I looked at her straight on.

"Okay…"

"That's it. You wouldn't know what to do, your worldview would be broken, you wouldn't be able to tell what's important and what's not. That's what."

"I feel like you're trying to get at something."

"You're not understanding me."

I made a frustrated wave of my arm, but cut it short. That was the talking down about to take over, and I knew I couldn't do that. "Okay. I'm sorry, I'm trying. It's difficult, because I think humans are great at making sense of things. Even things that don't at first make sense."

She seemed to pause, and look at me like she was expecting more.

"Umm, like, if all the grass turned purple. Well, it would be startling at first, but I'd know that someone knew. Really, that's the long and short of it. There's always going to be someone who knows. And if you can really hold on to that, everything sorta… falls into place."

She was shaking her head before I was done. "What if no one knows."

"God knows."

"What if God doesn't know?"

That made me purse my lips in a way I knew was condescending.

"No," she responded, "no, you don't get to make that face at me, I'm asking what if. What if. What if they didn't. You, you don't get where I'm coming from, because you have a failsafe. What if you don't have failsafes?"

I was already frittering away in my brain, down pathways towards what I thought would be the best way to get her into a hospital, or at least into the care of a sane, stable adult.

"You weren't the person to talk to."

"Sammie —"

"You don't understand me. You won't ever understand me, because you think that when you die, you go to a magical place where everything is going to be okay, and I'm pretty sure that this is all there is, and if this is all there is, it's, it's, it's really bleak!"

"Well, if you die how you think you die, then won't you not feel it anyways?"

"That's not what I'm talking about!" She slapped her hands down on the table, maybe a bit harder than she expected to, because it looked like she startled herself. She slowly lowered her hands into her lap. Quieter: "I mean that, if, if this is all there is, if there's not some endless happiness at the end of everything, then that means that the real end is when everything is gone and dies, and nothing ever happens again, and that means there's no guarantee that things will get better — not, not just for me, I mean for everyone, I mean for the whole human race, and that's when — that's, that's when…"

She trailed off, her lips curled like she was about to cry.

Fuck, now was not the time.

"Um, do…" I looked around at all the other IHOP patrons. "Do you want to leave? Maybe go somewhere more private?"

She swallowed. "We haven't even ordered."

"That's alright. I'm not hungry."

She thought for a second, and then started nodding.

Okay, I thought, okay, I can do this.

We went outside, into the big parking lot, where the moon was bright and the stars were few because downtown was teeming with nightlife. She leaned into me so hard I had to actually fight to keep my balance. It didn't help that she was just the slightest bit taller than me.

"What if," she started, calmer than she was before, "you had reason to disbelieve in any type of order you thought existed. Forget God, I'm sorry. I just mean anything. I mean that if you couldn't connect point a to point b, you'd stop being able to interpret your surroundings, and your world would stop making sense. What if you were completely incapable of finding patterns in anything. That's what I mean."

We got to my car, which was parked next to a small tree just inside the curb. We sat next to my car, looking at the tree, beyond which was a hill that went down into the rest of the hillside town, where all the other buildings and lights were, and where a freeway was with cars coming over the crest of another hill, looking like ants following orderly lines to and from their nest. There was no opportunity to pull out my phone and contact someone. I was waiting for the moment.

"I don't know."

"I mean, if you couldn't do that, then how would you know, right, how would you know if anything you were doing was good, or bad, or if anything mattered, for that matter. How would you know you're on the right track."

I held my tongue. Maybe if I stopped talking, she would stop talking.

"That's what I mean," she said again. "That's what I mean."

We sat there. She leaned on me. This was more what I was expecting, except I had no way to interface with her. I was completely at a loss for what the most appropriate next step was. I couldn't figure out what was going on, or how to help her. She seemed to be doing better, but she was blinking a lot, and her eyes were going from one thing to the next so frequently I thought she might make herself dizzy. It was uncomfortable. I wasn't having a good time but I wasn't about to leave her.

"What if I told you that I can turn the grass purple, and I could walk on the sky, and I could change your name, or my name for that matter. What if I told you I could open walls like doors, and pull off my head and put it back on."

I took a big breath. I needed to call 911, but I didn't know the right moment. I needed to get her to a hospital. Something was happening and it wasn't good, and I needed to either call her parents or 911. That's all I could think about.

"Can you?"

She didn't respond for a moment. "I don't think I can tell you."

"Can you show me?"

