By Rinn Packard
It had been ninety hours, five minutes, and fortyish seconds since Adley first sat down on her living room couch. She did not intend to get up, no ma’am. She intended to sit there until she died, which would hopefully be soon, God willing. Ninety-two hours ago, she had been sitting on a far less comfortable church pew, praying for this exact purpose. She figured immediately post-funeral was the best time to do so, banking on the hope that God might be feeling particularly bad for her in that moment. Did God grant the prayers of those he pitied at a higher-than-average rate? She sure hoped so.
Adley wasn’t entirely oblivious to the pitfalls of her plan. She was young, healthy, about as death-resistant as a person could be. Not even a family history of heart disease, and everyone had a family history of heart disease. So it would take some time, that's alright. She could be patient. She had waited a full month longer than strictly necessary to come into the world, causing all sorts of grief for her mother, stubborn as hell right out of the gate. She could wait a month to die. She could wait longer, if that’s what it took.
Though she was prepared for the worst, she had to admit that she had high hopes for a speedy death. She had watched enough medical dramas to know that old spouses often died one right after the other, the depth of their commitment to one another a blissful death sentence. She always thought that was quite romantic. Old people were so cute. Even if she wasn’t elderly, normal people died of heartache all the time. She had faith it could take her out too, if she really leaned into it.
She had tried the whole healthy grieving thing, and decided it wasn’t for her. The folks in her support group were way too self-absorbed to focus on anyone aside from themselves. Not to sound melodramatic, but no one understood what she was going through. It was exhausting, having to explain to everyone in that middle school multipurpose room why her grief was more significant than everyone else’s. She wasn’t very popular there, much like her actual middle school experience. Also, Gracie, who had lost her son four years ago in a freak swimming accident, had complained about her to the facilitator. Called her an insensitive affliction on the group. An affliction, can you believe that? How’s that for insensitive? I mean, come on, it had been four years. Get over it already. Four years is enough time to have had another kid. Blubbering about the hole in your heart every Wednesday night to a group of people actually going through something was just inappropriate, rude even. Adley was given the choice to leave or be kicked out, which was quite literally a textbook example of the lack of a choice. Why would she want to be in a group that relied on bullshit semantics to deal with their problems anyway? Conflict-avoidant pussies, the whole lot of them. That’s why they’re unable to handle their grief. She didn’t need their help; she was better off on her own.
Delaney had been dying from cancer for about as long as Gracie’s son had been dead. In the end, Adley was glad to see her die. Dead was better than dying, she thought. And in certain special cases, such as her own, dead was better than alive. She believed that if most people were given the choice to be alive with no will to live or to be dead, completely freed from the burden of having to experience things, feel things, remember things, and so on, they’d leap at the opportunity to die. Even on the best days, being alive was mostly shit. Being loved certainly helped, but with Delaney freshly in the ground, one could see her predicament.
Adley knew that it was not Delaney’s fault that she had died, but she didn’t quite know who else to blame. Blaming herself was too easy – a trope even. Besides, Delaney would hate to see her beat herself up like that. These days, her self-named Last Days, she had decided her best bet was Delaney’s parents. Bad genes. Bad, cancerous, spiteful, homophobic genes. How dare they? Adley couldn’t even look at them during the funeral. They had killed Delaney, and now they were killing her. They hadn’t even looked that sad standing over her casket. She thought they had probably been wearing sunglasses in order to hide the joy in their eyes.
Before she had been unceremoniously dumped by her support group, she had brought up her plan to sit to death. At the time it was still in its early stages. She had yet to work out the kinks. The facilitator, Greg, tried to convince Adley that vocalizing the plan was evidence of her not actually wanting to die. That it was a cry for help rather than a strategizing invitation. Greg was stupid, no question about it. Adley wasn’t sure what qualified a person to be a grief support group facilitator, but she had her suspicions about the legitimacy of Greg’s credentials. Gracie, surprisingly, was the most helpful. Why don’t you just shoot yourself or jump off a bridge? If you’re really trying to kill yourself it’d be much more efficient than rotting on a couch. God, she was such a bitch, but she was right. That night, Adley laid on Delaney’s side of the bed for hours, mulling it over. In the end, she decided that it came down to symbolism. Delaney had rotted on a hospital bed. Adley would rot on their couch. She was paying homage to her wife, something Gracie wouldn’t understand.
In her wedding vows, Delaney had said that she loved Adley so much she would let Adley die first. At the time, Adley had thought that was morbid. Now, she wondered if it was a lie. Maybe if Delaney had really loved her, she would have murdered Adley before succumbing to her own illness. It’s not like they would have arrested a woman on her deathbed. Now she had to do it herself, which felt unfair. Maybe Delaney was more selfish than Adley had given her credit for.
Adley spent much of her time on the couch speculating about who would find her body. A part of her hoped it would be Gracie, just to prove a point, but she recognized that that was next to impossible. It would probably be the police, having come to investigate a weird smell reported by her neighbors. How disappointing. News articles about people dying alone in their apartments were always so depressing. She should leave a note explaining that she wasn’t some loser. She was a grief-stricken widower, proving her devotion to her late spouse. It was honorable, admirable even. Maybe Gracie would see it in the paper, then, and feel bad about getting her kicked out of the group. She hoped Gracie would carry that guilt with her to the grave.
For now, Adley would take a nap. That would kill a couple hours. She left Law & Order: SVU playing on her television, so quietly she could barely make out what was being said. She imagined herself as a fetus in her mother’s womb, being lulled to sleep by voices she couldn’t understand. When she woke up, she’d write that note, and hopefully, soon after, be with Delaney again.