Postcard

by Peter J. Stavros

Sadie keeps a postcard of Key West on her desk, propped against her computer, amongst her post-it note reminders, and a dog-eared copy of the company directory, it’s extension highlighted and underlined and starred, and the green rubber stress ball with the crooked smiley face she got at that trade show in Chicago I went to with her last year. She keeps that postcard on her desk where she can see it as she’s doing whatever she does from eight-thirty to five, adding numbers and general ledgers and reconciliations, answering e-mails, listening to voicemails, talking on the telephone, scrolling through her calendar to see what meetings she has scheduled for the day and when she can squeeze in lunch or a walk around the track if it’s nice out. She keeps that postcard on her desk to remind her that there’s someplace better, she knows because she’s been there and she’s going back someday.

“I’m going back someday,” Sadie says to me, adamant the way she gets when she doesn’t think I believe her. “And you can come with me or not. But I’m going either way. You better goddamn believe it. Just watch. I swear. Someday.”

Sadie says someday but she doesn’t know when. She just knows that she’s done with this world, not like goodbye cruel world but just done with this world that frustrates her so, this world where she doesn’t feel she makes a difference, where she doesn’t seem to count, where nothing goes right for her, where she doesn’t fit in. She wants to accomplish something, something meaningful, feels she’s owed that after all she’s been through, the doctors and the lawyers and the priests. She feels she deserves something better.

I’ve heard this from Sadie before, usually when I notice a newly opened bottle of wine in the fridge, Sadie self-medicating after a bad day even while she promises she still meets with that social worker that girl from work recommended, the one with the doe eyes who Sadie claims just glares at her and expects her to come up with the answers. Sadie says that if she could come up with the answers she wouldn’t need the social worker to begin with. But she still tells me it seems to be helping.

That postcard is from the time Sadie and I drove to Key West after graduation, the very next day after graduation, before everything changed for us, before everything kicked in, all of our adult, all of our permanent, responsibilities, before life began, before life became much more than just what we were planning on doing in the future, after we left the shelter of our dorms, and our prepaid meal plans, and evenings in the coffee house debating Kant and Descartes over espressos and clove cigarettes, after we were banished from our Gothic Wonderland. Sadie and I just left, we took off, we “got the fuck out” – Sadie’s words, and I was glad to go with her – before our jobs, before our mortgage, even before we got married, which didn’t sit well with her mother. We just left, because we could.

On our last day in Key West, stumbling back to our hotel room to shower and change and get ready for dinner, another afternoon spent and wasted at Sloppy Joe’s drinking frosty pints of cheap beer and eating chilled shrimp served in a plastic basket on a crinkled sheet of wax paper, a side of cocktail sauce, wedges of lemon, a stack of crackers, as some too-tanned troubadour in a t-shirt and cut-off jeans played Eagles covers on a battered acoustic guitar, we happened upon a souvenir stand at the end of Duval Street, by the conch train station, and Sadie picked out that postcard. It was that postcard. It had to be that postcard. That was the postcard Sadie zeroed in on of all the postcards on all of the spinning metal racks – a postcard of the sunset from Mallory Square, the sun burning bright and orange and hot, the water deep azure, a cluster of marshmallow fluff clouds rolling in, a black silhouette of a schooner like a pirate ship sailing past. It was that postcard Sadie had to have.

“You know that postcard,” Sadie will say to me, to remind me, as if I need reminding, her face flushed, her eyes teary, her voice shaky and quivering, when she’s had an exceptionally bad day, when I notice an empty bottle of wine in the recycling bin. “Well that’s where I’m going, goddammit. That’s where I’ll end up. Just wait. You’ll see. Someday.”

I tell Sadie that I know, and I know. I know that Sadie wants to end up there. Who wouldn’t? I don’t blame her. We’ve all been through hard times. We all have someplace else we’d rather be. We all have a postcard. But sometimes it’s not so much where you want to end up as where you already are. I try to tell Sadie that, and whatever else I hope might help, yet it’s no use, it never is, not when Sadie’s mind is set on something.

“I’m going, goddammit, I am,” Sadie will say as we lie in bed, a last gasp before she falls asleep. I hold her in my arms, and I insist she’s not going anywhere without me. And she sighs, the way she does, not frustrated but relaxed, and kind of coos, and whispers, “I know, buddy – I wouldn’t want to go without you anyway.” Then she rolls against me, her body warm, and gently dozes. I can feel her breathing.

I will lie there for a while, maybe longer, maybe all night, and think, about everything, and nothing, staring up at the ceiling fan, wondering what I can do to get Sadie there, back to that postcard she keeps on her desk, to take her away from her bad days, more bad days than someone like her should have. Then at some point, I doze too.

 

 

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