She shook her head, which massaged the crook of my shoulder. "I don't think I can do that either."

"If you can't tell me, or show me, then can you be sure?"

While I waited for a response, I watched the cars go up and down the hill, to and from the town.

She sat up.

"I can't be sure of anything."

I thought that was my opening. "Sammie, I'm going to say something and I need you to take me seriously."

"Okay."

"I'm not a psychologist, but —"

"No."

"Sammie, hear me out."

"I'm not crazy."

"I'm not saying you're crazy."

"You're saying I'm hallucinating, or, or schizophrenic. I'm none of those things. I'm me."

"Sammie, we've known each other for two years. You've never acted this way. No one has ever told me a story about you acting this way. Something's changed, and this is… I think you need to see a doctor."

She stood up, and backed away a step or two. "No."

"Okay."

She turned her head slightly away, but maintained eye contact. "Okay?"

"Yes. I… I trust you."

That was a lie, but I needed her to believe it.

She didn't come sit back down with me.

"Junior, I think I love you."

Oh. Fuck, okay. What?

"A-are you sure?"

"And that's why I have to go. If you trust me, you'll understand."

I stood up. "No."

"Don't follow me. I don't think we're going to see each other again."

"Are we… not going on another date?"

"No, I mean… I don't think we're going to see each other again."

For the first time, I felt some kind of pressure in my chest. "What?"

"That's why I needed to tell you I love you. I don't know if it's real love, or a crush, or, or what it is but I've never felt as strongly about anyone as I have about you, and I, I think that means I should say I love you. That's what everyone else does, but, I can't be sure. I can't be sure of anything anymore."

"You're saying that a lot —"

"So goodbye."

She turned and ran. Just like that, she was shooting away, not towards any specific destination I could tell, but just away.

"Sammie!" I yelled after her. Shit, shit, what the fuck, shit. I was running too. Foot after foot on the asphalt, ducking between parked cars. "Sammie!"

She was so much faster than I expected. I'd fucked it up. I didn't know how to interact here, and I fucked it up. I pushed her away. All I could think was that if I didn't catch up to her, it was going to be a search party.

But then I turned a corner, and I couldn't find her.

And all my suspicions were confirmed.


It was late that same night. I was on my front porch, wrapped in a blanket, and my mom was talking to the police. It was after midnight. The sky was black, the trees were blacker, and the only light came from the headlights of the cars. Mom was corroborating my story. I'd already said everything to the police. So much rigor. So many questions.

At some point, they left. Mom came back up the porch and sat down beside me on the swinging bench. She put a hand on my back and rubbed with a circular motion. I took the opportunity to sidle closer.

"You did everything you could," Mom said.

I nodded. I knew it, intellectually I knew it, but I couldn't feel it.

"Besides, as soon as she was out of your sight, you called. She can't have gotten far. You did everything you could."

I didn't know why, but I just knew that they wouldn't find her. I could feel it, deep within my heart, that Sammie was gone. That she was right. That I was never going to see her again.

I didn't get it.

It didn't make any sense.

We sat there, in the darkness, listening to crickets and the muffled TV from my neighbor's house. Muffled vocal tones, insect song, and the occasional hint of a chipmunk were all we could hear. My breaths were deep. My eyes were wide open.

"Are you going to come inside?"

I shook my head, which massaged the crook of Mom's shoulder. "I don't think I can."

"I can stay out here with you."

"You don't have to."

But she did.

At some point, though I can't know when, I fell asleep. I don't remember my dreams, but I remember being restless. I remember seeing Sammie's face, I remember reliving our conversation over and over and over again. I remember seeing her walk into that IHOP, sweat sheening her forehead, knowing something was wrong instantly. I remember her seeing me and having no warmth in her face. No greeting. No recognition.

I should've taken a bathroom break, and called an ambulance. I think I should have, anyways. That was what I was thinking about, when I fell asleep. That I should have called someone. That I should have called anyone.

What if things don't make sense?

I woke up the next morning. Mom had left at some point. I was lying on the bench all alone. My back hurt like hell. I was cold, because the blanket had fallen off of me. I groaned, and rolled over. The morning was awful. That meant all the more hours had passed, and no one knew where she was.

At some point, I convinced myself to sit up. I stretched, I breathed the fresh air. I heard the birds calling, I heard the TV still. I opened my eyes to my street, to my neighborhood, to my world.

But when I looked at the lawn, the grass was purple.

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