Sadie says we have to leave, take off, get the fuck out, to somewhere, anywhere, the beach maybe. “We just have to leave,” she says to me at three-something in the morning. She just walks into my room and says that. It doesn’t matter that I’m in bed, asleep, with some too-tanned Tri Delt from my American Lit reading group I ran into at the Hideaway while Hank and I were sitting outside on the curb staring up at the Chapel, that view from below and slightly to the side when the moonlight hits the spires just right and makes you believe you’re the only one who can see it that way, which we swore these many nights during these four years that now seem to have been pulled out from under us we would never take for granted, over pitchers of flat Goebel and a crinkled pack of Marlboro Lights Hank found in his jacket pocket, waxing nostalgic, as much as two drunken twenty-one-year-olds can, on this part of ourselves that is soon to end. Sadie just walks into my room, leans over me, her long curly blonde hair typically disheveled, her blue eyes like tiny pools of cool water, those lips, smelling fresh and alive how she always does, and says we have to leave.
The too-tanned Tri Delt whose name I think is Pepper – is her name really Pepper? – shifts positions and stretches and rolls onto her other side, away from me, taking part of the covers with her, a bare arm, a bare leg, as I scoot up in the bed and make room for Sadie to sit on the edge, perched with her elbows on her knees as if ready to go immediately, to jump up and away, dash across the Quad, to somewhere, anywhere, it doesn’t matter where. I move a hand over my face, over my eyes, my nose, my mouth, and down across my chin, rub the spindly stubble, my tepid attempt to grow a finals beard, nothing like what Lefty could grow, seemingly in a day, transforming himself overnight into one of the Apostles, and cough to clear my throat, the taste of stale beer and cigarettes. “Huh?” with nothing but gravel is all I can offer.
Sadie says she’s serious, that she’s never been more serious, that there really is no time like the present, “carpe diem mother fucker,” that this is the only time we can do something, that this is the only time we can do this, that we will never be able to do this unless now, this week between our last exams and commencement, before we go our separate ways, scatter and disperse to God knows where, a supernova exploding in the dense night sky, to begin our lives again. “Once we graduate,” she goes on, breathless the way she gets when she’s convinced of something, “all of this ends – we’ll have careers, families, entire existences that won’t count because they won’t include each other no matter how much we lie and promise to keep in touch.” Sadie says there’ll be nothing after this, nothing like there is now, and we’ll never be who we are. “Jim, we have to go.”
Too-tanned Tri Delt Pepper says something in her sleep, mumbles something about something, and farts – not a toot or a ripple but a fart – and Sadie and I look at her, and look at each other, and laugh. Sadie’s eyes are even brighter when she smiles. I stare at her the way I am, the way I do when I don’t think she notices, or when I just don’t care, and I absorb her, every living, breathing piece of her, and I get lost within her, and I disappear, until I catch myself and return to where I was. I wonder why Sadie had to come in here and say this now, and not just now, at three-something in the morning with me in bed, asleep, but now, really now, after everything, and everything, when I’ve been in love with Sadie from day one when we both stood in line on the back patio of Wannamaker waiting for our freshman dorm assignments, when I was nervous, dry-mouthed and clammy, some Eastern Kentucky rube listening to everyone around me, my future classmates, compare notes on what they had done over the summer, prep classes at Harvard and Princeton or Outward Bound programs in Boulder and Denali while I had gone on a family vacation to visit my grandmother in Clearwater and was stung by a jellyfish and the lifeguard peed on it even though that’s not actually a thing, and the cheap back pack I had bought at the five-and-dime in my small hometown because I didn’t know about L.L. Bean then decided at the most inopportune moment to tear, the red nylon ripping apart like tissue paper, belching its contents onto the unforgiving concrete, everything I had stuffed and overstuffed inside at the last minute as my dad waited outside in the car honking impatiently to drive me eight hours to college like he would do when I was eight and I was late for grade school, all of my toiletries, a year’s rations of razor blades and tooth paste and contact lens supplies, and a box of extra large condoms and a tube of K-Y Jelly my buddies had given me as a joke going-away present yet I packed it anyway for some reason, spilling everywhere, nobody paying any attention to my plight or even acknowledging my existence, except Sadie, maybe because she was from a small town too I later learned, or maybe because that was just who she was, or maybe because she liked me I hoped, on the ground next to me, bent over and giggling, a joke only we shared, helping me to wrangle my shit. Why did Sadie have to tell me now, when I was finally over her and okay with moving on, when I had finally convinced myself and it wasn’t easy, was resigned to the fact, the lamentable fact, that this would never amount to anything, not anything that I wanted, so much less, no matter how much I had tried, and finally accepted, thought I had, until Sadie says we have to leave.
“We’ll have to check with the others,” she adds, an afterthought, “but I wanted to tell you first.” She pauses, to exhale, and she gathers herself, then resumes, measured. “Because you’re the practical one, you know … the serious one. You make the right decisions,” and I try not to laugh at the ridiculousness of that last statement to me. Sadie pushes a thick blonde lock out of her face and blows away a few other stray strands. “They listen to you, the others. They’ll do it if you do it. They’re in if you’re in.” Sadie waits for me, to say something, to do something, anything, for some reaction, and I swear I can sense my heart stop beating, come to a complete grinding halt, if only for a millisecond, and a last gasp escapes, and I become lightheaded, and I start to feel faint, but not faint like I might pass out, more like I might float to the ceiling, lofting gently over everything and glancing down upon myself, and I like it, I like that feeling, I adore that feeling, I cherish it, freeing and peaceful and nice, so nice, when I remember I’m still in this moment, with Sadie, and I reel myself back in. Sadie says, softer, slower, “You know.”
And I know, and Sadie knows I know, and she doesn’t have to say any more to me. I sigh, and I say yes of course I say yes, and Sadie kind of squeaks a silent shriek, and hugs me with both arms, wrapping me tightly against her, my cheek pressed to her warm neck, and I inhale her, all of her, and it’s more comforting in a single instant than anything I have had in I don’t know how long, and I don’t want it to end, and it doesn’t, until she pulls away. Then Sadie gets up, and shuffles off – and I notice she’s wearing oversized slippers that clearly aren’t hers and it makes the pit of my stomach sink – across the floor and out the door, closing it behind her, leaving me to lie there mostly awake the rest of the night, what’s left of the night, thinking, about everything, and nothing, when it’s eventually time to wake, and go about my day, and try to accomplish something, because Sadie says we have to leave.