Dead Rock Stars
Sadie puts a bottle of white wine in the fridge before she goes out for a long run. She figures that if the run doesn’t help purge her of the toxins from the day then maybe the wine will. And if that doesn’t work she always has the fifth of bourbon that girl from work gave her for Secret Santa, red bow taped to the top, and a few oxy left over from her thumb surgery last summer stashed at the bottom of the clothes hamper. But she figures the run, or the wine, should do just fine.
Sadie says sometimes she loses her faith in people, and she still doesn’t understand what life’s all about but she needs to find out fast because she senses it slipping away. Sadie’s been in a funk since she turned forty, feeling gravity’s pull, and it doesn’t help that her rock ’n’ roll heroes keep dying—and that sort of thing always seems to happen in threes. As Sadie’s list of dead rock stars grows so does her urgency to do something, anything, but she doesn’t know what, and she doesn’t know how, anymore, and that only adds to her angst.
“Some psycho nearly hit me in the parking lot today,” Sadie tells me later that evening, apropos of nothing, as we sit on the couch after dinner, the leftover pork roast Sadie cooks every Sunday in the crockpot, and share the bottle of wine. “She kept trying to force her way out into the lane with her bloated SUV, the lane I was already in, with this air of entitlement to my fucking lane, and I didn’t have anywhere to go—where was I to go? She nearly hit me—some psycho.” Sadie sighs, heavy and deflated, and pushes aside her unruly caramel curls, damp from the shower, with a flip of her hand and a nod of her head, and takes another sip of wine from one of those cheap tumblers we got when we walked the wine trail in Gatlinburg on our anniversary, those full lips. “I just don’t get people sometimes, you know?”
I tell Sadie I know, and I know, and I also know how Sadie can be, how she gets when something is bothering her, something more than someone trying to cut her off in traffic because I’ve seen Sadie cut people off in traffic before with complete indifference. I know that this is just the reason Sadie gives me for why she feels this way. I also know not to delve any deeper because Sadie will only snap at me, uncharacteristically—though it’s becoming more characteristic of her—and question why she needs another reason to feel this way, why it isn’t enough that she feels this way because of this and can’t I leave it at that. And it is, and I can, and I do, I leave it at that, but I know there’s got to be more to it.
Sadie’s been talking to God lately. I hear her, muffled conversations coming from our bedroom in the morning as I’m in the bathroom readying for work. I can’t tell exactly what it is she talks about, but at least she’s talking to God again after stopping when all that was going on with us, those weekly meetings with that dour social worker in that suburban office that smelled of cinnamon potpourri, hour-long sessions to sort through the issues we had allowed to accumulate and fester over the years. She still went to church, better than me, but mainly to sing in the choir or to visit with her family at coffee hour. She didn’t go for the reasons she used to go, I could tell. So I’m glad Sadie’s talking to God again, whatever it is she’s talking about. But whatever it is leaves her flush and teary, as I notice when I step into the bedroom to finish getting dressed, and that’s the part that worries me.
“I want to hear some music—let’s hear some music,” Sadie proclaims, apropos of nothing, as she apportions the last of the wine into our cheap tumblers. She stumbles to the stereo to put on an album from our collection of vinyl, clumsy under the effects of splitting a bottle of wine on a weekday. I cringe when I hear the needle scratch until she finds the song she was searching for, from one of her dead rock stars. Then she rejoins me on the couch with a bounce, leans her head back, and closes her eyes, those impossibly long lashes, a rare contented expression. I sit there for a moment and admire her like that because it’s been too long since I’ve seen Sadie like that—peaceful and simple and unburdened—and it reminds me of when we first met, when this dead rock star we’re listening to was alive and kicking. I lean back like Sadie, and I close my eyes too, and I take Sadie’s hand, my fingers intertwine with hers, and we spend the rest of the evening that way, after another one of those days, which are increasing in frequency, except I suspect that Sadie is somewhere further away, and I can only wait for her to return.
“It’s a real pisser when God tells you no,” Sadie says to me, apropos of nothing, her tone a mix of frustration and melancholy, as we lie in bed that night. It’s three-something in the morning, according to the blurry red numbers of the alarm clock on the side table, and Sadie has woken me from a sound sleep with the dream I was having vanishing from my mind like it was never there. Staring up at the fan, slowly rotating, and the curious shadows cast on the stucco ceiling by the stray passing cars outside, I ask her what she means, what she’s talking about, but she tells me it’s nothing, and to forget about it, that she shouldn’t have said anything to begin with. That makes me act the very opposite, and all I can do is think about it, and I want to know more, something, anything, what is Sadie asking God for that God says no to that causes the consternation I hear in her voice. But she’s done for the night, and perhaps for a while, about this, about a lot, has already retreated inside herself, I can tell. Sadie turns on her side, apart from me, and lets out another sigh, a forlorn exhale, the back of her shoulders gently rising then falling in defeat. I pull close to her, spoon my body against the curves of hers, and whisper in her ear that I love her, and that everything will be alright, that things work out, just maybe not the way we want all the time.
“Mm-hmm,” Sadie murmurs, drifting off to sleep, the cadence of her breathing decreasing, and a single tear drops to my hand positioned right below her face as I hold her tight. Then, pausing between each word a single beat, she repeats, “all … the … time.”
I ask her if she’s sure she doesn’t want to talk about it, either with me or that dour social worker only I don’t say dour, but there’s nothing else, only a suffocating silence that consumes the room. I roll over, and stare up at the fan, slowing rotating, and watch as the curious shadows dance across the stucco ceiling, before I’m able to drift off to sleep, and I can’t help but think that Sadie is already gone.