The problem with being an immortal was there was no such thing as a ‘mid-life’ crisis. It was just a crisis. And they happened over and over.
It was both hard and easy to leave a life.
She was over it, but she didn’t hate it. Not at all of it. Her partner. Her children. Her friends. Attachments. Sometimes she would wish she’d never walked away from them. Sometimes.
It was easy to become a persecuted woman. Die. Wait. Her favorite had been during the witch trials. It had been so easy to start the rumors. No one had traced them back to her. They’d ‘drowned’ her in a matter of weeks. Hours later, in the dark of the night, she’d climbed out of the lake and walked away.
That was five hundred years ago. Now, today, at this very moment, she was Stacey Adams in Sacramento, California. Supposedly forty-five, married to Don, three kids. A degree in philosophy she never actually used. She’s a dental hygienist. Or, she was.
It’s always the dumbest thing that trigger the crisis. Some half-snatched sentence at the market. A bad piece of art. A dream, barely remembered. This time, she was halfway down the canned vegetables aisle in the Safeway, trying to decide if she wanted to do the seven bean soup that night or the next. Maybe I should call Don and ask what he had for lunch. She always seemed to make the same thing he had for lunch, although she doubted he would have found a place selling seven bean soup.
Stacey was standing in front of the pinto beans and texting her husband when “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads came on. In seconds it was all over.
It was potentially the most ridiculous trigger she’d ever experienced. The song was over forty years old. She had been hearing it off and on for all that time. In fact, it had come out during her last life. Five years of hearing it on the radio or on MTV and it didn’t set her off once. That life she had bailed on early because she’d come home from work and found her husband with another woman in their bed.
And then this life. The one with the degree in philosophy, and Don, and the kids. Of course it had played. On the radio. In stores. In movies. She’d sung along with it. Up until now, it had just been a song.
By the time it was over, Stacey knew the soup meant nothing. She was leaving.
She finished shopping, anyway. It was all so fake. Mechanical. A set on television. She bought the beans. Make the soup, don’t make the soup, didn’t matter anymore. She found herself buying a bunch of Don’s favorite foods. Rocky road ice cream. Pecan sandies. Those awful frozen meals that he loved so much but to Stacey all tasted of salt. He’d need them. For comfort.
Her kids were already out of the house, the last one still in her first semester of college. She got their favorite snacks, too, to put in the back of the pantry. They would all come home when they heard the news.
The ‘how’ was getting harder and harder, but Stacey never entered a life without an exit strategy.
She drove home with the radio off, humming to herself. It all seemed so fake. How could she have let herself get so deep into such a situation? Boring. Mundane. A dental hygienist for the love of God. Was this really what she had wanted thirty years ago? How? What had been going on in her head that she thought a house in the suburbs was the thing for her?
It was so perfect when she arrived home. Too perfect. Sterile. Cold. Piercing. The lawn cut short. The begonias in front of the porch. The perfectly swept floors and vacuumed rugs and the pictures, so many pictures, endless pictures of the family on the walls, but every picture seemed exactly the same. Smiles. Were they real? Was any of it real?
It was real to them, she reminded herself, staring at one picture in particular. It was sitting on top of the baby grand in the front window. Her and Don and Jackson and Dakota and Savanna. At the beach. Savanna and Dakota are clutching at her, either side, overlapping arms. Don is holding Jackson by the foot, upside down. They look happy.
I was happy.
But she’s not, anymore. Just like that.
As she unpacks the groceries she wonders if regular humans have the same feelings. They must, she decides, or David Byrne wouldn’t have written that song in the first place. But maybe they fight it more. Probably, or people would be moving on every day. All the time. Some don’t, obviously. Some must find peace in their lives. Find that particular way that will let them continue with what they have built. Others don’t, but stay anyway. Burn at their houses from the inside out until all is consumed.
She won’t do that. She won’t stay. The people who stay have fifty more years left, on the outside. Nothing. Easy.
Her? She doesn’t know. She has been here since the first human. She thinks she will be here until the last. That is a long time to pretend that she isn’t over it.
The duffel bag has all she needs. New ID, passport, cash, clothes, keys to a car stashed at a storage garage on the other side of town. The knife. A normal human being simply cannot live after a certain amount of blood has left the body.
She is not normal.
She makes it gruesome. It is the kindest thing she can do. There will be no real question for her family. They will not suffer doubt. They will know she is dead. They will mourn, and they will move on, like so many other families have before them.
Same as it ever was.